The Importance of Project Management Software in Field Service Organizations

Project management software depends on your business model and the complexity and scope of your projects and field operations. Learn More!

Table of Content

    All field providers should have some kind of project management solution in place. 

    By nature, running a service-based organization means monitoring and managing a ton of moving parts. You’re supporting customers and their assets. You’re balancing emergency services with scheduled maintenance. You’re managing a mobile workforce that relies on real-time information about jobs, inventory, and accounts. The list goes on. 

    Some service orgs might get along just fine with the project management tools that came with their core ERP. Others might look toward ISVs and integrations to beef up their PM capabilities without blowing their IT budget on overpowered software they don’t need. 

    Larger, project-based field orgs, on the other hand, likely need a dedicated solution. This group faces some unique challenges –  coordinating resources, ensuring projects are profitable and delivered on time, communicating with stakeholders, and so on. 

    Field Service Role Based GuideField Service Role Based Guide

    Below, we’ll explain how project management software enhances the FSM stack, and highlight some potential solutions.   

    Monitor & Control All Project Variables

    Project management software helps field orgs track inventory, budgets, resources, and timesheets against project milestones. These tools provide the visibility business leaders need to understand where every project, person, or deliverable stands, and what, exactly, it’ll take to get things back on track when something goes wrong.   

    As an example, if you’re using D365 Project Operations you can track project-centric KPIs like resource utilization or billable hours using built-in visual dashboards. 

    The Importance of Project Management Software in Field Service Organizations


    You can use predictive forecasts to generate budgets or make plans You can also create accurate estimates for each project, and track actual labor, materials, and expenses against planned budgets and customer quotes.

    But, you can’t do any of that without a unified system that brings finance, field service, and project management together in one place.

    Now, many ERPs do provide some project management features out-of-the-box. For example, Dynamics 365 Business Central comes with several basic tools for resource management, capacity planning, costing, work order management, and time-tracking. 

    Smaller field orgs – say, mom-and-pop home service providers or small-scale HVACs – may well be enough to keep things running smoothly. For a while. As they grow, even smaller operations will need to invest in solutions that extend their ERP’s finance, accounting, and project management capabilities. 

    D365 BC covers a lot of ground when it comes to running a small-ish field org. The problem is, the ERP lacks the real-time reporting, automation, and project-specific accounting capabilities SMBs in this space need to succeed.

    Velosio’s Advanced Projects for Business Central brings advanced project management and accounting features to D365 BC including project forecasting, mobile time-and-expense tracking, and project-specific analytics. 

    Service providers that manage large or long-term projects will need something more powerful to keep up with the demands of their work. Within the D365 universe, that might mean using D365 Finance, Field Service, Supply Chain Management, and Project Operations – and, potentially, a few add-ons.

    For enterprise clients, we also offer AXIO Advanced Projects, which builds on the out-of-the-box functionality of D365 Finance – adding project accounting and management features to that core ERP. 

    While the D365 Project Operations module aims to do the same thing, it’s important to understand that a lot of companies might need only a handful of features, making it hard to justify the investment. 

    While AXIO focuses primarily on the financial aspects of project management, other Microsoft partners tackle different PM challenges, needs, and niches. For example, if you visit the AppSource store and use the filters to find project management tools for field providers, you’ll find a surprisingly diverse range of ISV apps.

    Some are more general, adding features like billing, PSA, or resource management to existing D365 apps. Others cater to hyper-specific use cases like advanced manufacturing, estate management, or residential housing projects.  

    Improve Communication & Information Sharing

    For field service providers, nailing it on the communication front comes with higher stakes than orgs in most industries face. If you can’t keep everyone in the loop regarding: schedule changes, inventory availability, or service histories, you’ll quickly fall behind on work orders, emergencies, and other critical tasks. 

    But, things get extra tricky when your entire business model is built around your mobile workforce’s ability to juggle multiple large-scale projects simultaneously. 

    In this context, employees (in the field or the office) and customers can collaborate on project docs in real-time, it’s much easier to ensure that deliverables are completed on time, under budget, and per client expectations. 

    Business Leaders Guide to Dynamics 365Business Leaders Guide to Dynamics 365

    But, for those working on larger, more complex projects, facilitating collaboration expands beyond the usual internal vs. external dynamic. Instead, you’ll need to consider all stakeholders involved with each project – in any capacity. 

    We talk about this more in a related piece on knowledge management software, but creating an environment that actively supports information sharing is central to effective FSM. 

    Say, you’re a commercial HVAC company and you’re helping your client convert an entire college campus to green energy sources within the next five years. Obviously, it takes a lot more than heating and cooling to realize that vision, so you’ll likely be working closely with several vendors – and their employees and subcontractors – at different points in the project lifecycle. 

    For example, you might need to coordinate with architects and electricians early on. Later, you might work with the client and campus IT to talk about IoT investments and monitoring strategies. Then, you’ll need to coordinate installations and establish a maintenance schedule. 

    Field providers can also leverage project management tools with technologies like IoT sensors, mobile apps, self-service platforms, and even mixed reality collaboration tools to improve communication and collaboration across multiple dimensions. 

    Modern field service software usually includes some sort of communication hub that allows field techs, support agents, project managers, and others to interact with each other – and their customers via text, chat, whatever, and easily access important files, reports, and shared projects. 

    However, most FSM stacks (so, your ERP + any additional field service apps you might use for scheduling, invoicing, and so on) don’t usually come with the advanced, project-specific collaboration features field orgs need to tackle complex, long-term projects. 

    Level Up Resource Management

    Before we get into the weeds, it’s important to note that resource management looks a lot different for non-stocked scenarios vs. stocked or production-based scenarios.

    Professional services orgs, IT firms, and SaaS providers typically belong to the “non-stocked” camp, because they generate value through knowledge-based projects, expertise, and digital products and services. 

    On the stocked or production-based side, you’ll find a wide range of companies that create value via physical inventory or assets. That includes companies that sell a handful of items or keep a certain amount of equipment or parts on hand to support service calls, as well as giant enterprises that manufacture machines and devices themselves, sell them, then provide ongoing maintenance or support. 

    While it’s rare that you’ll find a field service company that doesn’t have any physical inventory or assets to worry about, providers exist on a broad spectrum. 

    For example, facilities management companies might use project management software for large-scale projects like upgrading all AC units within an apartment complex – or several buildings. They might not make those machines themselves, but they do need to keep the right parts in stock, monitor asset performance, pinpoint asset locations, and be able to replace equipment when it fails without warning. 

    Manufacturers might use PM tools to build and manage a preventative maintenance program. So, here, resource management starts with procurement and production. Manufacturers need to track materials, monitor processes, and sell finished products to customers. 

    From there, they’ll need to link equipment or devices to SLAs, service histories, compliance standards, and more – so that customers get the most from those assets (whether rented or owned). And – that those assets continue to meet regulatory requirements and consumer safety standards. 

    With all that in mind, project management solutions should enable you to manage all people, assets, accounts, and whatever else you need to stay on top of to run your business. 

    The Right Microsoft Partner Can Drive Business SuccessThe Right Microsoft Partner Can Drive Business Success

    A few things you might look for:

    • Improve scheduling & resource allocation
    • Match field techs to projects based on skills, availability, and other variables
    • Maximize resource utilization rates
    • Automate work order assignments
    • Anticipate resourcing needs
    • Etc. 

    Final Thoughts

    Project management software helps field service companies organize and optimize all of these variables, drive better service outcomes, and increase profitability. But – what that solution looks like depends on your business model and the complexity and scope of your projects and field operations. 

    For 30+ years, Velosio has helped both field service companies and project-based orgs transform business operations with hands-on expertise, deep industry knowledge, and the latest tech. Contact us today to learn more about our services, solutions, and how we approach long-term support.

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