By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
Spoiler alert: there’s no secret. Success in digital transformation comes from a lot of hard work. Sadly, many organizations either don’t realize the legwork that goes into digital transformation or think they can cut corners without feeling the impact. As Jack Rijnenberg, director of global customer service at Markem-Imaje will attest to, the only true path to a successful digital transformation is through the hard work – you can’t cut around it. Markem-Imaje is a Dover Corporation company that specializes in printing and marking technology. The company operates in 30 countries direct, employs more than 3,000, and has a team of 700 field technicians. Markem-Imaje’s customers include Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Coca-Cola, and Pepsico. The company’s field technicians provide a combination of installation, training, break-fix, contract repair, and presales support services.
Rijnenberg recently led the company through the major undertaking of standardizing its field service processes and technologies worldwide. Markem-Imaje had the foresight to realize that to be successful in its business transformation efforts, it needed to first completely review and reshape its existing service processes to make sure they were the most effective and efficient possible (and make changes to them where needed). In talking with Rijnenberg, it is clear that the effort Markem-Imaje put into its people and processes before layering on technology was the key to its successful digital transformation. Here Rijnenberg shares his experience in what it takes to set yourself up for digital transformation success.
Nicastro: When you first determined the need to standardize and automate your service operations, where did you begin in terms of scoping the project and determining the appropriate sequence of events?
Rijnenberg: The first driver of our field automation project was the significant amount of time our field engineers spent doing administrative work following their on-site service jobs (closing service orders, replenishing their car stock, etc.) and, moreover, the delay this administrative work brought to the speed of invoicing and thus cash flow. With the need identified, we started by defining what “good” would look like to us, as well as setting KPIs to measure our progress and success. We considered questions such as what is our service value proposition, how do we want to deliver service, and what is the value in automation to our internal stakeholders. As we answered those questions, we worked to evaluate our current state and determine the gaps we needed to close to achieve our target or desired state. These gaps from current processes to targeted outcomes differed between regions and operations, so we had to develop some individual action plans and accompany all of our action plans with a tight change management strategy.
Nicastro: What were some of the steps you needed to take as a business before even beginning to evaluate technology choices?
Rijnenberg: I would say that the most important step was to get alignment and agreement among with the company’s top management on the business case.
Nicastro: Explain your process review/evaluation, and why you feel it was ultimately critical to the project’s success.
Rijnenberg: The key factor of our success has been the work we put into the harmonization/standardization of our service delivery processes worldwide (over 35 countries). The implementation, training on, and maintenance of a field service automation tool would be an impossible challenge without having done this initial “legwork.” We have spent a large amount of time in service process change management. This started first in an effort to get a worldwide agreement on what the future state of our processes would be, and was followed by individual action plans because all operations started from a different process baseline.
Nicastro: Upon completing that review and identifying areas that needed addressed, what were the next steps for standardizing and optimizing the processes?
Rijnenberg: We first created the blueprint together with the main process owners, then worked to design the FSE tool. We completed a pilot for six months and made required adjustments and modifications from the learnings during the pilot. Next we trained super users in the regions and countries, simultaneously on the new processes and automation tool. We then started a phased rollout training users in the countries on the optimized processes and technology. We now conduct user surveys every six months as part of our ongoing change management strategy.
Nicastro: You’ve talked with peers that feel as though their technology investment has failed them, when in reality they didn’t adequately prepare BEFORE layering on technology. What’s your opinion on why this happens and practical advice for someone just starting out to avoid the headaches this oversight causes?
Rijnenberg: The key factors of success in this type of service transformation project are, first, standardize and optimize your processes before adding technology. Second, make sure your stakeholders and users fully understand what they will get (and won’t get) with the tool you’ve selected. And lastly, ensure you are providing strong support in deployment phase (between business owners, internal ICT, and your FSA partner).
Nicastro: Let’s talk about the people aspect of this. This effort was a MAJOR change. Many countries/regions were changing how they had been conducting business. Everyone was introduced to new technology. How did you handle such a change in culture – what change management, training, and communication methods did you use? What role do you feel these played in the success of your project?
Rijnenberg: Change management plays a critical role and having a sound strategy is imperative. For each of the process steps, we determined if there would be a change related to four areas: tool, activity, culture, or organization. This exercise helped us to determine where we were introducing change and could anticipate potential issues, and preemptively develop a strategy for bridging those gaps. Overall, I will say that our FSEs have been eager to receive an automated tool because they all welcomed the ease it would bring to their jobs in terms of administration, having access to information at their fingertips to do a better job onsite, and gaining the ability to better collaborate with their peers. So in that sense, the change management of implementing the technology itself was relatively easy.
Nicastro: What other thoughts or advice can you provide for a peer on why it’s worth it to slow down and do a project like this right?
Rijnenberg: You obviously never have enough time to implement and are under pressure, but I would strongly advise when setting priorities and areas of focus never to assume things. It is so important to take the time to get a clear picture of the current state in each operation, compare this with your desired future state, and develop your roadmap from there.