February 27, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

Self-Service and the Changing Definition of Technician Empowerment

February 27, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

Self-Service and the Changing Definition of Technician Empowerment


By Tom Paquin

How do you define self-service for your service organization? Is it merely the act of a customer resolving an issue themselves? Is it a phone conversation with a support representative walking them through the process?

If you’re leaving your customer there, then you’re leaving your customer behind, and there will certainly be competitors who are ready to take them away from you. Self-service is going to be a key component of maximizing efficiency for the future of field service, so it’s time to start thinking about it now.

Taking self-service to the next level requires a duality of thinking. First, what will you do to actually help increase no-dispatch resolutions? Second, and more complicated, is how will you define the challenges and opportunities that this creates among your technician base? We’ll start with the first.

Increasing No-Dispatch Resolutions

Naturally moving beyond the simplicity of talking through resolutions remotely, organizations have found numerous ways to encourage remote resolutions through smart technology investments. We’ll talk about two comparatively new technologies here: IoT, and Augmented Reality.

Your mileage with IoT will vary depending on the sort of serviceable assets supported. IoT has gained a natural foothold in areas like manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy, while there are numerous areas where IoT’s usability doesn’t align with remote resolution. Nevertheless, connected sensors, when paired smartly with the right equipment, can help organizations mitigate issues through several means.

One scenario is that connected sensors indicate a temperature spike on a machine, which could imply that it’s being used improperly. Either through automation, or a quick phone call, a service organization can inform the customer, thus preventing a breakdown before it happens. This is a win-win, avoiding downtime for the customer, while protecting technicians’ time.

Another scenario is a bit more specialized, and it involves more than connected sensors. In the event of some sort of machine breakdown, remote workers can run power cycles or make firmware updates to keep systems running effectively. Obviously, this requires remote access to the controls of a machine; A step further down the technology rabbit hole.

AR, on the other hand, could eliminate the need for a remote worker altogether. Many AR modules today are designed to walk customers step-by-step through simple repairs. Simply point your phone’s camera at your serviceable asset, and appropriate areas will highlight as it cycles through directions. This way, customers can get equipment up and running without even having to wait on hold.

These are only a few of the myriad of solutions available, and any of these are further scalable through the implementation of automation and other complimentary systems. Nevertheless, these represent ways to put more power in the hands of your customers. But how does it impact your technicians?

The Newly-Empowered Technician

By re-routing simple tasks away from in-person technicians, there’s a sense that the lightened workload devalues a service technician in some way. This would imply a decided lack of empowerment; a move away from the authority that technicians once felt over their service domain. Will technicians even be needed in the future?

With self-service, powered by some of the previously-mentioned tools and a grab bag of others on top of them, organizations can eliminate unnecessary service appointments. Will this lead to the ultimate end of field service? Not with the tools available today alone. There will always be a need for nuanced in-person interactions in service, usually around complex service functions. It’s in these moments, when organizations are struggling with challenging issues, that you want them to see the face of your business.

Some technicians may balk at the infrequency of simpler jobs, meaning their days are more packed with higher-stress, higher-challenge labor, but the fact of the matter is that service organizations on the whole are struggling to hire and train new technicians, so wherever inefficiencies can be eliminated they should be.

For those technicians who go into the field to handle the more complex jobs, there should be, for them, a sense of empowerment. This is true personally, as their skills as a trusted resource are being valued and challenged. It should also happen practically, though, as these technicians, too, can benefit from some of the ancillary technologies created for self-service. IoT can give much greater insight to in-person techs on a job site. Combine that with Augmented Reality, and the future of heads-up displays of system integrity and step-by-step directions for new technicians make the future even brighter. To get those techs on board, though, it’s up to the organization to articulate the value that they bring to the table.

With all this in mind, organizations have a great opportunity to begin to employ some smart technologies to support self-service. The benefits of laying the groundwork today will pay dividends in those direct service gains, but also offer excellent trickle-down opportunities to support technician empowerment as well.

February 25, 2019 | 5 Mins Read

Digital Transformation: How to Avoid Being Crippled By Choice

February 25, 2019 | 5 Mins Read

Digital Transformation: How to Avoid Being Crippled By Choice


By Greg Lush

If you’ve missed my earlier posts in this series on digital adoption, you can read here what we discussed about The Hierarchy of Digital Adoption and Building and Fortifying Your Digital Reputation. Next in the series, we’re discussing an important aspect of digital adoption: How to avoid being crippled by choice.

During Winter you often hear people say, I can’t wait for the warm weather; in the Summer just the opposite, it’s too hot! Business systems are similar — years ago we wanted to have more choices and the freedom to choose our own path. Now, our trouble is that we have so many options it can be downright overwhelming. At first blush, our concerns are not getting locked in as with monolithic systems of yesteryear. Instead we try to find a platform which serves our needs today with an eye towards the future. When contemplating the selection of a cloud platform people fall into two camps: cardigans and cobblers.

Cardigans represent “the establishment.” Just five years ago I would have agreed that placing yourself in this community meant significant compromise. Giving in to “the man” with the largest organizations. However, today, as transactional and valuable (referring to all other software, personal productivity, artificial intelligence, IoT, etc.) tools get more degrees of separation, your accounting system does not have to dictate the other value packed tools within your business.

Cobblers are defined as those constantly seeking software, which appears low cost on the front end yet has no continuity between applications. A few years back I gave some credence to those in this community. Ready at any cost to fling the bird at the man, just because they are frightened to lose their station as the “go-to person.” Cobblers yearn for the glory days when the organization was held completely captive by their almost magical talents.

Keep in mind that the selection of a platform has one ounce of technology and nine ounces of people. You must understand your demographic and plan accordingly. Having a split camp will be exponentially more challenging, thus your first task is to get everyone singing, or at least humming, from the same hymnal.

Now that you are harmonizing fantastically, it is time to peel this onion back a bit and get into some details. When selecting a platform, to run your valuable applications, you may consider some of these elements. I like to make decisions and communicate change as objectively as possible, so assigning value numbers to each of the elements is advised. Although your list may vary, these will get you on the right track to making an informed and deliberate decision regarding your valuable platform selection(s):

Availability. Without question, your environment needs to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Listen with an open mind — as security has changed with cloud, offerings often do not require sophisticated VPN connections.

Compliance. Legal and HR must be involved in this element. I encourage you to consider that most of your cloud platform partners will be dealing with similar challenges. Don’t hesitate to ask how your partner is addressing common issues.vSo often we see an uninformed legal or IT security organization strangle any potential of innovation as the result of thinking “this is how it always used to work.” Also, get comfortable around compliance issues which may be your concern within the next handful of years, a notable example is the general data protection regulations (GDPR).

Encryption. Our ability to pass a key, issued by the publisher and passed to the consumer, has been protecting information for years. Depending upon your industry, and in many cases your customers’ requirements, encryption strategies will vary significantly. Choose an organization which has a positive track record of encryption with their keys and allows you to manage and control your own encryption keys if so desired.

User Experience. My expectation in today’s day and age is that I will be able to digitally “pick up where I left off” from any device, anywhere and the tools will be the same. The way in which I interact will not be impacted by the size of my screen, which is much easier said than done. If in your selection process users are expected to understand different user interfaces and experiences from application to application, get ready for a steep adoption climb.

Integration. Very commonplace within transactional-based systems (accounting, HR, work order management, purchasing, etc.) and becoming more mainstream with valuable applications as well. Graphing is the new term and process, an evolution of a services-oriented architecture (SOA). Set your sights high as your ability to leverage features across valuable applications is becoming the ante to participate in the cloud platform game.

Master data. A perfect computing environment, regardless of the variety of applications, will always have one version of the truth. One account record, one contact, and one place to go for the latest insights. As with many things over time, cost and availability become more of a reality for the masses. The trick is not placing or enforcing the data to be stored in one location but instead the convenience of leveraging this single bit of data in multiple applications. You must demand this functionality within your cloud platform.

Partners. The ecosystem of partners surrounding any cloud platform is important especially if you plan on extending the out-of-the-box functionality. Today, those jumping straight into customizing systems have not taken the time to really learn their platforms. In 2019, except for highly regulated industries, those choosing customization over configuration are often driven by their egos or attempts to make themselves irreplaceable (shame, shame).

Visualization. Your platform, out-of-the-box, must have a vehicle for you to visualize the information, period. These visualization tools, commonly known as dashboards and reports, shouldn’t just be created as “eye candy.” Rather, these tools must derive action, allowing people to visualize their business in a unique way. Avoid the consideration of tools which make your users a slave to the data, turn it around and make sure your visualizations can help users manage by exception instead.

These elements, when weighted and scored by those within your organization, will provide direction and support for your cloud platform selection and help you from being paralyzed by the wide range of options you have.

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February 21, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

Knowledge Discovery: Deriving Value From Your Data-Rich Environment

February 21, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

Knowledge Discovery: Deriving Value From Your Data-Rich Environment


By Bill Pollock

These days more than ever, businesses are operating in data rich environments. Data emanates from everyday business operations, sales and customer account activities, service call activity, financial and economic transactions, regulatory reporting and all the other events that are routinely captured and stored in databases. Existing global databases are adding terabytes of new information daily. Every moment of every day bank transactions and electronic funds transfers, point-of-sale systems, hospital tests and procedures, factory production lines, airline reservations, service calls and even electric meters and gasoline pumps are creating digital records that are stored somewhere in a database.

The vast majority of this data, however, will never see the light of day. More often than not, data will be stored for a specified period of time, in some cases as required by law, and then purged to make room for more current data of the same kind. This process is likely to repeat ad infinitum. Yet in many cases this data can represent a rich ore of valuable information and knowledge about the domain from which it has been taken.

What better source is there to learn about patterns of customers' preferences and buying habits than from the customers themselves? Not just what they tell you they need or like in a customer survey, but what they actually buy. What better source is there to learn about equipment failures and service requirements than from the equipment itself? Not just from what your field technicians tell you, but directly from the equipment. What better source is there to learn about the risk in lending or extending credit than from your business's own financial successes and failures? Not just from what your banks or creditors tell you, but from your own financial experiences, both good and bad. The list goes on and on.

Organizations are always searching for knowledge that can advance their cause and keep them abreast of the market, anticipated trends and the competition. Marketing managers would love to know what makes their customers tick. Manufacturing managers would do anything to find out how they could improve the quality of their products, even by just a fraction of a percentage. Not to mention the securities traders who would "sell their corporate souls" just to keep a half-step ahead of the pack in being able to detect a change in trends.

Oftentimes the answers to these questions are contained in the data that businesses routinely collect, store and discard from their ever-growing databases. Many companies have already recognized the potential of this source of knowledge and have invested
substantial effort and significant amounts of resources to uncover the precious knowledge “hidden" in their data. Among the various emerging technologies being utilized, some employ a combination of both the traditional and newer paradigms in a field known as knowledge discovery, or database mining.

Digital marketing companies use related methods to create more targeted and effective lists for the products and services they are promoting to improve their overall effectiveness. Automotive companies use the same techniques to discover patterns of failures and corresponding information to incorporate into the proprietary knowledge bases that they distribute to their authorized dealers and licensed mechanics. Many more applications of a similar nature span across businesses and industry segments of all types under the banner "let the data work for you.”

The analogy of database mining to quarry mining is very appropriate too. In ore mining the process goes through tons and tons of dirt in order to extract one precious gram of gold. Similarly, in database mining, one may also need to go through very large quantities of data just to get to the one piece of information that makes it all worthwhile.

Machine Learning Enables Efficient Data Mining

Machine learning techniques, developed under the umbrella of Artificial Intelligence (AI), were originally patterned after a unique human intelligence trait – the ability to acquire and create new knowledge. From this basis, new and highly sophisticated AI techniques have been developed using a broad array of disciplines and strategies, and reflecting various levels of success.

Today, knowledge discovery tools and methods employ a broad range of technologies and methodologies. Neural networks are probably the best known and most widely used approach to machine learning. The technology is quite versatile, relatively mature and has been used very successfully in a broad array of applications ranging from the screening of credit card applications, to placing geographically-based advertisements in national magazines, to reading handwritten addresses and routing the mail. Other discovery methods are based on technologies such as information theory, fuzzy set theory, rough set theory, nearest neighbor metrics and others.

Why knowledge discovery? Your organization may be sitting on a goldmine of data which could be converted into useful knowledge – knowledge that can be used to help you focus your strategic and marketing planning efforts; monitor and improve the quality of your production and service delivery processes; and explain your customers' sensitivity to your competitive pricing structure, customer service performance, brand name recognition, advertising and promotional campaigns or anything else you would like to learn about the markets in which you operate.

Many organizations have already recognized the potential benefits of these new technology applications and are utilizing these tools to lead them to smarter, more efficient and more productive operations. The list of such companies is growing every day – and your organization should also leverage the knowledge to join them.

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February 20, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

6 Key Implications of The Internet of Things

February 20, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

6 Key Implications of The Internet of Things


By René Boverhuis

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to smart, connected products (hardware, software, sensors, etc.), which improve reliability, increase capabilities and help us use products much more effectively and efficiently. IoT allows these smart connected products to generate data that can help you deliver unprecedented value to your customers.

This data can be gathered, analysed and delivered in a way that can be used to your and your customers’ advantage. For example, MAN Truck & Bus is able to collect their trucks’ raw data in real time and then translate it into simple and meaningful reports that are offered as a paid service to customers.

IoT is changing how companies compete, and the field is evolving quickly. As a result, remaining competitive means companies need to stay ahead of the trends. Based on our strategic foresight and research, we highlight six future trends that will impact your business:

1. New and better products that impact the value chain

The use of IoT enables the creation of new and better products and services (Daniel Burrus). According to Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann, IoT changes the value chain through modifications in product design, manufacturing, after sales service, etc. These changes require data analytics and other new activities which in turn will bring even bigger improvements and evolutions to the industry. These new evolutions will bring further profitable growth to companies that embrace this transformation.

2. Improved ability to meet customer needs

According to Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann, continual progression of IoT gives companies the knowledge and abilities to get closer to satisfying the needs of customers, even if the customers have not identified their needs themselves. It’s like having a magic wand.

With products that can be used to their maximum capabilities with greater reliability, safety and in the most economical and ecological way, meeting increased customer needs will be possible.

3. Knowing your customer better

With digitalization, we are now able to gather more information about our customers and their interaction with us than ever before. We can identify all the touch points a client has with our organization, for example we can know when a customer has made a call to the support desk, what their problem was, whether they were provided with a solution, or redirected to a specialist.

This access to information allows us to map the customer experience and redesign it as required, bearing in mind that the better the experience, the more satisfied the customer is. This means you have a better chance of a repeat purchase, a renewal of a service contract, and better chances of benefiting from positive word-of-mouth.

Ric Merrifield predicts that as clients see the increasing benefits of IoT, they will be more willing to give you access to more information. This will lead to greater expectations on their behalf, and as a result, generate even more data.

4. Provide the ability to predict and prevent

Daniel Burrus suggests that IoT will affect every single industry, including manufacturing, healthcare, energy, financial services, consumer goods and the information technology landscape that supports all these industries.

While this sounds intimidating, there are benefits if you can anticipate the impact and prepare your organisation accordingly. One of the biggest opportunities is your increased ability to predict and prevent problems. MAN Truck & Bus, mentioned earlier, provides predictive vehicle maintenance, which allows its clients to know when an engine fault will occur, specifying what the fault will be, and where the nearest repair shop can be found reducing down time saving the customer time and money.

5. New business processes and skills will be required

IoT is bringing new ways of automation and Bill Chamberlin explains how this automatically means new business processes and skills will be required.

Companies that hop onto the IoT fast track earlier on will benefit from improved productivity, operating efficiencies and customer experience, leading the way to service innovation and leaving competitors way behind.

6. An innovative mindset required across the organization

As new processes come about, new best practices will make the ‘game’ even harder to compete in. According to Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann, smart connected products will need to be incorporated into products and services, thereby affecting the whole value chain and setting new, higher standards for operational effectiveness.

Your industry will sooner or later be influenced by IoT and the opportunities that arise on the horizon are countless. So, the question is: do you want to be an innovator or a follower? Get to know more about this new revolution, prepare your people and take the leap to transformation.

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February 18, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

Keep Your Customers Close And Your Employees Closer: 3 Critical Employee Engagement Questions To Consider

February 18, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

Keep Your Customers Close And Your Employees Closer: 3 Critical Employee Engagement Questions To Consider


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

We’re living in a world of customer-centricity, which I think is amazing. Customer experience and satisfaction are topics that I really enjoy learning and writing about, and I’ve witnessed the field service industry’s progression toward more customer centricity with glee. Seeing organizations in industries like manufacturing and utilities looking to companies like Amazon and Uber for inspiration on how to deliver what their customers’ want illustrates just how far we’ve come in embracing a world that revolves around delivering not just excellent service but an outstanding experience.

That said, what I fear is often an unfortunate byproduct in the quest for customer mastery is that a company becomes so hyperfocused on the happiness of its customers that it forgets about the happiness of its employees. Not only is this unfortunate, but it is counterproductive to the overall mission because achieving customer satisfaction with disengaged and unhappy employees just isn’t going to happen.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” and in the journey to customer-centricity it is imperative to keep your customers close and your employees closer. THEY are key to you accomplishing your customer experience objectives. Here are three questions to ask yourself about the level of satisfaction your employees have in their roles.

How Happy Is the Face of Your Brand?

Your frontline employees have more contact with those customers you’re trying to make happy than anyone else. How engaged, happy, and valued your employees feel will have a direct impact on how they treat your customers. Those customer centricity goals you have will be far easier to meet if you put the energy into employee engagement. I’ve had interactions with technicians that are frustrated and disenfranchised, and I assure you having to listen to someone complain about their supervisor, schedule, company, lack of support, and so on does not a good customer experience make!

Think about what tangible steps your company takes to make your employees feel valued. Perhaps you are having trouble thinking of many, or any? Or maybe you can think of a number but question whether or not they are working. If in doubt, ASK. Ask your employees how they feel and what they need. The best input from which to make improvements is their own.

How Do You Equip Employees for Success?

A large portion of employee satisfaction particularly in field service is feeling equipped and enabled to get the job done. Nothing will cause satisfaction to plummet faster than trying time and time again to please management and customers only to be left without the necessary tools, information, or assistance. We talk a lot about investing in technology that will please customers, but it is equally important to invest in tools that empower your frontline workforce.

Think about what it takes to set your employees up for success. Are they onboarded and trained properly? Once in the field, do they have easy access to customer history to be informed and to any knowledge library they may need to perform the job at hand? If they have a question, can they easily communicate with a colleague or support staff to get the help they need in real-time? And again – are you asking them what it is they need from you?

What Voice Do Your Employees Have?

I would argue that the #1 cause of employee frustration is that they don’t feel that their voice matters. This can be attributed to situations in which employees aren’t asked for feedback and rather just given directives, but is equally prevalent in situations where employees are asked for feedback but ignored. In the increasingly demanding service landscape, it is essential to work collectively as a team. The business transformation that most service organizations have underway can only truly be effective if your organization is working as a team, where everyone has a voice and every voice matters.

There are countless effective ways to communicate with your employees – yet communication is a key element that is overlooked in so many organizations. Whether it is one-on-one meetings, group sessions, company-wide webinars, use of social tools, whatever – ensure it is happening and that each and every employee feels comfortable and confident voicing their needs.

These points aren’t important solely as it relates to customer centricity. Field service organizations have even more motivation to focus on employee engagement, and this is in the fact that there’s a significant talent shortage in field service. You aren’t in a position to lose capable workers when there already aren’t enough to go around. Making an effort to focus more on employee engagement will not only help your customer efforts, but it will minimize the strain on your organization of recruiting, hiring, and training new workers that are increasingly hard to come by.

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February 15, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

How Worried Should You Be About Amazon’s Stealthy Servitization Play?

February 15, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

How Worried Should You Be About Amazon’s Stealthy Servitization Play?


By Tom Paquin

Amazon has put its hands into a great many cookie jars over the last two and a half decades — from bookseller, to big box store, to technology company, to seller of behavior data. Amazon has long since expanded its brand cachet, its recent acquisitions showing a desire to disseminate itself from the moniker of “Seattle-based monolith” into our local neighborhoods through grocery stores and, improbably, brick-and-mortar bookstores.

To further cement that local presence, in a little-advertised corner of Amazon’s website, they’ve launched a series of home and business services.

These individual services have rolled out piecemeal over the last few years, into what has become a somewhat dense, if far from comprehensive, list of service offerings. Most of the services organically sprouted out of consumer product sales that Amazon offers—tools like office chair assembly and home theater setup—while quite a few don’t seem to be tied to a retail product at all—like house cleaning, pest control, and landscaping services.

Amazon isn’t exactly shouting from the rooftops about their services. A simple Google search for “house cleaners” yields a page and a half of results before Amazon appears in the list. And the UX itself leaves a lot to be desired, marred with the same clunkiness that accompanies most Amazon sites which, in spite of their ease of purchase, remain somewhat obtuse.

What Amazon does offer, however, is a fairly easy way to find someone to do a job. Even the yellow pages, back when they were still a thing, created a degree of choice paralysis as you pored over two dozen gutter professionals. Amazon takes the choice out of the equation, acting as more of a matchmaker. You choose a date and a time, and they let you know who you’re working with 24 hours before they show up.

What does this mean for service professionals?

Amazon the Disruptor

This is far from the first time that I’ve advocated for service in retail, but Amazon’s approach is interesting because it’s two-tiered. On one side, yes, they’re servitizing certain aspects of their business, offering services like network setup for businesses that, presumably, have purchased accompanying products.

On the other side is something more interesting, though. It’s the fact that Amazon is seemingly employing an army of contractors, which is the alarming part for field service organizations. Amazon destroyed local competition among booksellers, record stores, and big box retailers by undercutting prices and increasing the ease of delivery. This may be untested, but what happens when they start doing this with house cleaning, HVAC repair, pest control, and so on? What happens when your smart speaker can book your next hot water heater repair without you even having to clean the Cheeto dust off your fingers?

The second decade of the 21st century has seen Amazon take the mantle of digital black hole away from the Microsofts and Apples of the world, and if this trend continues, they’ll be poised to start eating up an even more diverse base of companies. How does a service firm compete with that?

Preparing to Slay Goliath

I might be inclined to choose a service through Amazon because it’s easy, so how does a seemingly traditional service organization compete with that? They do so by having the best service solution.

Whether you dispatch a technician from Amazon, or dispatch a technician from a traditional service firm, the result is functionally indistinguishable: a person is coming to complete a service. There are, however, elements that will set true service firms apart — a focus on hiring and retaining top-level talent, a strong focus on customer experience, use of advanced technologies such as smart routing and augmented reality, and so on. The level of focus that a true service organization has will likely be beyond the capabilities of Amazon because Amazon’s approach is to be a jack-of-all-trades.

Service firms of a specific discipline, then, have a huge advantage because they can invest in systems and processes to augment and optimize their talent, and in turn provide an unmatched level of excellence. With that in mind, now is the time to consider how digitally transformed your business is. Now is the time to look at the full enterprise picture of your business and think critically about how well your service operation is being managed, transformed, and grown. Now is the time to look at things like IoT and reverse logistics because you, invariably, will be able to manage such tools with more focus than Amazon ever could. Now is the time to take risks with emerging technology like Augmented Reality, because if I’m wrong and Amazon isn’t the disruptor, the next guy will be.

Time will tell how Amazon’s gambit plays out, but service firms owe it to themselves to not sit idly by and let it gobble up another industry. Now is the time to start taking a serious look at how your service firm is embracing innovation.

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February 13, 2019 | 3 Mins Read

Building and Fortifying Your Organization’s Digital Reputation

February 13, 2019 | 3 Mins Read

Building and Fortifying Your Organization’s Digital Reputation


By Greg Lush

If you missed my first post in this series, you can check it out here. I promised to follow up with some tactical steps to help future proof your business in the Digital Age, and the first step is building and protecting your digital reputation. I know – digital reputation, you are kidding me, right? You might be thinking, all that I have ever needed is the ability to send and receive email. Maybe occasionally, store a file or two. I am totally on board – look, I have moved my email and file management tools into the cloud; I am the symbol of progress!

Is it possible those words are rattling around in your head? My guess is that you may also be the person who finds themselves perpetually buried in their inbox, wondering if things will ever change. I would say you’re not alone.

We’ve now reached a tipping point where cloud-based tools are agile and affordable, allowing us all to consider transforming our businesses for the digital age. However, this endeavor fundamentally modifies how we look at these tools. While systems still need to be implemented and deployed, the time in these development phases will be brief. Instead, your efforts will need to be focused squarely on adoption, a discipline often discussed and filled with mediocre performance and excuses. An example I’ve heard: “This is a cultural and training issue, it has nothing to do with the technology.” While the sentence may be correct, it is one of the core reasons why adoption seems to be limited to a “checkbox” for many of our strategies.

I speak from decades of experience as a CIO, our ability to transform organizations into doing business differently was generally isolated at best. Now, decades later, I still struggle with the point of it all. I feel like a dog with a bone in that I just cannot shake the challenge of getting everyone, not just early adopters and innovators, headed in the same direction. The trick has always been leveraging applications which are perceived as noncompulsory (aka valuable applications), and inspiring people to see past their perceived assumptions of applicability. Through recent experiences deploying cloud platforms, this hierarchy of digital adoption has been put to the test across a variety of business sizes. Proven time and time again, if you follow this hierarchy, succeeding at the first step before proceeding to the next, you will holistically transform your organization today, while making it future proof for tomorrow.

The Key to Your Digital Reputation Is Building Trust

So, what exactly am I referring to when I talk about a solid digital reputation? To start, I would ask you to think about a person that you know who has an excellent reputation. My guess is that your list would include characteristics such as trustworthy, reliable, helpful, and accessible. A relationship cannot advance without these behaviors; the same applies to your adoption aspirations. It is not uncommon for folks to believe the reason they subscribed to a well-known cloud platform was due to their reputation as a provider. Unfortunately, while that is important, you are miles from having your users comfortable with their new operating environment. Without a strong digital reputation, each of the subsequent digital adoption steps will become exponentially more difficult.

We all know that change management is a team sport and building or fortifying your digital reputation is no different. The only path to achieving your adoption goals is to establish trust and a sense of purpose. Generally, the applications deployed within the first phase of the hierarchy of digital adoption should be a relatively straightforward and low friction application to deploy, such as email. However, don’t get fooled by the adoption rates on this transactional system. Like Maslow’s theory, other than getting the environment “stood up,” satisfying the groups “physical needs” is nothing to write home about.

If you even remotely believe that our digital world is not flat, I encourage you to forge on in better understanding the digital hierarchy. We will build on elevating your digital reputation and allow you to proceed through the hierarchy of digital adoption, next discussing what to do when you are crippled by choice.

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February 11, 2019 | 6 Mins Read

Q&A: Tetra Pak’s Path To Outcomes-Based Service Success

February 11, 2019 | 6 Mins Read

Q&A: Tetra Pak’s Path To Outcomes-Based Service Success


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

You are likely hearing, reading, and thinking a lot about the digitalization of field service and the movement of the entire industry toward outcomes-based service. Some of you may be further down the path than others, but regardless of your current state if these topics are at all on your mind, Sasha Ilyukhin is someone you’d find immense value in learning from. Ilyukhin is the VP Industry 4.0 Solutions and Customer Success at Tetra Pak. As a member of the global senior leadership team for Tetra Pak Services, Ilyukhin is responsible for the creation and delivery of customer value through digitalization and outcome-based services in North, Central and South America.

As its product-based business evolved, Tetra Pak recognized the need for a services-based approach. The company’s focus on delivering outcomes-based service has grown leaps and bounds over the past couple of years and Ilyukhin joins us here to discuss the company’s experiences and give his advice for any organization on the path to an outcomes-based model.

Nicastro: How did Tetra Pak identify the need to go down the path of outcomes-based services, and what type of services do you have today in this area?

Ilyukhin: Very simple, we listened to our customers. Their business is under continuous pressure from changing consumer demands and increased market competition. With such pressure comes the need to relentlessly increase productivity and reduce operational costs.

At the same time, we believe that Tetra Pak is uniquely positioned to help our customers make their business more efficient and profitable. We have more than 65 years of accumulated knowledge and know-how in the food and beverage industry. We also have vast experience and commendable achievements in the area of Total Productive Maintenance, where our own packaging material factories have received highest recognition from Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance. In addition, we have unparalleled presence in the field, where our service engineers are based in close proximity to our customers. Combined with our growing appetite for digitalization technologies and risk-reward business models, all of the above enables us to grow outcome-based agreements as the future foundation of our services business.

Our business model and service offering for the outcome-based agreements is very different from a typical consulting engagement, where a fixed fee is charged to identify future improvement opportunities that over-compensate the consulting fee. We would charge our customers only when the actual savings are realized and confirmed in their P&L statement, and our fee is always considerably smaller than the overall customer financial gain.

We are also expanding our offer beyond just Tetra Pak equipment installed base, since significantly larger savings can be found on a factory-level scope.

Nicastro: What technological foundation had to be put in place to enable this approach?

Ilyukhin: There is a saying that “Data is the new oil;” it all starts with the ability to collect, process and analyze production data. We were well prepared in this area, with around 70 percent of our processing and packaging equipment connected in real-time. We are now tackling the challenge of connecting other OEM equipment and integrating it into our models of predictive analytics and data visualization.

Another important consideration is how to use the data you collect. We have partnered with Microsoft and Azure Cloud Services to enable us to build models for predictive maintenance and generation of data-driven business insights.

In parallel to our digital infrastructure, our field force capabilities are also rapidly evolving. In the past few years, we have invested in the development of mobile apps and tools to enable our service engineers to have the information they need when they need it. We have also pioneered the use of augmented reality with Microsoft Hololens for applications such as remote support assistance, training and certification, and virtualization of equipment placement during installations.

Nicastro: What internal changes did this shift force on Tetra Pak?

Ilyukhin: Our services business had to undergo through considerable change of business mindset, the way we work and the velocity of change itself. Many years ago we transformed from a pure cost center to a successful service operation. Going to outcome-based service model brought new requirements for the business: being able to make high quality decisions in a very short time, taking significantly higher risk vis-à-vis traditional “cost plus” models, enabling our field force to use the latest digital technologies and apps to monitor production and predict equipment failures. Implementing these changes would be impossible without high quality data analytics, and a mindset change to be able to act quickly on these data-driven insights.

With the speed of change in the digital era, we can’t allow ourselves to be complacent. So as an organization, we are learning what other technologies are rapidly developing for the future use in food and beverage manufacturing, such as advanced robotics, using simulation and digital twins, additive manufacturing and the increased use of artificial intelligence applications among others. We have also employed a team of data scientists to help us improve the quality of data-driven business decisions.

It’s worth mentioning that we have also changed our approach to service solution development. In partnership with the university in Germany, we have organized a few hackathons where a cross-functional group of our employees, university students and external consultants develops a minimum viable product in a matter of days. We believe having such agility is very important to address our customers’ specific needs.

Nicastro: How did you approach your customers on this, and what was key to success?

Ilyukhin: In my experience, outcome-based service discussions are best received at the top management levels. While plant managers and operational executives are equally concerned about their productivity and cost management, they are often constrained by annual budgets and KPIs, which are set for the current state of their business.

The key to success with the outcome-based services is to be able to approach the C-level leaders and to be prepared to quickly deliver a comprehensive opportunity analysis supported by robust and high-quality information, which is impossible to get without having access production and operational cost data. I believe that outcome-based models are the future of the service business, where long term partnerships can be forged with stronger commitments on productivity and cost reduction gains.

Nicastro: How had Tetra Pak progressed on this path and what’s next?

Ilyukhin: We started with outcome-based services a few years ago with a couple of pilots, where we had very good existing relationships with the customer across all levels, good availability of data and full willingness from the customer to explore this business model together. Our first result was beyond expectations when we were able to deliver almost 3x committed operational cost benefits over the course of one year.

Since then we also had cases where we could not deliver full potential saving due to various circumstances. With such cases, we were able to learn and perfect our model of delivery. For example, we quickly realized that with such complex contracts, a contract manager role is required to ensure all deliverables go as planned and all necessary roadblocks are removed in the process.

As we continue to expand the number of customers where we deliver based on outcome, our next challenge is what should we deliver to those customers where we already implemented these programs. We are expanding our offer to facilities that don’t have any Tetra Pak equipment installed. We are also looking at the benefits of new technologies, such as industrial social platforms for collaboration, issue resolution and daily management, and what these can bring to expand the productivity savings potential.

Nicastro: What’s your top piece of advice for a service organization that has yet to embrace the outcomes-based model?

Ilyukhin: Don’t wait for someone else to approach your customers with the outcome-based solutions and start building your own organizational capabilities to sell and deliver these. When done right, you would see higher levels of customer engagement and much stronger partnerships with your customers that enable mutual and sustainable business growth for the future.

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February 6, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

Four Big Benefits from Autonomous Vehicles in Service

February 6, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

Four Big Benefits from Autonomous Vehicles in Service


By Tom Paquin

It’s easy to see autonomous vehicles as some far-flung future tech, but the reality is, autonomous cars are on the road today, and each year, between new entrants, acquisitions among traditional auto makers, and fierce public interest, we are closer to a driverless world than you’d think.

We already know where the first business entrants will come from: Logistics, delivery, and transportation services. An eclectic group of brands, from Google to Dominos have already dipped their toes into driverless vehicles. Big rigs are right around the corner as well, and from there, attention turns to other industries that operate fleets of vehicles. Field Service, of course, being a somewhat less obvious next step.

There will likely be some consternation about leaning into autonomous vehicles in service, since, until we start building robo-technicians, a human will need to accompany the vehicle, anyway, but it doesn’t take long to see the framework of positive use cases start to materialize. What becomes instantly apparent is that businesses will need to start thinking about what impacts this will have on their business, even today.

Here are four key ways that service will change because of autonomous vehicles:

Your car is now your office.

When my wife and I moved from our city apartment into our suburban house, one off the most difficult changes was adjusting to the car commute vs. the train. In spite of the unique odors and the frequent delays, the train was a place where I could shoot off a few e-mails, look at some data, or, more likely, scroll idly through Twitter for 25 minutes. An automated card allows all of that and more, with a bigger work space and added privacy. For technicians, this means that notes and back-office utilities can easily be handled not at the end of the day, but when traveling from job to job.

For that to work effectively, of course, organizations need to have a committed cloud infrastructure for their service management solution. The software needs to be accessible anywhere, synchronized immediately, and available across devices. Organizations should be laying the groundwork for that today, of course, since cloud-enabled service software is overwhelmingly the tool of choice among top ranked service firms.

The new warehouse is on wheels.

Imagine this scenario: You’re a technician on a job site, and you have a part in your van that a colleague needs for a repair job across town. Rather than stop your job, hop in the car, and bring it to them, your car is summoned to deliver the part, then return to you. This is done in half the time it would take for your colleague to drive to you and back, and doesn’t take any time for you at all. This is the future of parts management. Moreover, parts can be quickly dispersed from a central warehouse without a technician needing to go off-site, delivered by a car, or perhaps a drone, depending on the size and scope. After initial diagnosis, call for the parts you need, and begin dismantling the current system. The parts will be waiting for you outside. This will limit downtime, improve first-time fix rates, and save technicians even more time.

Automating parts management will of course require oversight into the status of your parts inventory, yet another capability that needs to be in every organizations’ toolbelt today. Parts management isn’t just knowing where your inventory is stored, either; It’s an understanding of how to forecast demand, anticipate bottlenecks, and understand the ebb and flow of your business. Doing parts management intelligently is easy today, so why not start now?

The importance of security will skyrocket.

Security has traditionally been one of the most overlooked functions of digital transformation. Hacked e-mails and service details leaking are bad enough, but when you lose control of two tons of metal, a problem very quickly graduates into a potential catastrophe.

The infrastructure to manage that sort of security is only beginning to come into existence today, but it underscores the necessity of secure systems that update frequently and reliably. You don’t want the software infrastructure guiding your vehicles to be susceptible to takeover. The big piece to keep in mind here has to do with what partner will power your autonomous vehicle, as you’ll likely be employing their proprietary guidance software. It’s a guarantee that the corporate landscape governing that will not be the same today as it will be in ten years, but it’s easy to see which players are proving to be reckless today compared to those with more restraint. Keep an eye on those companies who take care to get it right.

Fleet management will be a day 1 requirement, and it will need to change.

Every company today should have a fleet management solution anyway, but by the time autonomous vehicles are making their way into service, there will no longer be an option. Customers already demand smaller service windows, and more reliable traffic patterns provided by fewer fallible human drivers means that those windows can be generated, but only if you have the necessary tools to do so effectively.

Route optimization will further come as a necessity, making sure techs’ vehicles are efficiently traveling through their area, that the vehicles understand the scope of jobs, and the lengths of jobs, and are able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. You can do all of these things today. An autonomous vehicle will just make it easier and more accurate.

While our autonomous future may seem far-flung today, it wasn’t so long ago that they thought of the internet in your pocket was a wild dream. Technology moves quickly, and service firms owe it to themselves to be prepared for the future today.

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February 4, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

Q&A: The Lessons Johnson Controls Has Learned In Determining Optimal Field Compensation

February 4, 2019 | 4 Mins Read

Q&A: The Lessons Johnson Controls Has Learned In Determining Optimal Field Compensation


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Johnson Controls is a global diversified technology and multi-industrial leader serving a wide range of customers in more than 150 countries. Worldwide, the company employs 120,000 in more than 200 locations. In his role as VP, HVAC Service at Johnson Controls, Buddy Saucier is responsible for ensuring customers are being served well, the business is growing, and profitability is increasing.

In a recent discussion Buddy and I were having around the company’s quest to achieve those objectives, we touched on the impact that determining optimal field compensation has on service profitability. With years of experience and perspective, I think you’ll find Buddy’s input very valuable.

Nicastro: How do you align field compensation to both growth and profitability goals?

Saucier: As they say, you need to have a plan and then work the plan. My experience is when you can motivate employees with compensation or rewards to drive to growth and profit targets, it makes it much easier to achieve your goals. Whereas most measurements of business growth in past years looked at topline, secured volume, and executed revenue growth, more companies and analysts are looking closely these days at secured and executed margin growth as well. Both being achieved through robust pricing, growth, or productivity actions and planning alongside a well-aligned compensation plan. This plan needs to be based on components of sales and operational alignment as well as business P&L line of site and maybe an aspect of personal performance.

Nicastro: What are the best ways to use compensation as a motivator for your field workforce?

Saucier: Good question, and important to determine as the field workforce can be your best pricing and growth accelerator. As we all know, service is the money maker in any business and renewable business is the gift that keeps on giving. I think motivation starts with a good visible dashboard that ensures your field workforce is well aware of the organization’s goals. We’ve seen various reward programs for selling and lead generation work well with a combination of other line-of-site or team-combined leading and lagging metrics. I’ve seen programs pay out differently in monetary compensation or even rewards of tickets or tokens that a technician or managers can cash in for different prizes. This sort of approach also drives competition among technicians and teams.

Nicastro: What role does tracking job cost play in setting optimal compensation? 

Saucier: Tracking cost is important in any business to drive business growth and profitability outcomes through productivity planning. What we typically see are plans built on secured volume and margin for sales and plans built around secured margin and executed margin for operations.

Nicastro: Besides wages, what are the most effective methods you’ve found to motivate your workforce?

Saucier: Certainly financial compensation is important but I find that a field workforce (technicians, managers, and administration) also respond well to recognition and rewards programs or a combination of recognition & rewards coupled with occasional SPIFF’s.

Nicastro: What are the biggest mistakes you see service organizations make with how field workers are compensated, and what steps can you suggest to rectify this?

Saucier: It’s important that everyone understands the target outcomes and that those outcomes have leading and lagging metrics and levers that can be pulled to achieve these metrics and financial outcomes. Many companies can’t make this tie, or they do and then fail at change management, either scenario creating breaks and failed outcomes. Another observation is across sales and operations and upper management, you could often have different plans. This is okay, but you have to ensure the gaps and grey areas are filled and that all teams are pulling in one direction. This is another way to be sure the compensation drives communication and collaboration.

Nicastro: What other advice do you have on this topic?

Saucier: Depending on the size of a service organization you can see very simplistic plans to, in large organizations, very complex plans associated with targeting specific product, services, and solution offerings with kickers, triggers, extra multipliers, etc. Complexity creates confusion for any field workforce. My best advice is to keep it simple and do your homework as a leader to ensure the rewards you put in place drive the right financial outcomes and reward the right behaviors and motivators. In some cases as an organization, you also have to be sure you don’t over compensate. It’s a delicate balance and takes a lot of work so that you can attract and retain employees as well as drive growth and profitability outcomes.

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