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June 29, 2020 | 4 Mins Read

As Remote Connections Increase, So Do Cyber Security Needs

June 29, 2020 | 4 Mins Read

As Remote Connections Increase, So Do Cyber Security Needs

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

In the span of a few short months, our world has become more virtual than it has ever been. For service organizations, this means not only work-from-home scenarios across functions but also the need to provide remote service to customers. As such, companies have turned to digital tools to allow employees to stay connected to company leadership, employees to stay connected to one another, and for customer communications and service to remain intact.

We’ve discussed many themes this evolution brings about, including accelerated digital transformation, a speeding up of Servitization and outcomes-based service approaches, and lessons in virtual leadership. One topic that was brought up to me recently that we have not yet discussed, however, is how this rapid uptick in remote connections is significantly increasing the need for more robust cyber security initiatives. Whether data is being transferred within the company, or to and from customers, rising remote connections and more data transfer equal greater security risk and it’s important to address that fact to protect your company, and customers, from harm.

I came across an article recently from Umesh Yerram, Vice President and Chief Data Protection Officer at AmerisourceBergen that presented some excellent points on building a purpose-driven security organization. As service organizations ramp up cyber security efforts, ensuring you have the right skills, structure, and processes in place are all imperative. Below are five important pieces of advice Umesh shares based on his experiences:

#1: Aligning with organization’s purpose. “Most of the security practitioners are very technical resources and enjoy dealing with bits and bytes. But if those same security practitioners internalize organization’s purpose and understand how their daily activities contribute towards meeting their organization’s purpose then it increases their productivity, sense of ownership and job satisfaction. Every member of the purpose driven security organization should have the same goal regardless of which security team (or any team in general) there are part of,” says Umesh. “For example: healthcare security teams should understand how their role & responsibilities contribute towards positive outcomes for their patients or security teams in other industries should understand how their roles and responsibilities contribute towards their customers’ experiences when using their company’s products and services. Once that understanding is crystalized then security teams are more focused on contributing towards organization’s purpose than just bits and bytes.”

#2: Break down silos. “Over the years each information security area – IAM, GRC, Data, Cyber, Awareness - has become more complex and challenging. However, every area is not independent but contributes towards the greater goal of securing the organization to meet its purpose. Security teams tend to focus on complex projects within their areas without learning about the other security projects and gaining a good understanding on how all those projects fit into the overall big picture,” explains Umesh. “Breaking these silos constantly enables the security teams to understand the big picture and how their efforts contribute towards the overall goal to serve its purpose. Whether it is opening individual team meetings to all security team members or using monthly town halls to help reinforce the interconnected nature of the projects will enable collaboration and seamless integration of different security capabilities.”

#3: Hire the heart, train the mind. “There are millions of open information security roles due to lack of skilled information security professionals. Information security teams must think outside the box to hire – System Administrators, DB Administrators, Application Developers, Veterans, Communication majors etc. - and focus on hiring diverse, smart resources who have the right attitude and eagerness to learn,” says Umesh. “Technology changes rapidly, therefore, if you focus on hiring resources based on current skills then those skills will be outdated quickly. However, if you have the team with the right attitude and appetite to learn new technologies quickly then they will constantly upgrade their skills and continue to serve the purpose long term.”

#4: Build a sustainable winning roster. “Like every NFL team, every security organization has a cap when it comes to building its roster. Security teams can take a leaf out of NFL roster building playbook (no pun intended). Building a security team with experienced veterans along with new experienced hires (free agents) and fresh graduates (rookies) is a winning combination. This is model will help new experienced hires and recent graduates to assimilate with company culture and learn from proven veterans while building a team for the future without missing a beat to serve the purpose in the long run,” suggests Umesh.

#5: Develop a trusted partner network. “Vendor partners are an extension of the team. Building a strategic vendor partner network with those who understand and share your purpose and help you meet that purpose is critical,” notes Umesh. “Vendor partners who are only interested in a transaction-based relationship are not long-term partners and will impact security team’s ability to serve its purpose. Building a strong collaborative partnership with vendor partners that you can leverage to influence their services and products’ road maps to meet your strategic goals will be mutually beneficial and delivers value to both organizations.”

June 26, 2020 | 3 Mins Read

Simulating Service

June 26, 2020 | 3 Mins Read

Simulating Service

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By Tom Paquin

Early in June, an ArsTechnica reader managed to uncover a strange piece of synergistic multimedia: SimRefinery. Developed by Maxis, creator of 1989’s SimCity, SimRefinery was a tool to help onboard workers at Chevron’s Californa oil refinery. Maxis had developed a division in the early 90’s called Maxis Business Solutions with the purpose of gamifying certain elements of knowledge management for employees and potential employees. In the words of librarian and archivist Phil Salvador:

Oil refineries are really, really complicated. That’s why Chevron wanted Maxis to make them a game like SimCity, to teach the employees at their oil refinery in Richmond, California how it all worked.

To be clear, they didn’t want a game that was supposed to accurately train people how to run an oil refinery or replace an education in chemical engineering. That would’ve been incredibly dangerous. What they wanted instead was something that showed you how the dynamics of the refinery worked, how all the different pieces invisibly fit together, like SimCity did for cities.

Games as training tools had a brief moment of popularity in the early 90’s, just as personal computers were becoming less of a hobbyist endeavor, and again began gaining traction in the early days of mobile apps. Written off as a novelty by many businesses, they are now more often tools for quizzes or simple trainings. What I find particularly interesting about SimRefinery, though, is that it’s more about the systems that make up a business, how they work together, and what happens when failures occur. In SimCity, you could trigger “disasters”, which ranged from tornadoes and fires to alien invasions and kaiju encounters. Interestingly, those scenarios were brought into SimRefinery as well, and offered users the ability to figure out how to mitigate loss and rebuild after these horrific catastrophes.

Of course my mind inevitably goes to service, where the number of interlocking systems, on a macro level, are substantial. Think about the global enterprise, attempting to manage business from a central hub, then nationally, then regionally, then to service territories, then down to individual sites (like a refinery, for instance!). Add in the complexity of parts management, contracted labor, and product manufacturing (if appropriate) and a refinery seems almost quaint by comparison.

Are there any service-focused games that have that level of detail? None that I know of, certainly not any of any particular use to the enterprise. Of course, with any such simulation tool, you need to start with what the intended use actually is. If it’s training, that’s one thing, if it’s showing people how systems work, that’s another. I’d argue, however, that simulations like this work best for service when they serve the purpose of preparing forecasting and scenario planning for businesses.

Recently I wrote about the importance of multi-time horizon planning in service. If you take the broadest piece of that, the strategic piece, you can start to see a practical use case for simulation in service. “What-if” scenario planning is a key component of best-in-class planning optimization, and though it might not be as much fun as working your way through an alien invasion, but imagining how specific scenarios impact your real service capacity, you can have the right contingency plans on hand to ensure your business is ready for anything.

Imagine how the COVID-19 crisis would have been handled differently if you could take your scheduling, parts, and operations plans and set up a system of scenarios wherein you account for massive drops in workforce availability, or travel restrictions, or decreases of specific types of service appointments. Think about that, even today, as plants, manufacturers, and retailers come back online and assets re-enter serviceability. How can you scale up? How many contingent employees do you need to bring on? What’s practical for scheduling.

Though not as flashy as SimRefinery, all of these capabilities are available today, and are powerful tools in helping you plan appropriately for tomorrow’s challenges, no matter the scenario. They may not be able to help you prevent an alien invasion, but they’ll keep your business running.

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June 24, 2020 | 29 Mins Read

DSL: How COVID-19 Has Accelerated Our Pace of Change

June 24, 2020 | 29 Mins Read

DSL: How COVID-19 Has Accelerated Our Pace of Change

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Reeve Bunn, President of DSL, talks with Sarah about how COVID-19 has accelerated the company’s pace of change, how he promotes an innovative culture within the 104-year old company, and how he stays focused both personally and as a leader on what’s most important.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we are going to be talking about how COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of change at DSL. This is a common theme we're hearing in how this crisis has really picked up the pace within companies of evolution, of embracing change and of taking new steps and next steps of innovation. I'm happy to welcome to the podcast today, Reeve Bunn, who is the President of DSL. Reeve, welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast.

Reeve Bunn: Thank you, Sarah. I appreciate being here, and looking forward to it.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. If you don't mind can you start just by telling our listeners a bit about DSL's business and then we'll get into the conversation?

Reeve Bunn: Yeah. Well, you hit on my favorite subject right off the bat. Yes, of course, happy to talk about DSL's business. DSL stands for Dairy Supplies Limited. We're in Western Canada, the four Western most provinces of Canada, and we're in the commercial food service industry. We sell service, install, warranty a restaurant and convenience store equipment, and have been doing so for 104 years now. I've been around a long time, seen a lot of things change, and certainly, as per your lead in, a company that's pretty well established like ours, this has been a good wake up call for us and a good jolt, and excited to talk about it.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. I think that sentiment is shared by organizations really across industries. Even those that don't have the same deep, rich history that DSL does. It seems to be a pretty universal truth in the folks that I'm talking to right now, is that, if there are positives of this situation, one of them is that it's really breaking down some barriers to change in organizations that needed that, and even in those that didn't. Even in the most innovative business, I think there's always some pockets of resistance to change, or some areas that you just get a little bit stuck in how to prioritize innovation or those sorts of things. I think this is accelerating change in a lot of areas. Certainly excited to talk about some of those.

Sarah Nicastro: One of the things I wanted to touch on is, as you've been leading DSL through the COVID-19 crisis, you have three key areas of focus and in a very particular order for specific reasons. Tell our listeners what those key areas of focus are, and why the order is so important.

Reeve Bunn: Yeah, absolutely. As this all started, our leadership team very quickly hit on, how are we going to work through this crisis and be consistent about our approach, consistent in our decision making, and really hit on what factors are coming into our decisions? It's easy to just hit the panic button and feel like you are making knee-jerk reactionary decisions given what headline you read on the news that morning. We said, well, we've got to ground ourselves with some common pillars here that we can continue to go back to throughout this crisis, however long it may be. First and foremost, we said, nothing is more important than the safety of our team who are out there in the face of this, in our customer's businesses, and out there providing service to those customers on their premise and onsite.

Reeve Bunn: That was our number one focus was, okay, decisions are going to be grounded, first and foremost, in employee safety. That led us to, very quickly, create a preparedness guide for all of our employees that we were revising throughout the course of the past three months, three and a half months to ensure that they were working in as safe of a way as we possibly could have them working. Secondly, we wanted to be very mindful of both the health and the safety of our customers. Being mindful of that, it ties into a lot of the core values that we have, but being mindful of that, we jumped right into getting really creative about what kind of solutions can we put in front of our customers, anticipating what their challenges will be, anticipating what their needs will be and help them through this.

Reeve Bunn: As a customer here at DSL, we had a bit of the opposite experience with one of our longtime vendors, and we've been a customer of theirs for a decade or more. We very quickly, day 31 of the bill being due, we very quickly got the, You are on hold, notice. That was one of those wake up calls to me and to the rest of us that we're not going to be that company. At the other end of this, we're going to be the company that our customers come back to us and go, "Wow, you went above and beyond. You did more than some of your peers that are our other vendors." That was the position we wanted to be in at the end of all of this. That allowed us to quickly pivot and to say, how can we help these customers through this? What can we offer them that's different?

Reeve Bunn: So, we came up with a whole bunch of really creative, I think, really good customer programs that tried to make life easier for them. Then lastly, our third key decision pillar was around business continuity and business health. That meant we got to look inwards and we got to go, what do we need to do to sustain the business for the benefit of the many? You're making tough decisions around projects, putting them on hold, you're making tough decisions around costs, you're making difficult decisions in some cases around staffing. So, what do we need to do to ensure that we continue to move forward and that the business continues to be sustainable and as successful as it can in these circumstances?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Very good. One of the things that stood out to me as you were talking is, when you think about the order of those things, obviously safety and health has to be paramount. This is a global pandemic, and that needs to be prioritized and handled with the utmost care. But what I really like is, as you were describing those pillars, how you prioritize the consideration of your customer's businesses over the consideration of your own business. Obviously, both areas of decisions are important, but before you got to, okay, and how do we focus on our own business continuity? Before you were at that point, you were discussing, how do we become creative in how we serve our customers to make sure that their businesses are protected as well? I give you kudos because I think it's a very well thought out list of objectives in terms of the order of importance.

Sarah Nicastro: The other thing I think is important, and it reminds me actually of a conversation I was having earlier today, where we were talking about, let's just say transformation in general, right? It doesn't matter if it's transforming because COVID-19 struck, or it doesn't matter if it's transforming because we're introducing a new technology or a new service offering. Just any transformation. The point that was brought up is that all too often, companies will focus on the plan instead of the objective, and get caught up in a lot of the detail and the how, versus are we just meeting the objective? I think the fact that you recognized, okay, for us to navigate this huge wealth of change, we really need to be clear on what do we need to stay focused on, what are our objectives? Those are critical to us. The, how we do that, can be flexible.

Sarah Nicastro: That's very good, I think, and hopefully, has kept you guys pretty well in line through this. I know that different pockets of the world are being affected differently by COVID. But I know that, generally speaking, restaurant industry has been one of the more impacted spaces. Those customers really do need that support. I think that your mission to be remembered as a company that was there for them, to help them after all of this, is a long-term smart move. Go ahead.

Reeve Bunn: Sarah, you made me think of one other comment. You're right about how the how in the execution can evolve and change because of the situation being rapidly evolving. I even go back to the number one pillar we had talking about the safety of the employees.to walk through that, we very, very immediately, of course, you're thinking about the physical well-being and the physical safety of our people that are out there in front of customers, or handling deliveries that have frontline type roles. Then, as it evolves, and as you learn more, you become very conscious of the, either mental or financial wellbeing of those that aren't necessarily even on the front lines, that are performing other roles are in a position that they can do so safely and remotely from their homes, but you go, okay, well, there are other needs to meet here that also fall under this umbrella of employee safety and wellness during this time.

Reeve Bunn: How do we ensure some of those people? That evolves into, well, what can we do on the mental health side? How can we communicate enough so that our team knows what's going on with the business, what's going on with our customers. So, we're doing this via video., and I feel like I've never been on video so much in my life because that evolved into twice weekly. I would do an all staff video that I'd record and send out. Could include QA, could include updates about any of those three pillars and what's going on. I have a feeling like our whole team is probably sick and tired of seeing my face, but it was one of those things of, you learn that part of that how for safety is over communication in 100 different ways. You're right, in that the tactics have evolved and have changed along the way, but the pillars remain the same.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Those tactics are going to continue to evolve as recovery ramps. There's really no firm variables right now. Everything is very fluid. That how, that plan has to continue to morph, but having those pillars to hold true to, and to keep you focused on what you've determined is most important for the business is a really good guiding post for seeing the company through. You touched on this a bit as you were describing some of the ways that DSL has become creative in helping customers through this time. But even prior to COVID-19, DSL had introduced what you refer to with customers as all in one, or what I would refer to as a contract based approach to service.

Sarah Nicastro: You've been on this path and you've recognized the need and opportunity to do that. You've seen some increased interest in that program and in those offerings as the situation has unfolded. I'm hoping you can share two things. The first would be, just discussing about overall for DSL. Why is it important to embrace this outcomes based service approach? Then secondly, how has that interest of all during COVID, and how have you been able to ramp up or rely on some of those programs to help your customers right now?

Reeve Bunn: Sure. Well, I think on the first part of the question, in terms of why this philosophy, in our opinion, works and why our customers seem to like it, is that, at the end of the day, it aligns the service providers values and outcomes with the customers. All of the other pieces side, which there are many other great pieces of a program like this. Just that piece alone, it brings you onto the same side of the table, and you're all striving for the same thing. I don't say this under the guise that I think that service providers are perceived generally being on the other side of the table, but you do have competing interests when your model is a more traditional one. If I get compensated to come out and spend my time servicing you, in a backwards way, I have an incentive to come out and service you more.

Reeve Bunn: Obviously, that's not what the customer wants. They want you to service them less. When you join them on the other side of that table, and you say, "Listen, I'm absorbing the risk here just as much as you are, and in the same way that you don't want me in your business or in your restaurant, because I'm in your way and that means that you have a problem, we don't want to be there either, because now I'm not getting paid any more for that." You can open up all kinds of different conversations, in our experience, than you would otherwise be able to do. It leads to things like, how can we help you, customer, become a better operator? How can we spend more time training your employees on non-repair related functions of the things in your business that we support?

Reeve Bunn: All of a sudden, the dynamic shifts, and the feedback going both ways dramatically improves. That's been our main eye opening aha, and there are many others. I think that the ability to just add in more pieces that are valuable to everybody is way different. You can bolt on pieces of a solution that, if you were doing time, you'd be thinking they're sitting there thinking, okay, well where's the revenue model in this, whether that's a new technology or whether that's an app, or whatever it could be. Well, now you've got the platform to incorporate it into the same system, the same revenue tool, and kind of have it all work out.

Reeve Bunn: I think it requires a lot of internal maneuvering and you've got to have good data to build a good program, but once you do so, it's shown to be pretty beneficial to us. Then to the second part of the question talking about in the current environment, what happens and what has happened to us, well, again, it has given us this added layer of flexibility. We were able to speak to our customers that are part of our subscription model program or our outcome based program and say, okay, well, let's talk about what the landscape looks like for you, what kind of state is the business in right now, and then how can we just tweak the program for a while to meet whatever needs you have? We're not locked into some rigorous rigid contract.

Reeve Bunn: We've got flexibility. Ultimately, the program's designed to meet your needs, and your needs are different right now than they were three months ago, or than they'll probably be in a year and a half. We could pivot really fluidly and really quickly. The programs just morphed. Whether that was the intervals of a maintenance package, whether that was the amount of equipment that was running in the store, whether that was the specifics around the payment term of the subscription, we're able to just maneuver these buttons in creative ways that lets everybody succeed.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that's a really good point. I've been talking with some other manufacturers that are navigating this crisis. Right now, companies don't ... they don't want to invest in new equipment. They're in cost savings mode, and they want to figure out, no, we'd rather invest in service because we'd rather keep what we have going as long as we can until we see what's coming next. Where for some of those organizations their manufacturing revenue has dropped, but their service revenue is increasing. We did a podcast a few weeks ago with Park Place Technologies, which is a company that provides IT services. They quickly recognize like these big capex expenditures and these big long-term contracts and these huge decisions, these are going to be put on hold, so let's just app quick and be nimble and start figuring out what do our customers want and need right now.

Sarah Nicastro: I think that's important. To your point earlier on, when you referenced the supplier you were using that treated you in that way, it's something you'll remember for a very long time. Yes, this is a hard challenging time, but it is ultimately, temporary. If you can just adjust for now to serve your customers in a bit of a different way, it gives you an opportunity to build and nurture that relationship so that as things normalize, you're in a good position to evolve that and grow that over time. You've seen increased interest in that program, both in evolving it, but I would assume possibly also companies that weren't leveraging it before becoming more open to doing so. Is that correct?

Reeve Bunn: That is correct. Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I think, it's funny how it parallels what we were talking about at the beginning in the sense of, those customers don't care so much about the plan. They don't care so much about the how, they care about the what. When you start talking about an outcomes-based model, they just want whatever that outcome is. If it's X percent uptime, or whatever those pillars are for them, they just want you to deliver on what matters for their business. I think that, for the companies that can start to brainstorm how to make that happen, like you said, it's a lot of onus on you to change your business internally to meet those demands. But I think it's very much the future of service.

Sarah Nicastro: I think it tends to get very oversimplified in discussions because it's like, okay, outcomes-based service is the way the industry is heading, so get on board. It's like, yes. Okay. I think we're all pretty much agreeing on that, but there are layers, and layers, and layers, and layers of change that a business like yours has to make to ultimately evolve to such a model. I guess that leads us to the next question and back to the title or the theme this episode, which is, you've been on this journey, right? This isn't a new journey. You didn't just decide to start doing this or going down this path, but it has accelerated it for you.

Sarah Nicastro: I think that that is a shared theme. One of the things you said to me when we spoke last, that I really like is, you said it's inspiring how fast we can change. I like that quote for a few different reasons, but tell us what you mean by that. Tell us how you've been able to be agile and nimble and what lessons you've learned as this has unfolded.

Reeve Bunn: Yeah. Well, and your world is pretty comfortable. I would say we've never been a complacent company by any stretch, but you start to think that there's a lot of different things that you can do at any given time. Then you get into early March, and all of a sudden, all of the non-necessities go away, your focus becomes ... it's laser focused. The speed at which you start to do things, it's quite amazing to step back from it and look at it, and say, in the normal course of business, what we just did in a week, we probably would have, for a lot of the right reasons, done that over the course of a couple of months, let's say. All of a sudden, in a way, it reminds you of what you're truly capable of, but I think, ultimately, people that are in roles of leadership, you got to take that away as that's the job here going forward is, what are we putting aside and not doing is just as important as what we are doing.

Reeve Bunn: Because when we do direct our energies and our efforts behind something, if we truly do it, boy, oh, boy, we can do it really well and we can do it really quickly. Now, what slows us down is these things that we take on, on the periphery, that stuff around the edge that sometimes internally we call it shiny things. The things that are not necessarily the most important things for the business. They seem neat, they seem like they might be a small win, and before you know it, you're consumed by 15 of those things and you aren't getting anything truly done, even the stuff that's really, really, really important. So, the Stephen Covey motto, first things first. If you focus in, it's amazing what you can do.

Reeve Bunn: I'm sure there are so many organizations that have been reminded of that over the course of the past few months, but that is very inspiring. That is an amazing thing to take away from all of this, is the power of the organization to truly move when it sets its mind to it. You can move a mountain pretty fast, way faster than we all probably thought we could have back in January.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I agree. That's why I like that quote so much. This situation has forced companies to change. I think that's very uncomfortable, but like you said, it really gives you confidence in what you're able to accomplish. I think that that's a lesson that's going to stick with people for a long time. I think that really, truly, from a service perspective, I think that, as recovery from this begins, we're going to see huge spikes in innovation and evolution and digital transformation, and all of those things, because some of this ... resistance is one thing, de-prioritization, distraction, all of those things that have kind of held that progress back, I think a lot of that is being pushed to the side, and companies are seeing that they can and why they should. I think it'll be quite interesting to see where things go.

Sarah Nicastro: But as we talk about being nimble, and agile, and knowing that you can change faster than you thought you could, it isn't just about speed. I want to talk a little bit about what else that entails. It's not just about moving fast, it's about being creative, it's about being customer focused, it's about being internally aligned. What are some of the key aspects or ingredients, if you will, that DSL has been able to put together to be able to move quickly in adapting to these circumstances, but in a very strategic way?

Reeve Bunn: Yeah. Well, and I think this comes down to really what underpins the business before you're in crisis mode. I think you don't wake up in a crisis and figure out how to become innovative or figure out how to understand customers' needs. It's got to be there beforehand. My answer to that question, Sarah, would be falling back on, ultimately, what's the purpose and what are the values in the company? We've got a very set purpose, and we've got core values that have been established for a long time. We weren't going into a crisis trying to figure those things out and trying to go, okay, well, now what are we going to do about this? We could go into the crisis pretty self-assured of what our steps would be because our core values have always been that we're customer-obsessed, we're innovative, we find solutions, we're good teammates, and we have fun.

Reeve Bunn: Those are the five things that have been up on the walls here for a long time. Even to add a layer to it, when I say a long time, I would say those are the things, even if they weren't spelled out, that have been underlying values in this business for decades or even generations, well, Well, well before my time here, or most of our current staff's time here. We were innovative in the 1930s or in the 1920s, in that time in context. I think it's ultimately about, you're going to react to the situation based on the type of company that you are. In our case, the ability to react in a customer-centric way is driven by the fact that we see ourselves as a customer-centric business.

Reeve Bunn: Whether we're in crisis or not, that's just part of what we think about all the time. Naturally, when you jump into, and you fall into crisis mode, that gets enhanced. You turn the dial up a few notches, but we're fortunate in that we weren't coming to this blind, or we weren't coming to this going, okay, well, now, how do we figure out what our customers want? We were intentionally thinking about that all the time, or if you turn it to the innovation and technology side, we're not coming into this crisis thinking about, okay, now what technology do we implement to help us through all of this? Or what innovation do we come up with that makes us better? Well, those are things that are part of our roadmap, all of it.

Reeve Bunn: Again, yeah, maybe you move on and faster. Maybe you set some of the lower priority pieces there to the side, but you're still working on many of the same things that you were doing before. It's probably the old adage of the preparedness piece. If the foundations were laid before you were in this situation, I think the odds are that you probably have a higher chance of success as you go through it.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that's a good point. But what's interesting to me about DSL's story, and I want to be clear that I would say this prior to COVID-19 as well. This is not specific to how you've navigated these particular challenges, but the way the business carries itself, even prior to this. A lot of 104 year old companies really struggle with a culture of innovation, genuinely struggle. Their history can oftentimes be their biggest, to recognizing some of the opportunities we've discussed today and progressing the business forward. I think that it's a pretty common challenge that I see. One of the things that's really interesting to me is that DSL prides itself so much on innovation as a key trait and as something that the company lives by.

Sarah Nicastro: I'm just curious, how and why you think that is, and perhaps, how that's been embedded into and fostered in the company culture, because it's something that is very easy to say, but really difficult to do.

Reeve Bunn: Yeah. Well, I think it's a bit of the tagline of the times. I think any anybody that you meet and that you talk to about the business that they work in or the business that they run, you'd be hard pressed to look somebody in the eyes and have them tell you they don't think they're innovative or aspire to be innovative. In our case, I go back to what I was saying a few minutes ago. It's fortunate, on the one hand, but this business was innovative in 1920, it was innovative in 1950, it was innovative as it came out of the second World War. We totally shifted the industry we serve altogether in the 1960s. We have this ingrained in us, in this business, which is a very lucky thing. But I think in terms of how do you try to foster that and how do you maintain it and make sure that it's genuine, I think one big part of it is that we're sort of trained to be very afraid of failure.

Reeve Bunn: I think that the two go hand in hand. If you want to really position yourself as a company that's innovative, you are just not going to get it right all the time. You're going to get it wrong, you're going to make mistakes, and you can't have one without the other. You've got to be okay with not everything working. That's hard for some types of businesses and some leaders. It's expensive to make mistakes, it takes up resources and time, it loses focus, it's hard on the ego. You got to be willing to make mistakes. We make mistakes all the time. We tried a lot of stuff, not all of it sticks, not all of it works, but you've got to maintain that zest and that desire to keep trying.

Reeve Bunn: Then the second thing I think that helps in that is what we're forever trying to do, is when a big idea hits our field of vision, and you start to think about, how do you get there? That's always an intimidating and nerve wracking long rope, kind of like this. If you sit there and say you're going to run a marathon tomorrow, it's really hard to run a marathon tomorrow. If you sit there and start training for it and you figure out how you're going to run a mile tomorrow, you can probably run a mile, and then you can run another mile. It's about taking that objective that you have, that innovative goal that you have and starting to work it backwards, and say to yourself, well, what is it is the easiest first step that we can take?

Reeve Bunn: How can we test it? How can we do our, in lean startup terms, how can we do our minimum viable product here? That becomes far less intimidating and far less scary. You can start the path to validation before you sunk in a million dollars into a new software or whatever big leap you have to make. Go, well, how do I test it for $5,000 before we go and spend a whole bunch of money on it? Then the last, I guess, exercise that I think is a valuable one when you're facing these decisions about jumping into something or trying to continue to innovate is just really being clear and getting on the table, what it is that you're afraid of and what it is that could go wrong. I think a really good snapshot of this, someone who probably a lot of people have heard of, Tim Ferriss, has a Ted talk about an exercise he calls fear setting.

Reeve Bunn: To butcher it and paraphrase it a bit, essentially you put that big decision or that big scary thing that you want to move towards on the wall, and then you quickly list out, what is everything that could go wrong with it? What are all the thousand ways that it could not work? Then if that were to happen, have there ever been people anywhere in the history of time that have mitigated that type of a challenge or that type of a failure. As you build out your worst case, it's pretty clearly in your head, and all of a sudden, as you worked through that, you go, okay, well, even the worst case, isn't really so bad. You can overcome it, you'll learn from it. The odds of the worst case happening are relatively small.

Reeve Bunn: It's just that little bit of encouragement and self-validation about how you can try things and move forward without all of the barriers and the obstacles and the weight that generally come with things that are deemed as innovative. Those are the types of discussions, and those are the types of things we try to do here at DSL. You're right. It's easy as you get established. You can sit and rest on your laurels, but we're forever chasing that next thing. You'll pay a price for that. There's a cost to trying to be on the leading edge of things, but if you really believe in it, then you're willing to pay the price.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I was smiling to myself. I was just thinking back to in my very early years of being like in an editor in chief role, when I first started doing a lot of public speaking, I was terrified. I remember one time sitting in a conference room talking to my mentor, and he said, "What's the worst that's going to happen? Really tell me. You get up on stage, and what is the absolute worst thing you could say or do, and then what's going to happen as a result of that?" I just sat there, and he's like, "Even if you completely bomb, it's going to be over in 20 minutes and you're going to move on with your life." You know what I mean?

Sarah Nicastro: I was just thinking back on that experience. Also thinking about that, from a leadership perspective, how important and powerful it is for you to be normalizing that fear and modeling the behavior that like, hey, it's okay to have ideas that don't work, it's okay to try things that fail. I do it, you can do it, the whole company should do it. Because innovation doesn't happen if Reeve Bunn is the only person being creative. It really does have to be something that everyone within the company feels empowered to do. The other thing I was thinking about as you were talking is that, like you said at the beginning, it's very much a buzzword, a tagline like many other things.

Sarah Nicastro: The difficult part for me, as a journalist, with these buzzwords and taglines is they are overused, but they're also important. There's a true definition of them and there's meat behind it, but then they get overused to the point where they're kind of these watered down terms. The other thing I was thinking about, as you were saying that, is, I think companies also tend to focus on innovation in one area. Oftentimes, that's technological innovation. What's the new tool we could use to transform everything or what-have-you? I think when you look at a true culture of innovation, it's happening in every area of the business. Particularly related to today's conversation, when you talk about a journey towards outcome-based service, like we said, you're fundamentally changing the whole business.

Sarah Nicastro: You need someone that's going to come to you and say, "Hey, Reeve, have you ever thought about ... what if we just did X, Y, Z for customers?" You know what I mean? It could be something completely different than what you do today, but you need to hear those ideas, or you're never going to disrupt, you're just going to incrementally improve. It's just some interesting things, I think, for listeners to think about related to common traps, I guess, of throwing the word innovation around. I don't know if you have any thoughts on that.

Reeve Bunn: Well, you saying that I give full license and credit to our IT manager, Edward Lipin, who you know a little bit, Sarah, but he's forever reminding us of that very point. A good technology will not solve a bad process and will not solve a lack of innovation that it’s trying to fix. You could buy the world's best technology, and if you don't have the pieces behind the scenes working, you're just going to drag your awesome technology into your poor process and the technology. Yeah, I think that it's easy to put technology up as this silver bullet that solves all ailments. Really, I think it's more of an accelerant. If you have the wheels spinning and you're doing the right things and you're running a good business, technology can help pull, volts you to the next level.

Reeve Bunn: If you're in a position where you've got some of those underlying challenges, it's not going to be a saving grace that's going to change your habits, change your processes, change the beliefs and the feelings of your team. All that stuff is still going to be there when the new technology, the switch turns on and you're using it.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. Yep. Okay. Last question for today. I've really enjoyed asking people this question over the last couple of months, which is, what have you personally learned, or what are you personally taking away from this crisis? What's the biggest lesson as a leader that you've learned on a personal level in leading DSL through these times?

Reeve Bunn: Yeah, and I don't think this is going to be anything that's going to surprise anybody, but I've been reminded of just how important, clear, consistent communication is. Just seeing its ability to either put our team at ease, or if it's lacking to amplify the stresses that our team is already feeling, I think what we touched on early in the conversation, I think a huge takeaway is the responsibility of a leader to drive the focus of a business. Again, what people are able to do when the rest is cleared away and they're very clear about what's important to work on. Then I guess on a different level, maybe a more personal level, just the awareness to not get so caught up in it all.

Reeve Bunn: I think that the ability to just step back and avoid the bombardment for a while, to look at the bigger picture of things. I think I've seen on your LinkedIn profile, I think I've seen you post a few stoic quotes in recent months. Not to get into a philosophy discussion, but that type of thinking and those types of beliefs have been something that I've thought a lot about in these last few months. All this has happened before and more. We aren't the first people in humanity to deal with this, and we'll come out the other end. It's important for us as leaders to be a voice of calm, to be a voice of reason, and ultimately, to care for our people at times like this. I would say those are a few things that definitely have jumped out at me and have really stuck with me over the last few months.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It's a very chaotic time, and to your point, you do have to figure out, how can you step back a bit and keep perspective? That's the thing I've tried really hard to do, not to put my husband on blast, but he doesn't listen to my podcast anyway. The other night he said, "I just want to go on vacation." I said, "Okay." I do too, but our family is healthy, our family is safe. We've both been able to stay gainfully employed throughout this situation thus far, and we have a roof over our heads. So, we have a lot to be grateful for. We'll get a vacation again at some point. Of course, he doesn't appreciate that at all.

Sarah Nicastro: I'm not saying that I always have that perspective. I'm saying, when I catch myself in those pity me, boo hoo moments, I bring it back to remembering how much that we do have to be thankful for and what's really important. I think that's critical to do. As a leader of a company, in your situation, going back to where we started with those key focus areas and being able to remember, how do we take care of our people? That is most important for all of us.

Reeve Bunn: Yeah. You saying that, maybe this is a better way to say it, but where can you direct your energy that is within your realm of control? There is just so much going on out in the world right now, and it can absorb all of your energy. You could read a new news story about any of the things going on in society every five minutes and be the chicken with its heads cut off, it's running from one direction to the next. Just remaining focused on what is it that I can impact, what is it that I can control, and the stuff that I can't, I just got to set that to the side for a while.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Don't expend your energy on it. Because it's a finite resource, especially right now. Everyone is up against things that we're just not used to dealing with. People are trying to educate their kids at home while they're working, and health concerns, and all of this stuff. You can't waste that precious energy on anything other than what is most important, whether that's in our personal lives or whether that's as a leader of a business. You have to pick that path and pick those critical elements and learn how to let the rest of it go. Well, thank you very much for being here and for sharing today. I really, really appreciate it.

Reeve Bunn: Yeah, it was my pleasure. I really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. You can find more content on many of the themes that we've discussed today by visiting us online at www.futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn and Twitter @TheFutureOfFS. The Future of Field Service Podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more about IFS service management solutions by visiting www.ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.

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June 22, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

Defining the Future of Work

June 22, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

Defining the Future of Work

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

We’ve discussed quite a bit on Future of Field Service how COVID-19 will impact service businesses over the long term, how it will spur forth the journey to Servitization, and how it will act as an accelerator to digital transformation. But what is less clear is how will the work get done as these changes take place? To what degree will workplaces return to their pre-COVID-19 existences, and what new practices will forever stick?

It’s interesting to consider how navigating our way through this global pandemic may impact the future of work in a permanent way. Many share the opinion that remote work should become our new norm, and as a pre-COVID-19 remote worker, I can vouch firsthand on the improvement in both productivity and work/life balance. But it isn’t all positive – I’ve discussed recently with service leaders some of the challenges of our recent evolution to virtual everything. Those include videoconference burnout, feelings of isolation, it being harder to pick up on social cues and benefit from casual hallway interactions, and the need to evolve how we measure and track success.

The conversations I’ve had with service leaders in recent weeks around this topic differ based on what area of the workforce we are discussing. Three main areas that have come up are if and how COVID-19 will permanently change field service roles, whether the sales workforce needs to return to pre-COVID practices, and to what degree formerly office-based roles should remain remote. It’s clear that no one company has this “all figured out,” rather these are ongoing conversations within businesses today to define their future of work. Here are some common points that come up in conversation related to each category of work:

To What Degree Will Field Service Become Remote Service?

Many businesses have had to either fall back on existing or deploy new ways of providing remote service. One company I spoke with recently said that their previously deployed augmented reality based remote collaboration tool increased in use from February to April by more than 700 percent. We covered how Munters deployed remote assistance to gain business continuity in areas where travel was banned, and their use of the technology is expanding. With companies forced to adjust to distancing and no-travel conditions, the question now is to what degree will these remote service practices stick?

Most agree that they won’t replace field service visits altogether, ever. But gaining the ability to remotely diagnose and resolve issues has powerful benefits. It provides faster resolution to customers, reduces costs for the service organization by reducing non-essential visits, and some have said it has even improved the work/life balance for technicians because they are able to provide support remotely part of the time instead of always being on-the-go.

Companies I’ve spoken with recently are now moving out of “damage control” to putting some intentional thought and planning behind the permanently increased role of these tools – how to create proper processes, how to commercialize the service offerings, and how to ensure the have the appropriate resources staffed and available for both remote and on-site work. In addition, companies are working to be sure their field technicians feel more empowered as recovery ramps up so that they know they never need to be in a position they don’t feel safe. Mental health is another key consideration as companies look to determine the best ways to keep a sense of connectedness with a mostly or entirely remote worker.

Is the Future of Sales Virtual?

Another area that has come up in discussions is sales – sales is a function that in most industries pre-COVID-19 involved significant amounts of travel and face-to-face interactions. As the ability to conduct business that way came to a screeching halt, sales teams were forced to get creative and find new ways of making connections, fostering relationships, articulating value, and closing deals. While I’m sure there are some portion of sales executives chomping at the bit to get back on flights and back into boardrooms, I’m not sure it is the majority.

I believe there’s been a realization among companies that the degree to which sales was conducted involving travel before is not exactly necessary. I don’t think that means that the post-COVID sales world will be entirely virtual, but I bet there will be a lot more thought and caution put into how much travel is really required to get the job done. One company I spoke with recently has no desire to go back to “the way it was,” and are in the process of formalizing virtual sales processes, tools, and trainings with the objective of making it their new normal going forward.

Do We Ever Need to Return to the Office?

The final category of discussion is around any of the roles that were formerly office based that have become virtual – from customer service to IT to operations to leadership and so on. Some companies are beginning to phase back into having employees return to the office; others have announced extended virtual working operations. I’d say definitively that for any company, this situation has opened eyes when it comes to the ability to successfully and productively work from home – which I do think will have lasting implications.

Companies must determine for themselves what parameters to use to determine when, how, and to what degree they’ll return to the office environment. In a recent podcast with Reihaneh Irani-Famili, VP of Business Readiness at National Grid, we discussed a number of relevant considerations for these decisions. First, she shared that for National Grid, they had conducted a survey and determine people simply don’t yet feel comfortable returning – and consideration of your employees’ feelings, needs, and comfort is certainly major.

Beyond that, we discussed some of the common topics – videoconference burnout and how to avoid it, making virtual meetings effective and productive, and keeping teams collaborative and engaged. Reihaneh brought up an incredibly valid point around the need to provide better visibility into outcomes when working in a virtual environment. “When people are virtual, they need the clarity of the deliverable that they're driving. You need to replace that 8:00 to 5:00 mentality by a deliverable-based mentality and a value-based mentality. And it's both for the leaders in the companies as well as for those employees,” she says. “Because as an employee, if before my success was to spend eight hours in the office, now that needs to be replaced by ‘this is the value that I have created in the hours that I was working or being productive.’ The more clarity you can give on the outcomes and the value that you're trying to drive and less about how they would get to that, it helps people be more productive, more engaged, and it would really make sure that your productivity doesn't get impacted by this sudden move to a virtual environment.”

Most leaders I’ve talked with agree that a 100% return to office work for employees that did so before is unlikely, but so too is becoming 100% virtual. It seems to be agreed upon that while productivity is high in a work-from-home environment, certain types of collaboration, teambuilding, change, and major initiatives are difficult to achieve success with in a virtual-only way. As such, some combination seems likely for most businesses.

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June 19, 2020 | 3 Mins Read

Mobile Device Management in the COVID Era

June 19, 2020 | 3 Mins Read

Mobile Device Management in the COVID Era

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By Tom Paquin

When I was 13, I saved up my paper route money every week for a whole year in order to afford to get a computer of my own: A small, beige, sluggish laptop purchased from CompUSA. It was probably one of the only computer sales that the associate ever had that consisted of quarter rolls and one-dollar bills, but there’s really no experience like cracking open the box of your very first electronic device. Once the sweet ozone of fresh plastic clears the air and you boot the thing up, you begin the less magical experience of installing all the software that you need to make the thing actually useful.

For businesses deploying new hardware to their service employees, or just trying to manage “Bring your own device” (BYOD) hardware, this is an even more tedious prospect. Whether you’re onboarding new hires or managing a large or small-scale refresh, getting the right tools to the right employees, and ensuring the right logins and applications are active, can all be an arduous process. Mobile Device Management (MDM) has sought to eliminate a great deal of those challenges by managing cloud licenses holistically, allowing the home office to make sure software and logins are active out of the box, revoke or add licenses to software remotely, and generally manage utilities from a central dashboard.

With MDM, it’s easy to get caught up in the “mobile” bit, and, indeed, this definition is meant to encompasses all mobile devices, whether they be phones, tablets, rugged devices, or wearables (depending on your vendor of choice). But it’s important to remember that device management should extend to computers as well. This is important for a variety of reasons, chief among them that, as noted previously, all of your software should be 1:1 between mobile devices and desktops. More urgently, managing not just software—but devices in the hands of your technicians and back office employees—using a system that requires zero physical interaction is more important than ever right now.

I should note that, in addition to providing a means to avoid physical contact, Mobile Device Management is a pillar of ‘New IT’, which empowers your non-IT employees to set up their devices remotely. The principles of new IT are simple enough: Employees should pilot as much of the installation and management of their devices as possible. They open the box, boot it up, make sure everything's installed, and get to work. For that to be an effective strategy, the foundation of support and automatic rollout that MDM allows is imperative.

A “New IT” mindset within this context is uniquely valuable in the field, as it empowers technicians to manage device issues themselves, but nevertheless offers them the lifeline of having their device information and status available to IT remotely. We talk so frequently here about remote resolution, but it’s easy to forget that such a capability should extend to your employee’s devices as well.

COVID accelerates the need for this in all of the obvious ways, as well as some less obvious ones. Sure, with MDM you have the ability to provide contactless updates and onboarding. But what about situations where you need to onboard large groups of contingent workers, or empower those contingent workers across large geographies? The right management tools on the back-end means that workers need simply register their devices to get everything up and running. Often more importantly, you can revoke access to apps once the end of a contract is reached, preserving your internal systems for internal stakeholders.

Technology is best when it gets out of your way, allowing you to deliver on your service objectives fully, effectively, and without compromise. This starts out of the box with the right technology to manage service operations, but invariably extends beyond to the way that you manage how all those utilities reach your front-line employees every day.

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June 17, 2020 | 22 Mins Read

National Grid Prepares for COVID-19 Recovery

June 17, 2020 | 22 Mins Read

National Grid Prepares for COVID-19 Recovery

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Reihaneh Irani-Famili, VP of Business Readiness, National Grid talks with Sarah about lessons learned in virtual leadership, how National Grid is preparing for COVID-19 recovery, and what she thinks our Next Normal will entail.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we're going to be talking with Reihaneh Irani-Famili, VP of business readiness at National Grid about how the company is preparing for COVID-19 recovery. Reihaneh, welcome so much to the Future of Field Service Podcast. We're happy to have you.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Thank you, Sarah. It's good to be here.

Sarah Nicastro: Good. So if you could start by just giving the audience an overview of National Grid's business and what your role is with the organization.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: So National Grid is the second largest utility in the US. And we operate in three jurisdictions. We operate in New York, both Upstate and Downstate New York. We operate in Rhode Island, and we operate also in Massachusetts. We serve about 20 million people, so 6 million bills basically that we manage on a monthly basis. And we have 17,000 people that, whether it's in the field or in the office, that support that operation. And we provide gas and electricity to those customers. So 60% of our customers roughly are gas customers and the rest are electricity customers. So yes, with that, the current situation has specially hit us hard with us being a main provider of utility in New York State.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. So your title is vice president of business readiness. Give our listeners just a bit of context in what your role and responsibilities entail.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: That's a really good question. And interestingly enough, I had this title pre-COVID.

Sarah Nicastro: I was going to say, it sounds like the kind of title that you would be in the hot seat right now. Do you know what I mean? Like it would be, maybe you're losing some sleep.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Like many other companies, we have been going through a tremendous amount of change. So if you think about National Grid and its purpose of bringing energy to life for our customers and that the expectation of our customers, whether it's on the choices they want for their energy consumption, whether it's the technology and how we service them has been changing very rapidly. So as National Grid, we have this transformation office, which its focus is on driving this change from all aspects, whether it's technology and technology implementation, the roles, behaviors, capabilities that we need across the organization.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: And my role within that is enterprise change, which is how do we enable a different future for the organization and how do we plan around that, as well as capabilities that major programs would need to succeed like value realization and how do we do that, and change management and how do we do that? And so that's been my role with the organization in the last two and a half months, like every other person, every other organization that expanded to how do we support the current situation? And so whether it was, how do we engage people virtually or how do we plan for the future of work in the workplace? So those are the things that I have started to get involved in and work on.

Sarah Nicastro: Just kind of taking us off script a bit for a couple of minutes, because hearing what your role encompasses just made me think of a couple of things. I mean, first of all, how important of a role it is knowing that as I talk with service based businesses, change management is where a lot of things go wrong. I mean, it really is a critical aspect of operational change, technological change, service delivery change, customer experience initiatives, it's really the cornerstone of a lot of ways that companies are innovating and transforming their businesses. And it's, I would say probably the biggest area that people fall down. And so no pressure, but I'm sure it's a really fun role, but also I'm sure there's some weight to it because there's a lot riding on being able to execute that change management well.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Yeah. And I think, and I always say change is role of every leader. And it's a capability that every good leader in the organization would need to have. Now, what you do centrally is to support that and to enable that and to guide that. But ultimately, the only way a change initiative will be successful is if all leaders driving it are change capable leaders and change ready leaders, and they have the resilience that it takes to drive change in an organization. I think the current situation, it has been a great school for a lot of our leaders to practice that. Especially in operational roles, sometimes we become complacent in believing that we can do the same thing and not really drive and inspire and step up as a leader within the organization.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: And so a situation like this, it's actually, it's helping leaders across the utility industry, service industry, all industries to build that change readiness muscle. And I think we are all going to emerge better as a result of it.

Sarah Nicastro: It's funny. That was actually the second point I was going to bring up and you said it for me, which is, I was going to ask your thoughts on exactly that point. What we're seeing is this situation really breaking down a lot of barriers to change within companies. Whether it's, well, this is how we've always done it, so we'll just keep doing it this way, or, I'm smarter than that technology, or, there're so many different things. Or just, I'm too busy. I'm too busy doing what I need to do to be thinking about how to be innovative or to do things differently. So I was going to ask you if you've seen the same and you just said that you had, and I think you're right. I think that's a universal recognition right now.

Sarah Nicastro: And I absolutely think that it will make service organizations stronger coming out of this because to be honest, I mean, there's been an underlying evolution happening in service for quite some time in terms of customer demands changing and business models needing to change and the adoption of technology needing to ramp up and all of that. And I think that this situation has forced the hand of some of the organizations that were a bit more resistant to that. And so I think it'll be really exciting to see what comes out of it. There's obviously some positives to this overall negative. And I think that that openness is a really good lesson that people will get out of this. Go ahead.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: I was going to add to that. One of the things that I've been really passionate about is this notion of industrial revolution, the 4.0, and the fact that the technologies that were created over the past decade, really our organizations haven't caught up. We've seen a lot of advancement in technology, we haven't seen the same amount of productivity optic in the organizations that is the full potential of those technologies. And I think the current situation has really fast track that adoption. And I truly believe that coming out of it, we are going to start seeing a massive productivity shift that we've been lagging. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but this was something that I was, my geeky side, I've been looking at and researching about a year and a half ago.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: And it's been fascinating to see the gap in productivity growth to technology growth. And I think this current situation is going to start the path of closing that gap, which is fascinating.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Because I think a lot of times that gap is because of not successfully managing that change, whether that's because it was under prioritized, under budgeted, or just not done well or ignored. Every story is a little bit different, but that's why I said, it's one of those areas that really are a major failure point in a lot of organizations. And I would bet that that gap is a lot of poor change management.

So people being more open to change gives folks that are willing to put good change management initiatives in place, the opportunity to execute on them well and really see the results of that. So you have to keep me posted.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So going back to our script a bit, so as COVID-19 hit, you went from being in the office and leading a team in person to being remote like many of the rest of us and really having to do a quick study on virtual leadership. So you recently outlined four points that you've found or learned as you've adjusted to virtual leadership. And I was hoping you could talk through those. So the first is continuing to be proactive. So tell everyone what you mean by that.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: So what I found as we went into the lockdowns in March, what I found was those first few weeks became about survival. And we were so busy with the here and now and getting things done and finishing things up that we stopped thinking about the future. Whether you were on calls, you were doing work, I was seeing it in myself, I was seeing it in other leaders, and I was seeing it in my team that we have, our focus have really shifted to firefighting and we lost that longer term thinking. And I really had to stop myself and think about it and talk to my team about it, of how do we create space to think strategically, think beyond here and now and start looking ahead. The role of us as senior leaders in the organization is to look ahead for the organization.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: And if we are all trying to fight the today's fire, then we're going to be missing a big opportunity. So I think that has been one of my early observations and things that we had to step in and work on.

Sarah Nicastro: That's a really, it's a really good point. I know, just even speaking for myself personally, I maybe have stopped looking forward as much because there's so much unknown and that can be really uncomfortable. And I think it's the same for business leaders. It's tough to think about the future when you really don't know what the future is going to be. But it's very, very important to do so anyway and to plan for some different scenarios and to keep on the pulse of not only what's happening, but what's coming and all of that. So it's a very good point.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Sarah, and that's a very good point you're making because the future even today, the future is very unpredictable. We can plan for the next day, not even the next two weeks. But what is important is knowing the possible scenarios and being able to think through how would our strategies or our plans change in each of those given scenarios? And more importantly, what is going to remain the same? And so the things that are going to remain the same, how are we going to attack them? And things that are going to be a little bit more uncertain, how do we put boundaries around it and then react?

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: And getting people to think through those, I think the important part is that the clarity of those so that everybody's thinking about those scenarios the same way, and everyone is doing that mental test for their individual plans. Because everyone at every level in the organization would need to do that for the work that they're responsible for.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Absolutely. Okay. So lesson two is actively manage interdependencies. So let's talk about that.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Yes. So interdependency between programs and projects are always a challenging area when you have multiple large programs and projects. And a lot of it is managed through informal communication. There are ways of formalizing it and putting structure around it, but at the end of the day, it's those hallway chats and conversations and somebody is in two meetings and hearing something here and something there, and you start managing those interdependencies. What happened when we all went virtual, those informal lines of communication really got weakened originally. And so as a leader, I saw that gap and I felt that it was my responsibility to need to step in and be more of the navigator and the alert for those interdependencies and then managing through them.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Ultimately, that is not something that is sustainable in the long run. I think ultimately what needs to happen is that we need to rebuild those lines of communication somehow in this virtual world, whether it's having the right meetings, right people, more effective meetings, whatever that is going to be. But I think in the short run, it is an important part of a leader's role to step in and close that gap.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. Number three is prioritize visibility into outcomes and values.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Yes. When people are virtual, they need the clarity of the deliverable that they're driving, you're not managing people daily, they don't see you to check things. And so the more clarity you can create for the outcome that they are working towards, and honestly, right now we're not, I don't think any business is an 8:00 to 5:00 business. So you're managing work from home and you're managing work from home all at the same time. And so expecting people to have set times that they would do things and then assessing them based on how many hours they sat in the chair and did something, becomes irrelevant. And I'm glad that it is becoming irrelevant because it's a better way of working.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: So with that, you need to replace that 8:00 to 5:00 mentality by a deliverable based mentality and a value based mentality. And it's both for the leaders in the companies as well as for those employees. Because as an employee, if before my success was I spent eight hours in the office, now that needs to be replaced by this is the value that I have created in the hours that I was working or being productive. And so it became really obvious for me very early on that the more clarity you can give on the outcomes and the value that you're trying to drive and less about how they would get to that, it helps people be more productive, more engaged, and it would really make sure that your productivity doesn't get impacted by this sudden move to a virtual environment.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: We had no prep time, no one had any prep time. It was here it is and go. So the mechanisms that you usually create, whether it's lines of communication or training or communication in a normal circumstance for a planned move to a virtual work, none of that was in place. And so I think that became a real need very quickly. And I think if you're a leader out there that haven't done it yet, make sure you do and you look at all of your groups and make sure that their outcomes are very clear and the value of those outcomes are identified and clearly posted.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. And I agree with you, I think ultimately it's a far better method of work. I think in the world we live in, it's unrealistic to have those expectations and just more valuable for people to be clear on what are the goals you need to achieve? What is the value you bring to the operation and how can you execute on that in a way that gives you the balance you need or what have you? Especially in this time, I've been a remote employee all along. So I'm well versed in remote work productivity. But my kids usually aren't home, so that was a huge adjustment for me to sort out, I'm fortunate to have help, but more interruptions during the day and all of that.

Sarah Nicastro: And so it is far easier to balance everything if you know the outcomes and value that you are responsible for versus working off of a time structure. And the last lesson is remembering the importance of informal communication.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: And I think we kind of covered that in the other topics that we discussed, but the connections, the human connections are not built by emails and town hall meetings, they're built by those personal conversations. You and I, we just talked about our kids running out in the yard, and that doesn't come in a formal setting. And without those, it's really difficult to build the human connections. And so I think what I started to notice early on was that people were relying on the formal Webex, Teams meetings, Skype meetings to connect. And it's like, we all forgot that at one point, not that long ago, we used to call each other on our phones and we even memorized some of the numbers. I think week three, I was like, why aren't we just picking up the phone and calling each other?

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Why aren't we just doing these informal chats? Why does everything have to be these back to back meetings and Webexs and Team meetings? And so I started [inaudible 00:22:34], I started doing that myself of just picking up whether it was a peer, it was my boss, or it was my team, just calling them up and having those conversations. And I saw them starting to do that, and I saw a huge difference in the mood and the dynamic and the flow of information and the speed that the work was being done.

Sarah Nicastro: That's a good tip. I've heard some different folks say in other conversations that when this first started, there was this sense of kind of almost more connection, because to your point, you're inviting people into your home. So you're having these video calls and they're seeing your kids, or your cat, or your dog, or whatever, and it kind of gave a different sense of connection to people that you normally just saw in the office. But I've talked with some folks recently who feel like their teams are really starting to get a bit burned out on all of the communication being virtual, which is understandable. I mean, I feel the same way, but… so I think the other aspect of the informal communication is the true informal side in terms of just remembering people are people.

Sarah Nicastro: And you might need to just check in and see how someone's doing, or, someone brought up a point that when you have face to face meetings, you can sometimes pick up on cues that you may not in a virtual setting of someone being frustrated or someone struggling a little bit or this or that. And so just doing your best to stay in tune with those sorts of things and figure out how to tackle them in this sort of situation.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: That's a really important point because those social cues, our brains are pre-wired to respond to them and now they're gone, or harder to pick up on when you're virtual. But the other thing we did the first few weeks, we did invite each other into our rooms and bedrooms. And I remember having to go from room to room in my office and thinking, oh my God, I never thought that the whole executive team is going to see my guestroom [crosstalk 00:25:06]. And they did, but it wore off. And what was left was this feeling of like, you have to be always on, and then you have back to back on camera meetings. And it's really tiring and it's frustrating. And so I think what we're doing, which has been really helping is shortening our meetings to 45 minutes. Sometimes they go longer, but such is life.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: I think as long as the 80/20 rule, I can keep 80% of them within that 45 minutes, I'm happy. And then alternating between sitting in front of computer meetings and on the phone walking around meetings. And that has been really important into breaking the flow and really helping people be more productive.

Sarah Nicastro: I need to do a better job of that because I've been sensing I'm getting a bit burnout because it's video conference, after video conference, after video conference. And another thing that's come up in some of my conversations is people aren't really taking time off right now because there's nothing to do. So people just keep working and keep working and keep working. And that's an interesting concept as well, so I think I'm about due for a little break. I don't know what I'll do with myself, but something.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: No, I'm taking a few days off this week actually. And I don't remember the exact numbers right now, but I think like 46% less people are taking vacation now that they have been before. What is interesting for me is the need to refresh, the need to rejuvenate, the need to de-stress hasn't gone away. If anything, it has increased.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Now why we correlate taking time off with being away, and if I can't get a flight ticket, therefore I can't take vacation, I don't know. I'm taking time off. I'm really encouraging my team to take time off and not just one day, but at least the two, three days. And I think it would be really important again, back to that proactive mindset to innovate, to look ahead, and to be able to think strategically, it is critical to have a clear mind and a clear view and not be in that survival mode all the time. So Sarah, take your break.

Sarah Nicastro: Yep, I'm taking notes, I'm going to do it. Okay. So a couple more things I wanted to talk about. The next is the discussion around return to work. So this is, to your earlier point, the first few weeks of this, everyone was in crisis management mode. I mean, a lot of people were caught off guard and even if they weren't caught off guard in terms of business continuity, they were certainly caught off guard in who would have thought of global pandemic. So that occurred, and then people started to process that and look forward, as you said. And now it seems we're getting to the point in different regions, in different countries where we're in the recovery phase or the early stages of recovery and people are now really talking a lot and thinking a lot about, okay, how do we get people back to work?

Sarah Nicastro: How do we reach the next normal? That sort of thing. So just curious where National Grid is at with that, what your considerations are, how your team is feeling about it, anything you're willing to share around that.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: I think a few weeks ago, maybe about a month ago, we started looking at post the quarantine period, the phase one reopening and the phase two reopening. And so at that time, I actually did an informal survey with our teams of how much more or less productive they feel that they are and how many of them would want to go back to work the way that we did before a vaccine is found, and then after the vaccine is found. I always, going in, I knew that we will never be back to, everybody get in their car, drive into the office in the 9:00 to 5:00 format, but the results and the response I saw from that was far more surprising. So in our case, about 85% of our people thought that they were more productive than they have been before.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: And so now my challenge and the follow up on that is, how do you define productivity? Because if your days are getting longer and if your hours are getting longer and you're doing more work, that's not necessarily productivity. But anyhow, 85%, big number. We need to do more work there, we're looking into that. A big portion of that is because of the driving. And then you have other factors in there. Then you look at how many people want to go back to the office before a vaccine's found. And it's less than 20% of people before a vaccine that feel comfortable going back into the office, even with the social distancing norms in place. And you look after a vaccine and it's only 30% of people that think that we would go back to the same or we should go back to the same form and format that we were before.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: So you put all of this together and no matter how you look at it, whether you look at it from the lens of an employee and what they demand of their companies, or you look at it from the perspective of a company and the productivity of the workers and the cost of facilities and the overhead of having people in the office, they both end in the same place that the new normal is not going to look like what we started with. And I don't think we are alone, I think globally, everyone's coming to that realization. And so what we've been now doing is starting to plan around, how do you institutionalize some of this into the way we work and how do you enable employees to be able to continue to work from home? And what is that really going to look like?

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: There are some things you cannot replace. You need togetherness for certain type of collaborations and strategic thinking. So how do you allow for that? And so those are all questions that we're starting to ask and we're starting to implement and challenge basically. The other thing we're thinking about is, how do you drive change in a virtual environment? If you think about the theories around change and it's important to hit the hearts and not the minds, how do you do that virtually? So those are all questions that we're grappling with right now.

Sarah Nicastro: That is a really good question. And I think that, I've talked with companies that are working on getting people back into the office. I've talked with companies that don't think that that will really happen again and everywhere in between. But it's certainly interesting to sort through those factors and see, I do think people are prioritizing the needs of their employees the same way you are, asking them what they're comfortable with and allowing them to feel empowered in helping make those decisions and all of that. And I certainly think that's the right approach, but there's a lot of layers of complexity to your point in what that is going to look like and how to make it all work.

Sarah Nicastro: And none of us have those answers. So it's just a matter of sorting through all of it. Do you have any other views or thoughts on what this recovery might look like for National Grid and what the next normal might be, just in terms of whether it's your team or around change or just the business overall?

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: I think if you think about a utility, and if you think about the real core of our business of getting heat and electricity to people's homes, that doesn't change with COVID. I think our customers have been impacted by COVID and we have stepped in and helped them with temporarily stopping our disconnects and collections activities. And so there is a lot that we have done to help the customers and adjust, and I think that would continue. I don't think that this is going to be, for our customers, it's not going to be that quick of a recovery. It is going to take time. And so our job and our role is here to serve those customers and understanding their needs. And that is definitely going to continue.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: For our own business, I think we are going to continue to focus on reliable, clean energy for our customers and working with our regulators to make sure that the speed at which we're working on these things is in lock step with the expectations. And so overall, I'm really optimistic that we are all going to come out of this as a better society, as a better corporate infrastructure. We're going to learn a lot through it, all of us together. And I think I'm seeing a lot of all sorts of corporations really giving a different lens and focus to how they serve their customers. And I'm really encouraged by that. And I can't wait to see the outcome of it in a few years.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. I agree. And I think what you said about for your customers, this recovery isn't going to happen overnight. I think that's true for everyone in terms of customers in all industries and companies in all industries. I actually wrote an article this week about there is no new normal. And meaning, I heard someone say that it's not the new normal, it's the next normal. And so it's not, I think the new normal gives us this connotation that we are, okay, we're going to flip from crisis to recovery, and then this is what it's going to look like. And the reality is it's going to be a series of next normals until that change, pace of change slows a bit and then they space out more.

Sarah Nicastro: But I think to start, it's, what's the next normal? What's the next normal? What's the next normal? And just kind of keeping pace to one of your first points, continuing to be proactive about looking at what are the phases of this? What are those next normals and how do we prepare for the next one or two and keep track of what we need to do next? So it will certainly be interesting. I've said all along, I've loved talking with companies through this challenging time. One, I think it gives people a platform for connection, which I think is very important right now. But for me, I mean, it's just been very, very interesting to see how people are grappling with this. And I think doing exceptionally well with a really difficult situation.

Sarah Nicastro: But I'm very interested to follow this along and see how it evolves, because I think some of the lessons we're learning now and how those play out over the next couple of years is going to be really interesting to see.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: And I completely agree with you, Sarah, is there going to be such thing as normal? Will the normal become abnormal?

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: It's a continuous state of change. And I think we would build the muscles of learning how to lead through that and how to manage that. And I think it's going to be an exciting few years ahead of us. Again, we just have to make sure that we understand the perspective of everyone in our society and our customers and the challenges that they're going through and then come up with solutions that work for everyone.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Reihaneh, I really appreciate you being with us today and sharing your perspective and your insights. And I would love for you to come back in six months or 12 months and talk about what more you've learned and what your next normal has looked like.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili: Yeah, let's do that.

Sarah Nicastro: All right. Sounds good. All right. You can find more information on how companies are managing COVID-19 and transforming their businesses by visiting us at www.futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn and Twitter @TheFutureofFS. The Future of Field Service Podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more about IFS Service Management by visiting www.ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.

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June 15, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

COVID-19 Is Speeding Servitization Progress, But These 4 Barriers Will Hold You Back

June 15, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

COVID-19 Is Speeding Servitization Progress, But These 4 Barriers Will Hold You Back

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

One of the topics that has come up in the majority of conversations I’ve had with service leaders battling the challenges of COVID-19 is how it has impacted the way in which they need to serve their customers. The biggest wants and needs of their customer base look far different than they did just four months ago, and this is forcing companies to be creative and innovative to adapt to new demands. Practically speaking, many customers are facing financial strain at worst and extreme fiscal caution at best, which is putting the breaks on large expenditures and long-term contracts. Companies that are reacting nimbly are embracing Servitization and outcomes-based service concepts and looking to move toward OpEx and subscription-based models that guarantee a level of service and ease investment concerns. For manufacturers, the shift to Servitization protects them from a potential loss or slowing of product revenue by taking advantage of the customers’ preference to extend the lifecycle of assets through service – and for service organizations, the move to outcomes provides peace of mind to customers while providing recurring revenue.

As such, our current global crisis is taking the journey to Servitization and delivering outcomes that most businesses we speak with are on and speeding it significantly. This journey is complex and multi-layered, which is why we’ve seen relatively slow progress – but as in other areas, COVID-19 will act as a major accelerator and will spur organizations forward in ways that may stretch them and bring about some growing pains but will ultimately make them stronger.

The Servitization Maturity Curve

Many companies I speak with that are on the path to Servitization have defined their own maturity model – they’ve mapped out where they are, and the steps they will work through to reach the ultimate goal based on their own definitions. In 2019, IFS partnered with IDC to create the IDC Servitization Maturity Framework. It outlines four stages of the journey to Servitization, as outlined below (Source: IDC Servitization Maturity Framework, 2019):

  1. Splintered. The organization struggles under a myriad of silos that lead to disjointed, manual processes. Legacy, fragmented ERP environments provide little or no visibility on operational performance. The business model is on pure product, with challenges to profitability.
  2. Side-car. The organization has standardized the two chunks of the value chain (back-office and front-desk) but keeps them separated. Keyword in the company is efficiency and add-on services delivered are few. Field service is based on basic mobile capabilities and IoT stacks are at Proof-of-Concept stage. Growing the business is hard.
  3. Joined-up. Front-office and back-office flows have been integrated both directions and leverage the power of advanced technologies such as IoT to feed the core systems with real-time data. In some cases, Edge capabilities bring coordinated autonomy to local sites. A suite of digital services is fully available, and business model enhancements such as pay-as-you-use and outcome-based contracts are being explored.
  4. Borderless. Processes start and end outside the organization and operations and technology enables different elements of the value chain to connect. Co-creation, data-sharing and collaboration with customers, suppliers, partners from other sectors and in some cases even competitor part and parcel of the business model.

Based on IDC's benchmark, 50 percent of the organizations find themselves at Stage 2 (Side-Car), and another 14 percent are stuck in the nightmare of splintered operations (Stage 1). A third of companies interviewed have started joining-up their value chains (Stage 3), and less than 5 percent have reached "Nirvana" (Stage 4) and already opened up their service platforms to the ecosystem.

4 Primary Barriers to Servitization Success

Looking through these four stages you see some of the changes a company needs to make in shifting from a manufacturer of products to a trusted solution provider. It’s hard to deduce from a short description the many layers of challenges that exist in migrating through these phases, but those on the journey are well aware of the complexities. Despite those complexities, COVID-19 and its impact on customer needs and demands is going to force companies to pick up the pace in progressing through these stages. While the IDC data is specific to a manufacturers journey to Servitization, the barriers in the migration for a service business from break-fix to outcomes aren’t all that different.

Here are four primary areas of barriers that will slow your progression to Servitization or outcomes-based service:

  • Mindset shift – this may sound far too simple, but it’s harder than you may think – especially for a long-time product manufacturer. To deliver on the potential of Servitization, you must begin with seeing your company as a SERVICE company versus a product company. This mindset shift cannot happen only at the top but has to be carefully integrated throughout the company culture. This requires significant change management and is where many journeys stall out because it sounds simple but is oh-so-hard in practice.
  • Clarity on customer needs – in order to deliver a service your customers want or an outcome they’ll be willing to pay a premium for, you need to be intimately aware of their needs. Far too many organizations try to win the race to Servitization, or outcomes based on their own understanding of what they’re customers want versus a firsthand perspective of the problems customers are willing to pay to have solved. Taking the time to gain real-world customer insight on what they want and need is imperative to Servitization success, and even more so in a post-COVID world as those needs have changed and are continuing to change.
  • Lack of enabling technology – you see in the IDC insights provided above that Servitization requires a well-orchestrated collection of technology to enable success. Real-time data flow is critical, and the ability to plan and make quick decisions based on this data is essential. You see described a progression away from manual processes to an automated, real-time environment; intelligent planning and optimization; the incorporation of IoT and asset data; and the introduction of digital services and information sharing. This enabling technology has to be layered on in a practical manner, starting with foundational systems that provide the real-time information flow and automation of manual processes. Many companies get stuck in determining how to appropriately outline, integrate, and execute on a digital transformation strategy, which holds them back from achieving Servitization success.
  • Internal alignment & processes – Even with a service-first mindset, clarity on customer needs, and a strong foundation of technology, Servitization success can be elusive. This is because it requires such extensive internal transformation in company-wide alignment and processes. This transformation is necessary in overhauling what’s required of your field force, your R&D team, your marketing department, and – critically – how you sell. It’s an immense amount of change and coordination ripe with many opportunities to be slowed or stalled. However, one of the positive aspects of the COVID-19 challenge is how it is forcing organizations to be more open to change, more agile, and more flexible than ever before – and while that doesn’t minimize the challenges of reaching Servitization or outcomes-based service success, we’ve now learned we can do hard things and that newfound fortitude will help spur companies forward in their respective journeys.

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June 12, 2020 | 4 Mins Read

Where are We?

June 12, 2020 | 4 Mins Read

Where are We?

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By Tom Paquin

Having now dealt with COVID in the US for about 100 days, we’re starting to get a better picture of the edges of the crisis, however flow-y as those edges might be. Obviously the parameters are always moving, but I think it’s important not to lose sight of the benchmarks of where we find ourselves, where we’ve been, and what comes next. For that reason, I would like to submit a few stages for consideration:

As I see it, these are three very much streamlined stages of our current crisis. I know that these aren’t particularly revelatory to anyone (what we’re all collectively going through isn’t exactly news), but I do feel like it’s important to take a step back and think about this holistically. We’ve come a long way in a short time and I think we need to take a minute and take some stock, certainly as these elements change.

We have the initiation of lockdown, which obviously vacillated depending on where in the world you were. I left out all the sub-bullets about crippling anxiety and your kids crying because you can’t go to Target but you can assume those are all in that period.

Next we have restriction easement, and there’s sure to be some sub-functions here, too. If you look at Japan, South Korea, or New Zealand, these countries who very much got in front of the spread of the virus, they saw slight upticks as life went back to normal, and there were corrections. This is going to happen everywhere.

And finally we have the next next next next normal. For a while, we were throwing around the phrase “new normal”, but in reality, those setbacks that I just mentioned, along with new investments, will mean that there’s going to be an evolution of business normal. Sarah went into detail about this recently. We will likely need to add thirty “Nexts” to this for it to be truly accurate, but where are we right now?

Right here. More or less. If you’re in Wuhan, you’re a couple “Nexts” in. If you’re in Manhattan, you’re a couple steps back. I’m in Massachusetts, and the beginning of June marked “phase 2” of reopening, so non-essential businesses are coming back online. That’s where we are, more or less. What we want to do, though, is take this timeline, and think very deliberately about how we’re considering our service investments across this spectrum. So let’s flip these stages and start thinking about them proactively.

So reclaiming the moment is obviously somewhat in the past, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn a few lessons from that. As the restrictions went up, businesses had a choice—shut down service operations, or find new solutions. For some companies, that choice was taken out of their hands—manufacturers shut down, fulfillment slowed, and imports and exports were dramatically reduced. Still, some businesses made smart tech decisions at this stage that are carrying them out of this crisis. We’ve been quick and proud to discuss the ways that companies have reclaimed the moment thus far.

So what’s the next step? For businesses across the board, we need to get into building a long-term strategy. Many businesses have insulated themselves in a state of austerity still, even at this point, but I’d argue that this is a strategy with reduced returns, and that service businesses need to start capitalizing on changing consumer sentiment to move towards growth strategy, even within the boundaries of an economic downturn.

Historical precedent backs up a bullish strategy in this moment. As McKinsey wrote in April, “In the recessions of 2007–08, the top quintile of companies was ahead of their peers by about 20 percentage points as they moved into the recovery in terms of cumulative total returns to shareholders (TRS). Eight years later, their lead had grown to more than 150 percentage points.” So companies that remain growth-oriented during an economic downturn, assuming that they have the resources to do so, see a significantly higher rate of return than their peers. Service demand is under many circumstances economically agnostic (obviously not always—but frequently). Copper plumbing isn’t going to stop corroding based on the S&P 500, and businesses need to use this last respite that we have to start seriously planning for the future.

For forward-thinking businesses, that’s really a matter of reinforcing the digital-oriented DNA that they already have. Perhaps it means finally looking at Remote Assistance, or planning for a business uptick with an optimization engine. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to consider how you’re actually going to market, and using this opportunity to consider outcomes-based service.

Or perhaps you’re considering a completely different plan. We’re excited and eager to tell these new stories as they emerge. And if you want to share what your company is doing, we’d love to hear from you!

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June 10, 2020 | 20 Mins Read

How Park Place Technologies Has Excelled During The Pandemic

June 10, 2020 | 20 Mins Read

How Park Place Technologies Has Excelled During The Pandemic

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Nicola Buckley, EVP, Park Place Technologies, shares with Sarah three tactics that have enabled PPT to not only survive COVID-19 but thrive and grown during the crisis.

Did you know that The Future of Field Service is now available with video on YouTube? Check it out here.

Sarah: Nicola, thank you so much for being here with us today. I'm very excited for the conversation. So before we dive in to talking about how Park Place has not only survived, but thrived during COVID-19, can you tell us a bit more about Carquest technologies, your role and anything the listeners should know before we get into your story.

Nicola: Absolutely. Thank you Sarah, it's a pleasure to be here. My name is Nicola Buckley. I am executive vice president for global service delivery in Park Place technologies. Park Place itself has been around since 1991. I've been here for about two and a half years. We're focused on delivering hardware maintenance in large data center environments. So right now we're hitting on 18,000 customers across the world, across the globe in about 58,000 data centers, supporting roughly 150 countries.

Sarah: Awesome. Thank you. So Nicola and I have recently connected to work on an article that we published on future of field service, and I was really taken with your story because I think… it's interesting to talk with someone whose business isn't just surviving, but thriving, as I said. But what's more interesting is that there are some really specific reasons for that. It's not by chance, it's certainly by efforts, and we discussed three particular tactics that were key to the way you've been able to manage all of this and even grow. So the first of those is that Park Place had a business continuity plan in place. I'm hoping you can start by telling us a bit about that plan, and what it entails, and why you think that was so important in helping you guys as this all began.

Nicola: Yeah, absolutely. We as an organization made the decision to create a business continuity plan a couple of years ago and quite transparently, the viewpoint was probably more focused on an IT compromise more than anything else, but the team of leaders, and I'll take zero credit for this, that put that plan together did in fact think about multiple scenarios, not just IT compromise. And one of those scenarios was pandemic and I, myself and I remember talking with you, Sarah, when we talked about this, we'll never have to exercise a BCP plan for a pandemic and here we are in 2020. So the team had the foresight to think about not only your typical, IT compromise, but other scenarios. And with that, then the plan was created, documented. We then implemented the plan in a test mode multiple times.

Nicola: So we executed the plan in a test scenario across the company, across the globe. So it wasn't unusual. It wasn't uncomfortable even for the team. As we started to understand what COVID was bringing to the table. We were observing the situation in [inaudible 00:05:09] from about early February, I would say by mid-February, we had a taskforce for COVID specifically, and that was led by the BCP leadership team. By March 16th, we had pivoted to 100% remote work and Park Place is an organization that's very open about our preference to be in the office. So again, that could have been very bumpy, but because we've exercised the plan in action multiple times and test scenarios, it wasn't unusual that this is a stressful environment we're in, in general, but this did not add stress to our team members, which was excellent.

Sarah: Yeah. And I think that's a really important point to emphasize is, it wasn't just a matter of having, having it and having it on a drive somewhere, sitting there and having done the thinking behind it. But you practiced it you really multiple times made sure that you had efforts to make sure everyone was familiar with it, knew how to act upon it so that it wasn't just a document sitting somewhere. It was something that people knew what to do with it when it comes time to put it into action. So retrospectively, companies that are amidst this crisis that didn't have a business continuity plan… I don't know how much creating one will help them now, but I do think that it's important to consider going forward because obviously even though we might think something like global pandemic will never happened or we'll never need to use it, here we are. What is your advice for folks on important considerations for creating and familiarizing the business?

Nicola: Yeah, that's a great question, Sarah. So I have to put all the credit and consistency and the execution of this plan to the people that we picked to build the plan to start with. So we created a cross functional team of leaders that wear other hats. You know the BCP lead is a lady by the name of Jan Taylor. She sits up just outside of San Diego. Her day job is vice president of service delivery for them for the West coast, which is a busy job to have. Betsy Dellinger, who is our general counsel and head of HR. We had Adam Brady who is a business process owner and Loretta Brady who's a quality assurance lead. They brought very different points of view and they built many teams and many tasks force to contribute to the plan, but that really gave the plan depth and really 360 degree view on the scenarios.

Nicola: And again, we had a pandemic as a scenario, as a result. The second piece was execution of the plan in test mode. So not only did we socialized it, we did it via our online learning management system, which was a great idea, we deliver training on that system all the time. It's probably focused more on process and technical training. The team decided no, we will create BCP training. We will put it in our online learning management system, which we internally call uptime academy, mandate the training and get sent gently reminders to the team that hadn't consumed the training within a certain period of time until we had a hundred percent consumption. So again, it wasn't a check the box exercise, we really took it to heart and took it seriously and made sure that our team members understood what it meant for them.

Sarah: Yeah. So the next key area is the use of technology. And so Park Place had a very strong technological foundation and you've been able to fall back on that as this crisis has unfolded. So tell us a bit about your digital first approach and how that was sort of in place prior to COVID-19 occurring.

Nicola: Yeah, that again was something that was by plan. We as an organization grew up with a very strong field engineering workforce, but as you scale and you grow as an organization, you need to be able to optimize that workload and that growth and start to use digital infrastructure to deliver on that service capability, not only for internal benefits, but mostly for our customer experience. We're very focused on our customers. We're a culture based on people and our customers are part of that. So it's our job, when we take this very seriously to remove any complexity from engaging with us, for our customers, it needs to be consistent, easy choice. We like to deliver choice and personalization. So after deploying Alliance and standardizing on Alliance, as our platform across the globe, we started a program called E-services, which really started the journey of our digital first capability.

Nicola: We built a customer portal called Central Park that sits on top of Alliance. And that allows our customers to very simply log service events, change their contracts, add assets, drop assets. They can change who their contact administrators are, look at who their escalation pots are. So it's very, very simple interface, but makes it very simple for our customers, high value, low effort to engage with us. And then on top of that, and this definitely did benefit us as we started to work remotely and our customers started to work remotely, we created a mobile app, PP Tech Mobile, which is the portal in your pocket. So you can do all of those same things on a mobile app. And we've seen adoption of that grow over the last number of weeks because customers are in a mobile situation or working from home.

Nicola: We also have a remote monitoring hardware product called Park View. And again, that's integrated with our customer portal. We call it our portal, our entry point, our single pane of glass. Our customers can get everything from that portion, including a hardware monitoring capability, which remotely monitors hardware, proactively identifies any folds, automatically creates a ticket. We send a field engineer, we send parts to the site more often than not without our customer, even realizing that they've had an issue in the first place. And we have less customers in data centers these days because of COVID-19. So for us to be able to tell them, you've got an issue we've got you covered, you don't need to worry, it's just taking a lot of stress out of the situation for our customers. So ahead of COVID-19, it was our plan to have this capability and continues to be, and we will iterate and we will constantly deliver new capabilities and new value added services. But during COVID-19 and the pandemic, it certainly has proven another use case of why you do need to focus on building digital capability into your service delivery environment.

Sarah: Absolutely. So very good point and I think that companies were already on a digital path have been able to really ramp up those efforts and rely on those tools during this time. And companies that weren't, I think are really seeing the criticality of this adoption and really it's lowering the resistance to change because those organizations are realizing that they need to get on board. So let's talk a little bit more detail, particularly about PP Tech Mobile and Park View, about how you already have those. So they're not new offerings since COVID-19 began, but they've really put you in a position of strength as this crisis has unfolded and by giving your customers options as working conditions have changed. So can you just talk a little bit more about each of those and how you've sort of seen them benefit your customer base, benefit Park Place and increase in use and adoption since this started?

Nicola: Yeah, absolutely. So as I mentioned at the top of the conversation where we provide hardware maintenance on multiple OEM products, thousands of products, hundreds of OEMs. So we don't create those products. We're not a manufacturer, we're a service delivery organization. So again, our focus is always on allowing our customers choice and the room to make the right decisions for themselves and give them a very simple entry point into how they gain access to our services. So both PP Tech Mobile and Park View are agnostic to the product. They can support Dell, EMC, IBM, HP. So we're allowing our customers the opportunity to consolidate how they manage their very complicated data center environments, using very simple tools that takes a lot of the stress and worry out of managing those environments. We're almost like staff augmentation in some respects, we will do that work for you to give you the opportunity to think about how you're going to manage your business going forward.

Nicola: The new normal is unknown to a lot of people. Budgets are getting squeezed, new decisions are having to be made. And we're seeing this in Park Place ourselves, we're making decisions that are different than we originally planned in January to make sure that we're continuing to drive success into the platform. So what we want to do is make sure our customers don't have to worry about risk or issues in their data centers. They can engage with us themselves using mobile app very simply. They can adopt part view and allow machine monitoring to engage on their behalf automatically. And again, they're not worrying about maintenance of their data center. They're thinking about how they navigate new world order with this pandemic environment upon us.

Sarah: Yup. And then you've seen increased production on both of those solutions. And I know no one has a crystal ball, so I'm not asking you for definitive answers. What is your perception on how customers' adoption of your E-services and digital tools will evolve in a post COVID world? How do you think the impact will kind of continue?

Nicola: Yeah. We're starting to see a new behavior. Customers…. and we're all customers right at the end of the day. So if something isn't pressing or isn't a priority, but it's embraced, it takes longer to get adopted, right? These capabilities became pressing. They were already embraced. They made sense, but they became pressing. So we're seeing adoption jumps significantly. Our customers are seeing the benefit. And although our core competency is hardware maintenance, we're also growing up the stack in the data center. We have a strategy called DMSO, Discover Monitors Support Optimize. And that means that by having hardware monitoring or having the agent monitoring your assets, we can then move up the stack, monitor your server, monitor your application, and eventually monitor your database across networks, servers, and storage. So again, customers are realizing they have multiple tools, multiple manufacturers in their environment. It's confusing. They have different teams supporting different aspects of the data center.

Nicola: Our goal is to consolidate the management of the entire data center from hardware all the way up to application, allow our customers to invest their time and their resources into executing on their strategy. But by ensuring that the maintenance aspect of their organization is not part of their day job, that is the trusted hands of Park Place.

Sarah: Yeah. I think the point you made is a good one that we're all customer, right? And some of the evolution you're seeing within your customer base with the digital tools that you're forgetting by them, we're seeing with companies that are leveraging digital tools with their field forces. So for instance, if you look at Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality, I've talked with numerous parties over the years that have deployed it, and it has a very strong value proposition, but there were still pockets of, I don't want to say resistance, but just kind of complacency. So to your point it wasn't not embraced, but it wasn't critical. And so the folks that weren't accustomed to those tools would just, in some instances, prefer to just keep doing things the way they had always done. Now it's become a necessary and critical tool for these companies to persist with delivering service to their customers. And therefore employees that may have resisted that change a bit in the pass or embracing it. And I think that that openness to looking at different tools, different systems, different services is something that I think will stick.

Sarah: I think people just are going to be a bit more open minded and be a bit more willing to evolve and change. So maybe that's a positive. So, yeah. So the final tactic or key to your success during this time that we had discussed and I think you guys deserve a lot of credit for this because very often companies get sort of either stuck in their ways or just stuck in their internal rules. And so the final thing is how you, how you really made a concerted effort to look at how your customer's needs have changed since COVID-19 came into play and really work to be very flexible in changing internally to meet those needs. As you said earlier, to really make things simple and stress free for them. So I'm hoping you can talk a bit about how some of the ways that you've pivoted to be really flexible in meeting the needs of your customer.

Nicola: Yeah, absolutely. So and even for me, two and a half years into Park Place, I came from a much larger organization and I was astounded from day one. The flexibility the leadership team has in meeting our customer needs. Now we have to make the right choices for the company at the end of the day. But during this particular event is another example of that. Our head of sales, Ted Rieple got up with Betsy Dellinger our general consult, the topic on our executive staff meetings around our customers are having a hard time understanding what their budgets look like today and what they'll look like tomorrow. They still need maintenance. They still need people taking care of their data centers. We need to work with them on that. And very quickly they put together a quick task force again and introduced contracts with shorter terms that allowed our customers to make those choices, short term engagement with Park Place, give them the opportunity to think longer term in terms of strategic decision making.

Nicola: And what we find a lot of the time actually is a customer in need short term, becomes a very loyal customer longterm. And we see that a lot. And like I say I'm an engineer by discipline, but my passion is in the customer experience and we lead with the voice of the customer. We have a very close relationship with all of our customers. We have a customer advisory board. We, in fact, for the services program, they prioritize a lot of the features for us. They tell us what they want and we deliver it in that order. So much like that we spoke to our customers about what does it feel like? What does it look like in terms of their needs from a spend perspective today without putting any you forcing any commitment on them? And that's really why we turned around these contracts that are very short term, as short as three months to allow our customers the head space to make those longer term decisions.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah, I think that's excellent. And I think that I've talked with numerous people about the concept of the way you treat your customers right now is something that's going to be remembered for a very time. So to your point, would you typically offer three months contracts? Probably not, but being able to understand the difficult position there in and being flexible enough to make changes in the short term that will ultimately benefit you long term by creating that loyalty and building all these relationships is very smart. However, in a lot of words, organizations, I think that there is some real fear of introducing that level of flexibility there's still some real hesitancy around that. So I'm just wondering if you have any kind of insight for folks on how did you guys at Park Place kind of come together and one, work quickly and nimbly to introduce these new terms and these new offerings, but two, determine how flexible are you willing to be and what does that look like? So it kind of the process behind making those decisions quickly, is there any advice you can share on that?

Nicola: Yeah, we are hyper collaborative. So we talk as a leadership team as an entire organization daily and multiple times a day. So the ability to easily gain access to a peer doesn't, especially now more than ever remote or not, is incredible success of Park Place. We are very open minded. We're okay to admit when decisions that'll be made may not be optimal after a certain period of time. We'll pull back, we'll course correct, but we're hyper collaborative. We talk to each other a lot, as I said, Ted brought this suggestion to the table, quickly engage with Betsy, they turned around a product that we were able to deploy to the sales teams. We're keeping a very close eye on it to understand, are we putting ourselves in a position of compromise or not, so far not.

Nicola: Our Chief Finance officer is holding us accountable to make sure that we're not also, but I would say it boils down to being able to get on that video call, pick up the phone, call your peer, call your teammate with an idea, put together a good cross functional team with varying inputs for anything that's new, or might seem a bit unprecedented to really test it out and then make the decision from there. So I put it down to the fact that we're just constantly communicating and collaborating.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting thing when you kind of recap these three frames, right? To talk about that they sound fairly straight forward, right? But when you dig into them they're not at all. And I think that it's just a testament of really being well prepared, recognizing the value of technology plays in a business today, an putting the customers’ needs first and finding ways to meet those needs. So they all sound simple, but quite frankly, to execute on those three things in the way that you have is no simple feat and it's work, right? I mean, you guys have, like I said earlier, not just weathered the storm, but you've actually grown, right, during or during this time. So I think that's incredible. Two more questions for you, Nicola. The first is, in summary of what we just talked about, is there any other words of wisdom you would share on how to weather the storm, how to prepare for recovery, and any closing thoughts on thoughts on that?

Nicola: Yeah. I mean, I think we've all got a lot of time to think these days. And I think about the return to office scenario, for example, and again, Park Place have created a cross functional team that have been working that plan. I would think for four weeks now and we get weekly updates and what that plan looks like. We're global, so we're very aware that we need to align with government regulations in each of these locations that we're present in. We're not out of the woods, so we've had daily executive leadership calls, daily team calls to make sure that people are feeling safe and protected. I think in the United States, people are starting to feel a bit better and there's returned to office scenarios being built out. Latin America and not in that position. So we're not forgetting about the other parts of the world that are continuing to be in a situation like this.

Nicola: So I suppose my point is don't become complacent, don't get too comfortable. Our BCP plan is going from working remotely to how do we go back to the office and, oh, by the way, what if the virus peaks again? So we're not, we're not shortsighted. We're thinking about all the scenarios. We are really open minded in terms of making sure that our leadership team across the globe are given the wherewithal to manage the business they need to, but we constantly communicate with each other. So it's communication, it's collaboration, don't be shortsighted, think about the what if scenarios, be able to quickly pivot again if we need to, and make sure that our team members understand every decision that we're making and why we're making that decision. Blank communications without context can create concern, especially in an environment like this, so I definitely want to make sure that people really embrace the communication aspect now more than ever as we work remotely.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. There's a couple of good points there. One is like you said, kind of balancing the need to continue meeting present day needs, right? Continue evaluating what's going on today. How do we react? What do we need to do? While also thinking longer term. And the reality right now is that longer term is a bunch of what ifs, it's a bunch of how do we manage the unknown, but you have to try, right? You have to run those scenarios. You have to think through the different aspects of what could come and make sure that you're not caught off guard again and again and again, right? The other thing that's interesting that you said that I thought I've had discussions on recently is how this situation has sped the pace of decision making. And so not just in being flexible, but just internalized. To your point, perhaps at Park Place, you were already communicating every single day, but a lot of companies maybe might be meeting weekly or every two weeks or monthly to kind of look at data and decisions.

Sarah: And that pace of decision making has sped to having to being daily because the circumstances are changing every day. So that's an important adjustment that people need will make. And if you fail to make that adjustment you're going to miss a lot of important conversations and collaborations to your point.

Nicola: Yep. And I do think take the human element seriously too. So we've encouraged all of our teammates to have happy hours on video meetings. We created a global Park Place cookbook. So our wonderful HR organization solicited for recipes from everybody across the globe. It was such an amazing product, and it got people excited and you got to know people in a different way. And again, it just naturally takes the stress out of the situation. So we've been doing a lot of funky, cool stuff too, that are keeping everybody happy and engaged. I would say a lot of us feel a lot more engaged now than we ever did because you have to put a lot more effort into keeping that relationship alive when you're not talking to them physically. So I think the connection points are feeling a lot more solid these days, too.

Sarah: Absolutely. The cookbook is a really cool idea. We were talking when we got on today about we both have kids in the house, right? You can't keep those interactions at bay all of the time, but I think it's made us humans one another, and going back to positives, I think that's another positive out of a very unfortunate situation. Last question for you for today is for you individually as a leader, what do you feel is the biggest lesson you've learned or the biggest way you feel changed as a result of meeting through a crazy time like this?

Nicola: Yeah, that's a great question. I'm so fortunate because I have an incredible team. I have a team that we consider each other family almost and we're a global team. So my team represents a good size of Park Place. We're 450 of 1,300 team members. Sorry. And we're cross functional too, right? We're global, we're cross functional. I meet with my team in Uruguay, in Cork, Ireland, so they all get along so well. And they know how to have fun with each other too because it is very stressful. Service delivery is a stressful thing. You're not getting phone calls to say, thank you my machine is working perfectly, I appreciate you. But everybody works very well together and I like to interact with my team as a teammate. Leadership is incredibly important, but making people feel comfortable with you, it's how you deliver and execute on a great team.

Nicola: I grew up playing team sports. I know exactly what I'm good at and I know exactly what I'm not good at. And being hyper aware of your strengths and how you build a team that compliment your strengths and your opportunity areas, it really helps the team feel empowered. So I give stretch projects to team members a lot and they execute and hit them out of the park. It's just making people feel valued and empowered and everyone works very well together and in an environment like that. For sure.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. That's great. And it sounds like you've done an excellent job of continuing to do that in a remote way and virtually leading that team and being a part of that. So thank you Nicola so much for being here and for sharing today. I appreciate it.

Nicola:

No problem.

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June 8, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

There Won’t Be a “New Normal”

June 8, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

There Won’t Be a “New Normal”

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

While participating recently in a livestream discussion put on by Field Service News on how businesses are preparing for recovery from COVID-19, one of the panelists mentioned that he’d heard brought up recently the idea that there won’t be a “New Normal,” but rather a “Next Normal.” Upon investigation, it seems this is a concept that has been presented by the likes of McKinsey, Forbes, and CNBC – I just hadn’t heard it until this discussion.

This concept really resonated with me, for a few reasons. First, there’s no way that after such a significant time of strain and change and growth we could just recover into one new “norm” – there will have to be an evolution of healing that leads us from one “next” to another. Second, for service organizations that are in such a season of radical change I think the idea of a “New Normal” gives the impression that the radical change will end when, in reality it will not. While the pace of change may slow at some point, we can’t be tricked into a sense of complacency as recovery ramps by thinking we’ve reached the “new.” We need to accept and prepare for a continuation of change as a result of this crisis for likely years to come.

Why Service is Ready

While this concept may feel daunting, service organizations are more ready for what’s next than they ever have been before. In navigating COVID-19 challenges, companies across industries and of all sizes have learned lessons that will put them in a position of strength tackling what comes next (and next, and next). Companies have learned to become more agile, to make far faster decisions than ever before. Organizations have broken down barriers to change and have learned to become comfortable with the uncomfortable.

As a result of these challenging times, we’ve developed better, closer relationships with both our employees and our customers. Service organizations have broken the “how we’ve always done it” mentality to pivot and meet new customer needs. Companies have realized the value of both technology AND humanity and have witnessed firsthand how powerful the combination can be. All these lessons, and more, mean that you are ready for not just a singular New Normal, but any “next” that comes your way.

What the “Next Normal” Will Require

As recovery begins, we must be ready for the Next Normal. There are still many unknowns, but a few key themes shared by organizations as they prepare for the next normal are:

  • People Centricity: Prioritizing the safety of both employees and customers will be paramount as we reach the Next Normal. On the employee side, companies are focusing of course on proper protocols and ample PPE, but also on ensuring the employees feel a sense of empowerment. If they arrive to a jobsite and don’t feel right about the circumstances, they need to feel confident walking away. On the customer side, how service organizations are prioritizing and executing on safety will be a key differentiator for some time. There are also considerations around how this challenge has impacted people’s mental health and how companies can best support those who are struggling.
  • New & More Flexible Service Offerings: The reality is that what your customers need from you now may be starkly different than what they needed just four months ago. Companies are facing financial strain and are operating hyper-cautiously, which means that major CapEx expenditures and long-term service commitments may be a no-go right now. You need to think about what your value proposition will be in the Next Normal – you can’t get stuck in what was right four months ago, you must be innovative and creative in meeting these new needs. This could mean more of an outcomes-based service model where equipment is offered on a subscription basis, or shorter, more flexible service contracts. Whatever it looks like for your industry, creativity and flexibility are critical in the Next Normal.
  • Faster Technology Adoption: Companies that had already embraced digital transformation have been glad, and those that hadn’t have quickly realized the benefits of doing so. The Next Normal will bring a new wave of technology adoption both by those looking to augment their foundational systems and by those looking to play catch-up. Areas of focus include forecasting and analysis tools, systems that allow best utilization of resources, and technologies that enable remote service.

So, What Comes Next-Next?

We can’t predict the future, but you do need to be thinking about it. It’s important to keep a parallel view of where the business is now and what it needs to do to be successful, but also considerations for what’s coming next and how you’ll need to adjust and pivot to meet changing circumstances. A few key points as you plan for the unknown:

  • It’s important to operationalize faster decision making. This crisis has sped companies’ need to assess data and use it to drive decisions and this has reinforced the criticality of a real-time data flow. You must first ensure you have that real-time data flow, and then ensure you put processes in place to ensure you are reviewing and acting on it daily.
  • If you were caught off guard this time, don’t let it happen a second time. Some organizations I’ve spoken with had a solid Business Continuity Plan in place as COVID-19 hit; others did not. Those that did have reinforced the importance of not only having a plan, but ensuring it is well communicated and socialized among employees and even practiced. If you were one of the companies that felt under-prepared for this crisis, make the effort to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
  • Stay close to your customers. So much of the next-next will be dictated by what your customers need from you and how you need to adapt to deliver on those needs. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to stay to close to your customers, to understand their business pressures and opportunities, and to be soliciting frequent feedback and insights.
  • Know that you can handle anything – you already have!

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