August 30, 2021 | 4 Mins Read

Actually, Technology is the Easy Part

August 30, 2021 | 4 Mins Read

Actually, Technology is the Easy Part


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Throughout my career I’ve been asked countless times about how companies can master the complexities of technology and I’ve always answered the same way: “Actually, technology is the easy part.” When I first gave this answer, it had a different meaning than it does today – but nonetheless, it holds true.

As we find ourselves surrounded by disruption and working hard to innovate and adapt, we must acknowledge that people are the crux of our success or failure. Digital technology is the great enabler, but there’s a lot that it isn’t – it isn’t our spark, it isn’t our heart, and it isn’t the face of our brand. Our people are. And the glancing over of this fact is becoming a significant problem, especially as it compounds the concerning challenge of the talent gap.

Put People in Focus

Technology has dominated the focus of our innovation efforts for some time, and with good reason. As organizations sought to become digitally adept, setting our sights on technology as the driver of innovation was appropriate. But with a more level digital playing field and new facets of disruption entering the mix, we need to temper our innovation efforts with a greater focus on the role our people will play.

In the new era of delivering outcomes, connectivity, asset intelligence, and preemptive action are critical – but so too are the art of building rapport, confidence, and being viewed as a trusted advisor. As we continue to advance our digital landscape with tools like AI and ML to increase automation and improve business intelligence, we must recognize how the role of our frontline worker shifts more to that of a knowledge worker.

We must also acknowledge the harsh reality that COVID has left us with, which is that while the need we have for our frontline workers to embrace change is higher than ever before – their capacity for it may be frighteningly low. The pandemic has left us all stressed, scared, and feeling burnt out. That isn’t a great baseline from which to ask your employees for something new, for something more, but that is where we are – and that reality makes it even more crucial for us to put our people in the center of our focus.

For those who thrive in the linear land of technology evaluation and data-driven decision making, and struggle to grasp the less structured realm of feelings and emotions, this article may be causing some angst. Here are my thoughts on where to start when it comes to bringing your people, and their needs, front and center:

  • Compassion. Start by stepping back, picturing yourself in your frontline workers’ shoes, and just thinking about how they may feel. Understand what their career has looked like thus far, and how different what you’re asking them to do as the company innovates and evolves really is. Acknowledge the emotions that may bring to the surface – anxiety, fear, frustration, concern, excitement, overwhelm, etc. – and broach your interactions with a sense of compassion about what your innovative objectives feel like from their end.
  • Consensus. Understand that no one likes to feel as though things are happening to them; they want to be a part of the change, not the recipient of it. Moreover, as your needs and expectations of your frontline shift and you ask them to take on the role of trusted advisor, know that their insights and input are absolutely integral to your strategy and evolution. Treat them as such, perhaps even before you reach that point. If they feel a part of the journey from the beginning, they’ll not only experience less negative emotion, but they will add far more value along the way.
  • Camaraderie. We all want to feel as though we’re a part of something. Often a frontline worker spends his or her days solo, and the events of the last 18 months have made many of us feel isolated in different ways than we ever have before. Looking for opportunities to foster a sense of camaraderie and community among your workforce can help employees feel more connected to one another, your company, and its mission and increase your chances of their buy-in and emotional wellbeing.
  • Coaching. Many companies prioritize training in their change management strategies, but when you think about the depth of change at play in service evolution today, it requires more than the classroom instruction that the addition of a new tool would. This is why I think coaching is a more appropriate approach – training is a part of this, but not the whole. Coaching is more interactive, it is more ongoing, and it helps employees to feel you’re more invested in their success.
  • Communication, but make it two-way. Communication is another area of change management that is commonly acknowledged and addressed, but it isn’t as bidirectional as it should be. Often companies focus efforts on communicating the “why” without seeking to understand any of the “what do you think?” afterward. As your service moves beyond transactional, so too should your relationship with your frontline workers you’re entrusting to lead your company’s evolution. Communicate, but not just in the sense of delivering a message – ask, and then listen. Authentically, thoughtfully, and with the intent to act on the feedback and feelings you hear.

August 27, 2021 | 5 Mins Read

State of Service: The Post-COVID Service Technology Stack

August 27, 2021 | 5 Mins Read

State of Service: The Post-COVID Service Technology Stack


By Tom Paquin

Earlier this year, we ran a series of articles about the current paradigm of living with COVID, which covered the organizational, structural, and interpersonal considerations that businesses in the service sector should focus their attention on as our relationship to the pandemic continues to evolve. Even though those articles are only three months old, much of the observations, transient as they are, seem quaint given the continuous evolutions of our current moment. In contrast, we can now observe the investments and customer changes that have changes over the last nearly two years and draw some assessments about the current and future state of technology for service. There are a few angles that need to be observed before we dive into a comprehensive list.

The Customer Service Angle

We’ve also spoken about how COVID has accelerated digital transformation efforts for businesses. This is harder to quantify in terms of specific capabilities, and functions more on how those capabilities—and new ones—should be calibrated to adapt to this new reality. For instance, consumer sentiment for multi-channel interactions has increased substantially, especially with respect to the internet. In the world of food delivery, “Shadow Kitchens” now offer entirely online experiences for delivery and remittance of food.

Service, too, has an imperative to ease the burdens of appointment booking. This can be chatbots, or online portals, but sophisticated organizations of course have deployed systems of connected assets to alert service organizations at the root of an issue, mitigate downtime, and do pre-diagnostics to shorten appointment times.

The Operational Angle

We’ve also talked extensively about how COVID immediately made the business case for remote assistance. Obviously, this served an immediate purpose in the face of lockdowns and travel restrictions, and that purpose changed. Remote assistance now serves a means to mitigate unnecessary truck rolls for easily-resolved issues and planned maintenance (or touch-free inspections that would have requires an on-site visit). Further, it functions as a means to limit workforce challenges that businesses have, challenges that have been exacerbated by COVID, causing supply chain bottlenecks and limits on the amount of appointments that organizations can take through traditional means.

Today’s Service Capability Stack

So—we’ve seen a shift in customer expectations, and that shift has been met with a broad set of operational advancements. While this was true before COVID, and will be true after, the baseline expectations of what customers want has invariably changes. With all of that in mind, lets look holistically the current key capabilities for field service, what they do in plain terms, and, based on our experiences and changes over the last two years, what defines the best-in-class.

CapabilityWhat it doesWhat defines best-in-class
Service ticket managementCatalogs all active and closed tickets and ticket history across the service business.Leaders unify this process across all channels of service delivery and provide external services like performance dashboards, as well as automatic ticketing and closing.
Pricing and billingProvide point-of-sale functionality, purchase order, and account functionality to field workers.The maturity of these systems means that all should have the ability to process purchase orders and credit transactions, build tabulated account views, and appropriately automate communication for late payments.
SLA managementIncorporate and outline various contract requirements in the system and use them to inform and prioritize service delivery.Automate SLA requirements into planning, scheduling, and routing; subdivide SLA requirements by region, business use case, or technician, and provide all necessary tools for outcomes-based service delivery.
Warranty managementCatalog and maintain records of product warranties and expectations.Automate renewal cadence, build complex repair-or-replace options for technicians to provide to customers.
Performance managementLog, analyze, and present technician performance across a variety of metrics that are prioritized by the firm.Consolidate data from not just the service practice, but across the serviceable assets and backoffice to provide a concise view of the business with minimal customization.
Knowledge managementDeliver on-site information to service technicians to ensure an understanding of repair processes, customer requirements, and business functionality.Provide opportunities for shared view and augmented reality. Additionally, use IoT and appointment data to prepopulate the necessary instructions and guidelines automatically.
Repair managementLog, route, and notate all instances of on and off-site repairs, and benchmark that history against any client requirements.Track repair process in real-time across channels, both internally, through dealers, as well as external partners.
Asset managementReview output and health of serviceable assets in the field.Predict service interruptions and automate service appointments before an asset breaks down based on historical sensor data.
Mobile field serviceAccess to service management capabilities on a job site via mobile device, rugged device, or tablet.1:1 mobile and desktop functionality for all systems, including knowledge management, parts management, and all aspects of service delivery.
Planning toolsBuilding long-term headcount and capacity plans for back office and field workers.AI-powered optimization allowing for multi-time horizon planning that extends past days, to weeks, months, and years, allowing businesses to set projected capacity and make decisions in advance.
Parts managementInventory, location, and stock level tracking.Ability to track across warehouses, technician vehicles, depot, and any other location that parts many be found to ensure quickest turnaround. Part allocation recommendations built into the scheduling tool based on appointment data.
Reverse logisticsTracking, managing, and optimizing returns and repairs.Multi-channel visibility across internal and external depots and warehouses. Ability to evaluate repair efficacy for customers in real-time to help facilitate informed decisions.
Driver routingMaximizing efficient appointment delivery by reviewing appointment locations.AI-powered utilities to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies in technician behaviors, ability to set business rules and prioritize appointments and benchmarks and route technicians to maximize performance along those criteria.
SchedulingPrioritizing customer appointments alongside service needs.AI-powered scheduling optimization that automates scheduling with respect to all SLA, regional, and incidental requirements and restrictions.
SimulationsField "what if?" scenarios and their impact on headcount, profitability, and other metrics.This capability itself is typically a hallmark of best-in-class planning and scheduling optimization.
Enterprise resource managementManagement of internal business capabilities outside the direct delivery of service.Comprehensive lifecycle, performance and investment planning across all business functions in a unified platform environment.
Omni-channel contact centerProvide multiple ways for customers to interact with the business after the sale has completed.Unified call logs and chat histories are automatically applied to customer information; Channels include phone, online, MMS, and app-based messaging, enhanced by AI.
Chatbots and virtual assistantsAI-driven utilities for customer communications.Automated escalation and sophisticated voice recognition, ability to provide zero-touch appointment scheduling without the intercession of a human.
Customer service CRMCustomer profile and interaction management at the firm, business unit, and individual level.Automated functionality for routine service booking and marketing utilities.
Unified desktop supportConsolidated back office functionality in a single application.End-to-end compatibility with all utilities in your service stack.
Customer self-serviceSelf-resolution options for customers.Multiple channels of delivery, including phone, online, and mobile, enhanced through emerging tech where appropriate. Built-in triggers to transfer to technicians for more complex service needs.
Remote assistanceResolve service issues without dispatching a technician where possible.AR-enabled shared view that goes beyond telestration to actual collaboration. The best of the best are further enhanced by IoT functionality.

Most Recent

August 25, 2021 | 24 Mins Read

How Brinks Home is Fueling Service Innovation

August 25, 2021 | 24 Mins Read

How Brinks Home is Fueling Service Innovation


Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. We talk a lot on the podcast and within the content on future of field service, about how organizations are focusing and making progress with innovation, related to all of the opportunity that service presents. Today, we're going to be talking specifically with Joni Chapas, who is the Vice President of Field Operations Support for Brinks Home about how Brinks Home is tackling this issue, challenge, journey. Joni, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Joni Chapas: Hi Sarah, thanks for having me.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks for being here. So before we dig into the conversation, can you start just by telling our listeners a little bit about yourself, your background and your role at Brinks Home?

Joni Chapas: Sure. I actually came to field service in maybe what be a little bit of an unusual path. I really spent most of my career at a telecommunications company and I was on the IT side of the house there. And I spent really most of my career there on the IT side, focused on mergers and acquisitions, and then really sort of project management and IT solutions. So I was working with the business units in that telecommunications company, implement improvements and automation and things to help address their business needs. So when I left there and came to Brinks Home in September of 2019 to shift from being on the IT side to coming over to the business side of the house, where I came in as working in the operations support organization. A lot of those skills that I had learned in working with the business on how to implement solutions to improve their process, I could really bring to the table in the new role.

Joni Chapas: So at Brinks I'm the Vice President of Operations Support. And my team, as you know, the name probably implies, we support kind of all aspects of the operations team. And that ranges, we handle anything from kind of tactical support from things like fleet management and helping us with our ... we have third party partners, helping them obtain equipment that they need to do work for us, to really the more strategic part, which I think we'll talk more about today, of things of business process improvement, analytics, business intelligence, project management, learning and development, that kind of thing.

Sarah Nicastro: Good. So as I mentioned at the beginning, there's a huge amount of change underway in service at the moment. Both in terms of customer expectations and market demands and ways that organizations are evolving and modernizing their service delivery or business models. And then you have technological change, there's a lot going on. And I think I wrote an article, I don't know how long ago, but it was sort of about the idea of the dichotomy of service leadership, right? And so this concept that, as the landscape changes leaders have been tasked with the huge, huge, huge challenge of innovation while also needing to keep pace with their quote unquote day job or all of the day-to-day demands of the work.

Sarah Nicastro: And so with your role, the idea that Brinks Home has, is that innovation can be led by a dedicated team that sits alongside operations, right? To sort of balance that workload and help spearhead and some of those innovation related efforts. So I think I explained that correctly, if I didn't please correct my explanation and maybe talk a little bit about some of the reasons that it is so difficult to expect innovation from operational leadership.

Joni Chapas: Yeah. I mean, I think it's just the fact that there's always ... in operations, there's always a fire that's closer to you than that smoldering ember that's out in the woods. Now that smoldering ember might end up being what's going to lead to the forest fire that really can be truly, severely detrimental if you don't stay on top of it. But before you can even look to that, you have to be dealing with what's in front of you. So, I mean, we look to operational leaders to make sure that they're managing your day to day metrics. I mean, that's what you're looking at. I kind of use example of, most call centers in the world have a ticker or some kind of screen that is up on the wall of their call center.

Joni Chapas: Maybe now that a lot of folks are remote, they don't quite have that, but where you've had, where it's kind of showing how many calls are on hold, what's average handle time right now, how many ... what's the abandoned rate for calls that are coming in? So we have things like that that are flashing before these operational leaders, their eyes to make sure they're keeping up with those day in day out, minute by minutes stats of how things are going. So to then also really expect that, oh, and hey, and by the way, in the next quarter, next year, we need to see this overall improvement in those metrics, it's kind of tough for them to have that dual focus.

Joni Chapas: I mean, again, even you can use a whole host of analogies, but it's the same thing. Like you can't really read a book if you're sitting on the beach, you can't really both read your book and watch your kids that are running off in the distance, right. You really can focus on one or the other. And so if you have ... if you're looking back and forth too much between the two, it's hard to be effective at either one. So I think that's what ... it's not about do they have the knowledge? They absolutely do. They're the people that are living and breathing it every day. But you also don't want them to take their eye off of those ticker numbers that are flashing in front of them that show you how you're doing it this very minute. So the idea of my organization is really to partner and work alongside, so that we can have more of the eye on the future, while they're focusing more on the near term and what's right in front of their face.

Sarah Nicastro: And it does sort of feel like an unfair expectation that companies put on leaders to do both ends of that spectrum, right? I mean, to your point, it isn't about the operational leaders not having the ideas, or the insight, or the perspective, right? It's about the bandwidth that it takes to really enable innovation and not expecting those folks responsible for the day-to-day to be able to just magically manufacture that bandwidth.

Sarah Nicastro: So I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit about the thinking behind, how did this role, your team come to be at Brinks Home? Because I think that I've certainly talked with people that are in situations where they have the expectation of both. They are, fair or not, being tasked with keeping pace with the day-to-day and looking for the opportunities for innovation. And, then I've talked with other organizations that sort of do this type of approach where it's a specific function within the business that kind of drives the effort. So how did the idea to put this in place, come to fruition at Brinks Home?

Joni Chapas: It started off really with, when I came to Brinks with the idea of coming into operations, to kind of help find continual process improvements. But it was really to ... it was really focused on project management. So I said, I was in IT and telecommunications for the earlier part of my career, but that was ... let me be clear, I was never a real techie person. I was always on the ... within IT, but was always more on the sort of getting solution side and project and program management. So when I came to Brinks it was really with that idea of, hey, we have some large operational projects and we just need project management to sort of help see those through. So I kind of came with the idea of sort of establishing a project management organization within operations to just help drive those things forward.

Joni Chapas: But what we kind of quickly found was that we wanted to expand that and not just help execute, not just help manage the execution of those, but to really help with the more the strategic analysis, because it really does tie, we ... the operations folks are ... they have ideas of what are some of the strategic things that need to happen.

Joni Chapas: But again, really taking the time to really analyze those ideas, to go and explore is something that they really aren't afforded the time to do. So it just became ... just sort of developed out of ... as an extension of, oh, hey, there's a project we want to do, can you have somebody, have a team that will help manage those projects to more, can we have more ownership on what the right projects are and what the ... how we can optimize the technology that's out there, how we can research about where ... what are really some ... the true business problems and what solutions we might have for those. So it really kind of expanded, but that was just kind of the evolution from, again, more tactical project management to strategic planning.

Sarah Nicastro: So what does the working relationship between you and your team and the operational leadership look like? Like how do you kind of collaborate together and learn about their ideas and their insights and figure out what to put into action? What does that collaboration look like?

Joni Chapas: Yeah, I mean, and it's, again, it's really imperative that we be working right with those operational leaders. So my team and I felt we do work directly with those operations folks when we're looking at, for example, our monthly metrics and doing our end of the month summary of how are things going and what things are we experiencing, I'm participating right along with that, that we're as accountable to the KPIs of the organization as those operational leaders. And so we work really closely with them, but what we're able to do is, and most people will kind of hear this and say, in anything that you're doing, people always talk about, it's easier to have a straw man or something to work from, and then get feedback on what's wrong with that than handing somebody sort of a blank piece of paper.

Joni Chapas: So we generally try to do that. I mean, sometimes we come ... I have one of my peers come to me with a business problem and say, can you help us in figuring out how to solve that? And we go through and kind of brainstorm and think about ideas and talk to different people involved to get some feedback. And sometimes they come really with an idea of a change that they've observed and they think is a change that can really benefit their team, and are just asking for more help in putting that all together and getting all the right people involved and operationalizing a change.

Joni Chapas: So we work closely with them and again, what we do going into my straw man point is that we're generally taking and creating those strawmans, whether it's based on an idea that they feed us or business problem or something from even higher level leadership that we can go through and say here's a straw man for how this might work, or what change that we could make, and then let them kind of tweak and edit that. Where if they're truly without us, it's like somebody handing them the blank piece of paper and saying now you have to go draw it all yourself.

Joni Chapas: So it's much more efficient for them to be able to let us do the documentation, do the ideation, go through and do analysis of what does the data show us? What does ... what are the cost benefit of and risk factors associated with it? Let us go through and do that, go do industry research and things like that. And then be able to do more of a sign-off and approval or give tweaks and adjustments, as opposed to having them again, have to go through all those steps themselves to achieve the objectives.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. So how would you describe the biggest advantages to the structure that you have set up at Brinks Home, where your team is working alongside operations to drive innovation?

Joni Chapas: I think there's ... the couple key things are just the ability to focus on it because you, as you're mentioning earlier, there's the ever, ever evolving future field service, just like what this is, this whole series is about, that you have to keep an eye and you have to look to the future and you have to innovate, or your business is not going to be successful. But you again, also have to take care of these day-to-day items. So it's really just kind of, instead of having the same people with divided focus, it kind of lets us focus on our own ... focus on those individual pieces. And again, we can't do that in silos, to your point, there definitely is collaboration and working, we're on the same team. I mean, we literally work for the same leader, but that focus, and then it really is minimizing the time spent from the operational leaders on projects.

Joni Chapas: And some of the ... I don't want to say administrative in a term that's negative, but when you're doing an organizing project, there's a lot of that analytics and thinking about things, organizing, making sure we have all the right constituents identified, making sure that you're really thinking about all of the impacts throughout the organization, dependencies, costs, timelines, all those kinds of things that we can focus on. And those operational leaders really don't need to think about that. They need to think about the impact to their operation or what is the business need that they have. And so we get to take some of that off of their ... those other pieces off their hands, that let's be honest are critical to the success of longer range projects.

Joni Chapas: But if you have a leader that is also responsible for day-to-day metrics, this is probably to stop that sort of slipping through the cracks. They probably ... not because they're not capable, but because of the timeframe that they have, that they probably aren't able to get to as thorough of analysis as they might like here. Or maybe the communication piece kind of, and coordination with other parts of the organization maybe falls through the cracks a little bit. So it helps for a little bit cleaner in those projects and minimizes the need for the operational experts to handle some of those other pieces.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, that makes sense. And I think you're right about what slips through the cracks. It's the less urgent it is, the easier it is to postpone. And I think that's one of the important things to have folks understand is that the pace of change today and the degree to companies are innovating, there is a need to dedicate specific resource or make investments in the longer term strategy and the innovation that's going to get you there. Whether that's a structure, like what you have at Brinks Home, whether that's consultants, whether that's someone, some other structure. It doesn't necessarily need to be prescriptively done in a certain way. But it absolutely is important, I think in terms of keeping pace strategically, to understand that there has to be some dedicated resource, energy, effort to this type of initiative. So are there any drawbacks to this approach that you would caution people on?

Joni Chapas: Yeah. I mean, it requires communication, absolutely. So it's really the relationship building, it's trust and buy-in are the initial pieces. So as much as the ... there's kind of a mix. You'll have some operational leaders that, because they're very accountable to metrics, I mean, their life is generally metric-driven, most anybody that works in operations, they've got KPIs and that's what they are held accountable to all the time. So because of that, there are times where they are a little bit leery, of kind of handing over ... seemingly handing over some control of projects or things that are going to affect those to somebody outside of the team. So they really do have to build that relationship of trust and buy-in, and know that we're not making decisions on their behalf, they're part of it.

Joni Chapas: We're doing more of the legwork piece. We're still ... and we have to hold to that. We have to make sure that we're accountable, to not be trying to implement change that they're not ready for, to not be making decisions that impact them without their buy-in. And to know that we're ... my team is just as invested in the KPIs that they're held to as they are. So I think it's not, definitely not so much be a drawback as much as it is a ... just a, it's a kind of, a little bit of a, it can be a little bit of our hurdle to getting there.

Joni Chapas: In some cases you have folks that out of the gates want to ... are happy as can be to have someone else that can, hey, I've been meaning to try to get to this improvement for a long time, and I haven't been able to have anybody on my team focus on it, so here, I'm glad you're here, go take this. So you'll get some of those, and in that case, you'll get more work than you have time for. But there is really that fact of building the right collaboration so that it is a balance of ensuring that those leaders also, at the end of the day, aren't able to come in and say, oh, well we were hoping that this initiative was going to achieve a 10% improvement in X, Y, Z metric, that at the end of the day, if it doesn't achieve that, that they don't get to just look and be like, I don't know Joni and her team did that. I don't know what they did.

Joni Chapas: So there definitely ... that's one thing is that it can't be viewed as, it's not a throw it over the wall, either way from my team to those folks or vice versa, that it is collaboration that we're in it together. So you have to make sure that relationship, it's really key to the success.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I like the idea of making decisions together, but then you sort of are dividing and conquering when it comes to the efforts, right? So it's ... we have to decide together where we're going, but now, you keep doing X, Y, and Z, we'll go do A, B and C when it's time to reconvene, we reconvene. But to your point, it really allows both parties to focus on their responsibilities in a way that maximizes productivity versus trying to have either responsible for both.

Sarah Nicastro: So the next area I want to talk about ... so when we talk about innovation, I think one of the biggest barriers to innovation, other than allocating appropriate resource, which we've already talked about is the idea of organizational silos. So another big part of your role and your team's role, is to aid in that strategic alignment and to ensure that the innovation that's taking place at Brinks Home is well coordinated, is in line with the company's objectives, etcetera. So talk a little bit about that aspect of things.

Joni Chapas: Yeah. So, and we're responsible for that kind of both within the various teams that make operations, as well as outside of that. So the easy examples within the organization, we've kind of touched on it a little bit within operations, but we also, again, I use learning and development as one of the areas underneath of my organization as well. So we might go through and look at when we hear about a challenge that we're having in operations, we can jump on that to go through and say, okay, what can we do? What can L&D do to help with those issues? So, I'm ... not too long ago, asked my L&D manager to go through and review the latest set of KPIs for the operations team, and then to come back and tell me to say, here are things either that we can build on in training that we already have, here's development for ongoing development for the team, here are resources that we can make available.

Joni Chapas: But it's, again, some of that is making sure that we're not just getting complacent and oh okay, we have these training that we hire, we do these types of webinars and lunch and learns, but to go through and say, it's actually directly tied to those strategic goals. Here are the strategic KPIs that we're trying to do. But again, also, as far as going across other organizations, I'm afforded a little bit more, have a little bit more bandwidth in my team to go through and have regular reviews and one-on-ones, and participate with product development, with sales.

Joni Chapas: So we can look and see what's on their roadmap. What are they doing? And take some time to absorb that and think about what does that mean? What does that mean to where we want to go? How do we ... from an operation standpoint, what are the impacts? How can we drive some of that innovation together? Again, it's just that ability to spend some time, focus and thinking on that, where from a really a more pure operational perspective, you typically will get like, oh hey, sales is rolling out this new program, or whatever it may be.

Joni Chapas: And then now let's kind of react to it. And even if you're doing it as part of our project, you're going through and putting those things in place, but you're not often looking at ... and those operational leaders aren't often looking at sales where are you trying to get to in the next year, three years, five years where I can do more of that.

Joni Chapas: So it's imperative that we can again,a cross the silos of the organization and I've built relationships with those other leaders or say, hey, can I sit in on your monthly review or quarterly review, so that we can get ... that we can see where they're headed and take that into consideration and make sure that we're all sort of headed in the same and right directions that we can align, for strategies and innovation, because we can hear, hey, you guys, it sounds like someone's looking for a tool that may aid in X, Y, and Z, but that really closely aligns to something that we want to do too. So maybe this is instead of, in a vacuum one group going and looking for a tool set, that we look together and kind of go through and do that through the power of putting that together.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I mean, it always shocks me. It seems like it shouldn't be, but there is always a lot of missed opportunity within any company of those collaboration points within function to function. So having a team that acts sort of as a conduit for ensuring that those opportunities, you get ahead of them instead of to your point at being reactive, oh, you're doing this? Great. We could use it this way. Getting ahead of that curve and thinking more strategically about the areas of opportunity across functions, so that you can be more intentional about those. That makes a lot of sense. So good. All right.

Sarah Nicastro: And then the last area is around technological innovation. So your team is also responsible for innovation in terms of technology and digital transformation. So, this recently resulted in a partnership with IFS, and that is something again where you're looking at how different tools can be leveraged across the business, to drive success in sort of modernizing the company's approach to technology. So talk a little bit about what that looks like, in terms of working alongside operations to bring those digital transformation projects to life.

Joni Chapas: Yeah, so we work, again kind of to the point of working sort of across the silos is that, I also work pretty closely with our IT organization, that ... and then vendors, for example, IFS is this key one that we've recently been working on, but to work with our IT team and again, make sure that I understand what their roadmap is and to get our needs on, on the roadmap and to be looking out ahead, of not just, hey, there's something that came up, we need to get a request in now, but what are the advancements that we want to be making?

Joni Chapas: And it's more about more of the long-range planning. But specifically for something like, IFS is a great example of that a lot of people can probably relate to. We did that through an RFP process, and if anybody's ever done that, in most organizations, there's a whole lot of ... you're putting together lot of the information on what are the requirements and what's needed, the whole RFP process, identifying vendors that are going to participate, reviewing their responses, doing Q and A sessions with them, getting demos and whatnot from them, typically putting together some cost benefits on the ROI type of information. You're able to generate a score card that you're comparing people that participate in the RFP process.

Joni Chapas: So really my team did all of that type of work. Actually, we also ... even if you step back from that, we kind of more of the research to look and see what's out there in the marketplace. And to say, we know we have a particular need that we want to address, but we also want to think ahead to a tool that not only will address that specific need, but will grow with us, and that has additional modules, functionality, and a roadmap that kind of aligns with Brinks Home, where our roadmap was going. But anyway, but going through that process, so going and coming up with all of those pieces of ... through that RFP process, what we did was then take some of the experts in and said, hey, come in and sit in the demo and help us score them.

Joni Chapas: And then yeah, they helped us provide information on requirements upfront as well. But all the other pieces and people, again, if you've done an RFP process, you know it can be very time consuming. They didn't have to spend the time on that. But, from the technology standpoint, again, being able to look ahead, investigate, understand what other teams within the organization, what their needs are, so that we can ... because obviously when you're spending money on certainly outside tools, you want to have a tool set that's going to integrate together, where you can have, not just disparate a whole bunch of one-off tools that now don't talk to each other and, or duplicative in nature. So really our role is to, again, define, think ahead, define what those needs are, then really shepherd it through that whole process.

Joni Chapas: And then when it came to actually working on the project of ... to building and rolling out field service management and PSO, that we could go through and again, play the key role in a lot of the documentation, working as the primary project team and bring those, the SMEs in as needed. We could do a lot of the testing and review and then bring them in for final sign-off. And again, take a lot of that burden of all the time that it takes, so that we could turn that around as a ... realistically turn that around much more quickly than it would be if we were relying on people to do that in addition to their day job. That's kind of the other thing I say a lot is everybody in operations, they have a day job. This is our day job.

Joni Chapas: So, but you know, really technology is a key for innovation and automation, is what you need to get there. I mean, obviously in the modern world, innovation and technology are kind of hand in hand. And so really thinking through those, understanding the longer range vision, and trying to figure out how to do that, helps you progress and bring change to the organization without crippling the organization in the meantime.

Joni Chapas: It's definitely, I mean, it's disruptive. It's disruptive, but you have to be able to kind of put all the pieces in place to have that disruption be as minimal as it can be, and then achieve the result that you want, again, without jeopardizing your day-to-day in the meantime.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think, you mentioned speed, right? If you are relying on operational leaders to do that whole process in addition to their everyday responsibilities, it's ... the whole thing is going to move at a slower pace, than if you have a team dedicated to it. And speed is imperative when it comes to keeping pace, and innovating, and leveraging technology today. Everything is changing faster than it ever has before, and it's not slowing down. So looking for the best way to set your company up for success, to not only focus as needed on the short term, but focus the way you need to on the longterm is super important.

Sarah Nicastro: So whatever that structure looks like, whether it's a structure like Brinks Home has, whether it's something completely different, for any company that is focusing on driving innovation, what would you say are some of the key ingredients to success?

Joni Chapas: Yeah, I think a couple of key things. One is leveraging the best of what you have right in front of you. I mean, I know that there's a balance between, yeah we want to change and we want to think outside the box, which we need to do, but you want to take a look and know what the strengths of what you already have and how to leverage those as you move forward, is really key. A lot of folks get into the almost the throwing the baby out with the bath water. So really want to make sure you know yourself and know what your strengths are. Data-driven decision-making. I mean, I can't probably preach enough. So, I'm thrilled that within my organization at the Brinks Home, that the data analytics team is there, because that's essential.

Joni Chapas: It's essential to the business. You need to look at, let the trending, tell you where you're going, but predictive analysis and analytics tell you kind of where you need to improve and where you need to go. And then that you're going to make the right decisions. I mean, there are a lot of things, don't mistake the fact that there's technology out there that's really cool to have, but when you put pencil to paper, the business case for that really cool technology may not be there.

Joni Chapas: But you will need to really understand your data and using that, again to make the right decisions for your business of where you're going to get the most bang for your buck. What's the return? Where can you really improve? That's really key. Attention to detail, which is probably, if you summarize a lot of the things that we were talking about, about sort of the focus, that's one of those pieces that, because the team's able to focus we can pay more attention to those details, that's often what happens to any of us. Any time you're rushing through something, or you're doing two things at one time, that's generally what suffers is the detail.

Joni Chapas: So, obviously everybody knows the phrase, the devil is in the details, of when you're working through certainly a complex implementation or a technology change. And so, making sure that you have people that can focus on that. And then of course, collaboration and communication, just so important to everything that we do. And regardless of the organizational structure, like you were mentioning, communication and collaboration really has nothing to do with your org chart. It's all about people. And so that's just one of my other mantras, is that we have to engage and keep talking with each other and make sure that everybody's on the same page. Because as things are moving faster and faster, it's very easy to miss those steps and to try to, race ahead and be in a hurry and miss some of those key points.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. Very good advice, Joni, and I bet there's going to be people listening to this podcast that are being tasked with the operational duties and the innovative duties that are, are going to be jealous of the support that you're providing at Brinks Home. So it's a good model though, I think for anyone to kind of think about and to consider and really just to do some critical thinking about what exactly the focus on innovation is within the business. And is it scaled to the degree it needs to be, is it as effective as it needs to be, are you moving at the pace you need to be, et cetera.

Sarah Nicastro: So I appreciate you coming on and talking a bit about how you're doing that at Brinks Home and thanks for being here.

Joni Chapas: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. You can check out more of our content by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter @thefutureoffs. The future of field service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more by visiting ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.

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August 23, 2021 | 5 Mins Read

Whose Responsibility Is Service Innovation?

August 23, 2021 | 5 Mins Read

Whose Responsibility Is Service Innovation?


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

I wrote an article a couple of years ago about the dichotomy of service leadership, discussing how – as the need for innovation in service has increased – we have put unfair expectations on our service leaders to be masters at both operational excellence and innovation. Now, I do believe that innovation is everyone’s responsibility – but only to a degree.

What I mean is that the expectation for a service leader to contribute to innovation is fair, particularly because they often have a very strong view of what customers need and what the company needs to change to better meet those needs. However, the expectation that the service leader bear full responsibility for that innovation is not fair. Two years ago, when I wrote that article, that did seem to be the expectation in many instances: “Oh hey – please ensure we continue to meet our operational objectives, but can you also work on determining how we need to evolve the business to succeed over the next one to five years and start making those changes, too?”

Luckily, it seems that collectively organizations have begun to realize that putting the weight of innovation on the shoulders of operational leaders alone isn’t realistic. Companies have realized the strategic value of service to the business, and as such the function has become less siloed. Further, digital transformation is also eliminating siloes within companies because they realize the need to look at these opportunities more holistically to achieve success.

The recognition of the breadth of innovation needs as well as the importance of digital have not only begun to break down siloes but have also increase acknowledgement that, while everyone should be responsible for contributing to innovation, a dedicated person or team needs to exist to spearhead it. We see many organizations introducing new titles, like a VP of Innovation or a VP of Transformation, who sit across a number of functions to drive alignment on strategic, innovative, and technological efforts.

Operational Excellence vs. Innovation

One example of this approach you’ll hear in more detail on this week’s podcast, from Joni Chapas of Brinks Home. Joni’s team was put in place to work alongside operational leaders to drive innovation and ensure strategic alignment; to listen to their insights and weigh their expertise, but take the responsibility of research, strategy, and execution off their shoulders so that they can continue to focus on operational excellence. “In operations, there's always a fire that's closer to you than that smoldering ember that's out in the woods. Now that smoldering ember might end up being what's going to lead to the forest fire that really can be truly, severely detrimental if you don't stay on top of it. But before you can even look to that, you have to be dealing with what's in front of you,” says Joni. “So, we have things like that that are flashing before these operational leaders, their eyes to make sure they're keeping up with those day in day out, minute by minutes stats of how things are going. Then to also expect that, oh, and hey, and by the way, in the next quarter, next year, we need to see this overall improvement in those metrics, it's kind of tough for them to have that dual focus.”

A dual focus won’t elicit the level of innovation most organizations need to achieve today to maintain competitive differentiation, and this is why Brinks Home created the team Joni leads. “The idea of my team is really to partner with and work alongside operations, so that we can have more of the eye on the future, while they're focusing more on the near term and what's right in front of their face,” she explains. “There’s the ever, ever evolving future field service, just like what this whole series is about, that you have to keep an eye on, and you have to look to the future, and you have to innovate, or your business is not going to be successful. But you also have to take care of the day-to-day. Both are important, so this approach allows us to eliminate a divided focus and give each area ample attention.”

Innovative ideas can come from anyone, but innovative efforts take significant time and work. As companies look to become more innovative, they must realize that it isn’t a magical process of idea to reality – there’s layers of research, analysis, strategy, and execution that are required.  “There are a lot of pieces that are critical to the success of longer-range projects. If you have a leader that is also responsible for day-to-day metrics, some of that will probably start slipping through the cracks. Not because they're not capable, but because of the timeframe that they have, that they probably aren't able to get to as thorough of analysis as they might like here. Or maybe the communication piece or coordination with other parts of the organization maybe falls through the cracks a little bit,” says Joni.

One recent example is Brinks Home’s decision to invest in IFS to support its field service operations. “We worked with both field service and IT to align objectives and then began the RFP process. Anyone who has done an RFP process knows there's a whole lot of work putting together the information on what are the requirements and what's needed, identifying vendors that are going to participate, reviewing their responses, doing Q & A sessions with them, getting demos, and putting together some cost benefits and ROI information,” explains Joni. “We also want to think ahead to a tool that not only will address that specific need, but will grow with us, and that has additional modules, functionality, and a roadmap that aligns with Brinks Home.”

Joni’s team coordinated the insight from internal stakeholders, mapped the present-day and future needs, did due diligence on the technologies available, and completed the RFP process to select the best fit – shepherding the process for Brinks Homes in a way that not only created a strategically-aligned outcome but never took significant time or focus away from the day-to-day operational leaders. The team is also leading the technology implementation. “By playing the key role in a lot of the documentation, working as the primary project team, doing a lot of the testing and review and then bring the operational leaders in for final sign-off we take a lot of that burden of all the time that it takes, so that we could turn that around much more quickly than if we were relying on people to do that in addition to their day job. Innovation is our day job.”

The acknowledgement by companies like Brinks Home that this dichotomy of service leadership is not only unfair but will slow your company significantly in its innovative efforts will lead to new levels of transformation that will be exciting to see. To hear more about Joni’s journey and how Brinks Home is handling innovation, be sure to check out this week’s podcast.

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August 20, 2021 | 2 Mins Read

The State of Service 2022

August 20, 2021 | 2 Mins Read

The State of Service 2022


By Tom Paquin

The last two years have irrevocably changed the landscape of how we, as a society, interact with technology. COVID-19, its fallout, and the restrictions it posed are but one strand of a confluence of factors that have been reshaping the service industry in recent years. Taken as a whole, these divergent factors, advancements, and changing customer expectations paint a vivid picture for what the future of field service looks like.

So what does this mean about the State of Service heading into next year, and looking ahead to the next five years? What trends are beginning to gain a foothold, how have those trends already begun to evolve, and what comes next? Through our stories, firsthand experience, and study of macro service trends, The Future of Field Service has generated a robust picture for the current state of service. This new series, to be consolidated and expanded in an upcoming whitepaper, will use our insights to build a coherent, forward-looking image of what the state of service looks like today, and what we can expect tomorrow. Here is some of what we will explore:

  • The Post-COVID Service Technology Stack
  • The State of Field Service Management Software
  • The State of Connected Assets
  • The State of the Service Workforce
  • The State of Small Business Service
  • The State of Industrial Operations

These explorations will be colored by many of the conversations that we have experienced over the last twelve months, and will function as an overall pastiche that will prepare you to start 2022 on the right track. We’ll begin next week by exploring the impact of COVID on service technology spend. We’ll see you then.

Most Recent

August 18, 2021 | 24 Mins Read

Embracing The Realities & Possibilities of Innovation

August 18, 2021 | 24 Mins Read

Embracing The Realities & Possibilities of Innovation


Dan McClure, Systems Innovation Choreographer at Innovation Ecosystem discusses with Sarah the differences between incremental improvement and true innovation and provides advice for companies on how to react sufficiently to today’s disruption.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host Sarah Nicastro. Today we are going to be talking about both the lure and the detriment that the idea of incremental improvement can cause your business. I'm excited to be joined today by Dan McClure who is the systems innovation choreographer at Innovation Ecosystem. Dan, welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast.

Dan McClure: Sarah, it's great to be here.

Sarah Nicastro: It's great to have you. So before we get into the thick of it, why don't you tell our audience a little bit about yourself?

Dan McClure: Well, I have been somebody who has through good luck been thrown into burning buildings throughout my entire career. So I started my career in an industry that was going through massive deregulation, had a chance to spend time as an entrepreneur for a decade and then have gone from industry to industry really looking for the places where disruption was happening and there were opportunities to do what we've called system innovation, changing the way that they fundament organization works to create value in the world.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Now it's interesting that you would categorize being thrown into burning buildings as good luck, because I don't know that everyone would feel that way. Why do you say it that way? What do you think that that fact has enabled you to learn or to do?

Dan McClure: Well what's exciting about a burning building or more conventionally framed, a burning platform, is that you are in a position where there is not only a motivation for big change, but you've broken out of the status quo. There are pieces that are freed up that allow you to be really boldly creative. So if you're the type of person who says, "I don't want to simply repaint the house, but I want to imagine the house with an entirely new set of rooms," a burning building is not a bad place to start because you really get the chance to bring other people along on a big bold dream and do something that has a real impact in the world.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That's really cool. So I read an article you wrote that said ... The quote said, "The hard truth is that complex systems problem can't be solved with piece meal inventions. They need to be addressed with far more ambitious systems solutions." So tell us a little bit what you mean by that quote and what the route of systems innovations is.

Dan McClure: So most organizations are in the habit of working. They have built up a set of system, they've built up a value proposition. They've built up a market place. That all work together to essentially deliver value to their customers and to their shareholders and to their employees. Everything works. And for those types of organizations, simply making an incremental change to make things a bit better makes them more profitable, more competitive. Sustains their role in the market place. The challenge is, if they need to make a bigger change, let's say a competitor comes in and offers a radically better proposition, or the fundamental basis for their marketplace disappears, then they can't make small changes to the way things work, because those won't be enough. They'll find themselves in perhaps three different categories of situations.

Dan McClure: They may find themselves commoditized. So they can continue to sell in their market, but they're not going to make any profit on it. They may hit a plateau where they really still have their market share but they're never going to grow any further than they are. They have essentially gone as far as they can and they're just waiting for something worse to happen. And the third thing, the worst that could happen, is they might find themselves completely obsolete. So this temptation to resort to small incremental innovation often leads to these dead ends or these areas where the future is really not very bright at all. And so moving beyond incremental change becomes the thing that they need to do. They need to create a new value proposition that's new and differentiated in the market.

Sarah Nicastro: So what I'm curious about and I recorded a podcast a while back with a gentleman who at the time worked at Cisco and the title of that podcast was weighing the decision of disruption. And it was this idea that Cisco's business in the area and region that he worked, was doing quite well. But they knew there was an opportunity to do things differently. And it was a tough choice to make because there wasn't this catastrophic burning building type issue. They weren't becoming obsolete. There wasn't that big of an issue. But there was a significant opportunity and I think Dan, that a lot of people in our audience are in similar situations where there's a big opportunity being presented by the market and the customers that these customers serve for more and for different than what they've historically provided. But maybe for a lot of organizations, the need for that change isn't so intense that it's a do or die type scenario which causes people to drag their feet. So how does a company know when it's the right time to look at more of a systems innovation approach then just sort of incremental improvement?

Dan McClure: I think the whole question of disruption and the way people react to disruption is interesting. Often times disruption is framed as opportunities early on. So you look at the marketplace and you say, "Ooh, there's a new opportunity, maybe we could be a fast follower, or maybe we could do this sometime in the future." There's a couple of problems with that. That optionality, that assumption that we can wait because things are going pretty well right now. You sighted that example of the gentleman from Cisco. The reality is their platform may well be burning, well in advance of the time they see smoke. And often times these disruptive changes are already well in flight before anybody realizes them.

Dan McClure: The other problem is, is that there's an assumption that if we delay, when we do see the disruption, we'll have the time to respond. And frequently once these changes start to happen, they happen incredibly quickly. So consider the classic case of Uber, which used to be the innovation example cited in every conference three or four years ago. But it took them only three years to outpace New York City taxi cabs as the primary provider of transportation service in New York City. If you look at other industries like healthcare, in the first six months of the pandemic, there was a 16,000% increase in digital health services. Once the lever tends to tip, it tends to tip very, very quickly. So this idea that we can wait, because we don't have a burning platform right now, is often, misses the true reality of the situation organizations are at.

Dan McClure: The other thing to remember is you don't simply get to claim market share by showing up. And so when these new market opportunities emerge, they're going to be fiercely competed for. And as a result, if your organization isn't making the kind of deep thoughtful creative changes to position you as a leader in that market, you're not going to be in a position to show up late in the game and say, "Okay, now I want my share."

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Okay, so that makes sense, but I think what I want to talk about is sort of what you refer to in some of your content as the lure of incremental improvement. So saying it makes sense. It makes sense. You need to be creative, you need to innovative. You need to stay ahead of disruption. It all sounds very good. But it's obviously harder than it sounds when we're talking about it. And I think part of that is this lure of incremental improvement. So let's talk a little bit about why that tendency is so so strong for organizations to sort of stay in their comfort zone, maintain or incrementally improve the status quo, et cetera.

Dan McClure: Yeah. I think it's interesting and you almost have to go down to a project level. So imagine you're a project leader and you have two ideas. One of them is an incremental change and the other one is a disruptive change. For the incremental change, you're going to be able to document pretty hard evidence of the types of improvement you see. So you may be able to reduce head count or you can project with reasonable certainty a 1% increase in market share. And as a result, that projects going to be very easy to sell. If you're the sponsor, the person with the budget, you're going to be able to say, "Well, I'm pretty sure I can get that type of project delivered." But that's got to have some pretty high degree of certainty of results. And then I you look for everybody else across the organization, it's just going to be a small change to the way they work, so they're going to have an easy time to adopt it. So all along the way, that project, that incremental project, is going to be easier to sell, lower risk to execute and easier to adopt. And that's a very attractive thing in an organization. Nobody wants to be the person who's spearheading a failed project.

Dan McClure: Now contrast that to a disruptive change which requires an entire system to change. Here we're saying, "We're going to imagine a much bigger opportunity and it's not even going to really be proven out by any evidence in the marketplace yet." So we're going to have to hypothesize over what we think the opportunity is. We're going to have to change lots of different pieces and put in new things that nobody's thought about before really carefully and therefore the risks are going to be higher. And finally, we're going to have to get everybody else onto an entirely new page. And so all those system changes are going to have to cascade across the organization. If you compare selling those two projects, it's a heck of a lot easier to sell that small incremental project. And at the same time, it's the big disruptive system change project that really offers the hope of getting past these big threats that we were talking about earlier.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It's interesting because it makes me think about in a lot of the conversations that I have here, we talk a lot about, I mentioned before we started recording that some of the big disruptive change in our space is related to the idea of this journey to servitization or to outcomes based service. And we have a lot of conversations on this podcast about the fact that that level of change and evolution is not possible without buy-in from the top. And so that is just making me think about what you're saying which is the ultimate stakeholders that you're presenting these options to, if they're very comfort zone in status quo oriented, if they have certain motivations that maybe make them incredibly risk averse, if they are quite stuck in their ways for a number of different reasons, it's really hard for anyone that sees this opportunity within the business to bring it to the forefront. It just, they keep defaulting to the easier options that are being presented. And so it's just making me wonder your thoughts on the criticality of leadership who is willing to take risks and be creative and embrace a more innovative approach.

Dan McClure: So here's where I think sometimes the narrative is a little too simple. I certainly have been the person who's been going to a leader and then been slapped down hard, and that's not a pleasant experience. And I probably went out to the bar later that evening and had a beer and was complaining to my friends about what Luddite and risk-averse manager we had and da dah, da dah, da dah. The reality is, while that can be a concern, more often it's that people are pursing system innovation in the wrong way. They're asking their leadership to do things that don't make sense and as a result, what we really need is to figure out how to do system innovation well and then use that to go to management with a clear set of here's how we're going to approach this disruptive change.

Dan McClure: So let me give you a few examples of things that people do wrong when they go and talk to senior management. The first thing is they arrive and deliver a dead rat. So they walk through the door and they say, "The world is ending. Everything is going to go bad and we need to change something." And then they stop talking and they've delivered the dead rat, but they don't actually have a solution. And this is often way easier to do than actually coming up with a solution for a hard disruptive market change. If you were to imagine your newspaper co, a newspaper, and you've got print editions and this is your business, and certainly I'm sure lots of people ran into management offices saying the world is coming to an end. Much harder to come up with, and now what do we do? So that's the first thing is the system innovator, the person who's proposing these changes actually has to think through what it is they want to see.

Dan McClure: The second piece is they need to come in with a solution that is complete and compelling. So it's not enough to simply say, "We need to make this one little foray into some change. We need to add a mobile app." For a while there it was, we could become a digital company simply by adding a mobile app for example. I think servitization often becomes the same sort of silver bullet solution, is we'll simply add a bit more service onto our product, do what we've always done. And what the system innovator needs to do is if they're going to go to management, they need to come up with a big enough and powerful enough system change that it actually does create new differentiated value.

Dan McClure: And finally, they need to go with a strategy that basically manages the risk. You're asking an organization to take big leaps in faith, plow into areas of uncertainty and so you need a strategy that allows you to evolve this new market opportunity. Evolve this new disruptive system over time. And it can't be we're going to invest for four years, put millions of dollars into it and then see if it works at the end. There have to be early points of feedback, all the way along the way to show that this is all working. I think if you do that well, we'll find that a lot of those senior leaders that seemed like they might be anti-change, are very appreciative of the fact that they don't want their company to fail either and they have a real opportunity here. Here's something they can actually act on with faith.

Sarah Nicastro: So it just makes me think, what is it then that would drive someone within the organization to take that on, because it does sound daunting. So at the beginning when you've mentioned you've had the good luck of being in these burning buildings, I mean it sounds like you have looked at this through the lens of liking the challenge and seeing the opportunity and wanting to do this work of presenting a solution and seeing it through. What is it within a person that you think gives them the likelihood to want to spearhead systems innovation?

Dan McClure: So I think it's really fascinating that there are different types of roles within organizations, that we've clearly defined. We know what a manager's role is and what the skills are that go with that. So you need somebody who's organized, who has good attention to detail. We understand in many ways that executives are good about exercising control and being able to take bold moves, et cetera. When we look at systems innovation, there is an unnamed role that is I think far more common than people realize. But it's a type of person that we've labeled as a choreographer. And their focus is really ... Their passion is about new ideas. And not small new ideas like we've made a bit of change in the production line. But rather, this is a big bold idea that gets me excited. So at the risk of citing guys who have been launching themselves into space, the Elon Musks, the Richard Branson, the Jeff Bezos, are all these sort of excited by big idea people. Regardless of how you feel about them individually, you can certainly get the sense that there's a group of people that are excited about big ideas.

Dan McClure: The other aspects of that type of personality is they tend to look at big pictures rather than at the details. So when they look at an opportunity, they don't see the small things that stand in their way. They see the big connection of how all the piece fit together. And they're fostered in that by the ability to be generalists. So one of the phrases that I really dislike is the, "he's a jack of all trades, but a master or none." A generalist is basically a specialist in everything. A specialist in seeing across things. So they don't necessarily know the details of everything, but they see how a lot of things fit together. And when you combine this sort of passion for big ideas, the ability to see the big picture, a generalist background, along with a certain rebel attitude of what being willing to break thing apart, you end up with somebody who not only is able to accept that kind of challenge, but who fits actually very poorly in most other jobs and so they need to go find those types of challenges if they're going to be happy.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So here's my next question then. So if you think about, let's just take an example of an organization that manufactures something, has been around for 100 plus years and there is this disruption happening, but this tendency towards incremental improvement versus true innovation. Do you think that it's possible for somehow that organization to find this talent, motivation, inspiration, skill set among itself, or is there a benefit to seeking outside perspective or different roles, different talent if you're trying to make some progress in this area?

Dan McClure: So what's interesting about choreographers, because they don't have an official job title, often times there are choreographers wandering your hall and you're not even aware of it. So part of it is simply just being aware of the choreographers that you have. You probably have some that have been banging around, looking at the bit problems, excited about ideas, but haven't been recognized for their ability to do this. So part of it is just look at the groups that are within your organization. A second feature here though is, don't kill them off. So most organizations are actually well designed to identify choreographers and get rid of them because they disrupt the way things work.

Dan McClure: Christensen talked a lot about this, just there are people who within organizations will try to bring up new ideas and the organization is designed to stop them from doing that. So part of it is just removing the immune system to these types of people. But the reality is most of these individuals have very random resumes. So I've been talking about my own resume being a fruit salad of all these different things all tumbled together across multiple industries. If you're going to go out and look for choreographers, look for people who have the skill of dealing with big disruptive ideas, rather than somebody who's a specialist in your industry, who's had a particular job title, et cetera. You're really looking for a unique type of person rather than a particular career path.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, that makes sense. Going back to the question that I brought up about knowing when is the time and recognizing disruption, and you point about often times it's well underway when you have that aha moment, but there're companies that are choosing to nurture disruption and to embrace it and to try and be ahead of the curve. And then there are those that are responding to disruption by force. So are there differences in approach that need to be taken with systems innovation for an organization that is sort of being more proactive versus reactive? Does that make sense?

Dan McClure: Yeah. I think, so the first thing I would observe here is, many of the things that companies do to check off the I'm an innovator check box, are really pretty ineffective and they're designed for either incremental or irrelevant innovation. So there was a period of time where every company wanted to have a hackathon and there were big company celebrations around here's all the ideas that came out of our hackathon. Those types of events very, very seldom produce substantial systemic change, because they're small ideas imagined in the moment without deep connection to where the company is or where it's going. Likewise, innovation labs, where a few privileged innovators are given a space to go off and test out new ideas et cetera, very seldom successful in actually scaling up ideas. And to go back to the idea of spin offs. Perhaps you create a spin off company that could go and test out an idea.

Dan McClure: The problem with all of these is they essentially isolate the change in a corner of the company. And what you really need for this type of disruptive deep change, the type that's going to allow you to capture a new market place is you need to be weaving change throughout the entire organization, which makes it a much more enterprise wide effort. And so it has to be technology, it has to be business, it has to be senior leadership. It has to be middle management. Middle management is often the biggest barrier to a lot of these changes. So when we look at a genuinely agile organization, it's somebody who's able to take all the pieces of their organization and engage them in these new ideas.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So can you tell me why it is that middle management is often the sticking point here?

Dan McClure: Yeah. So the phrase that you often hear is the frozen middle. So people on the ground are often choreographers, can have ideas, they see things that are new that are different. They are generally focusing on particular problems and challenges, and so they can get excited about those. Senior leaders see the big market challenges, the dangers, et cetera and often times they will bring in specific people who are charged with making all those new and different strategies go. Middle management is basically in the role of making the organization as it is work. And both their job security and the nature of their job, puts them in a position where they need to keep the status quo what it is and as a result they're going to be hesitant to raise up ideas from below and they're going to resist the types of deeper systemic change, even if it's coming from above.

Sarah Nicastro: So then how does an organization counterbalance that?

Dan McClure: So you really have to intentionally plan to do system change. And that's where we'll come back here to the concept of system innovation. System innovation basically says, I'm not simply changing a process or an output, like a feature or a product. But rather I'm changing the way everything works to achieve a new type of goal. And so the entire effort has to be around all those different types of change. And that means that you need a vision of what that whole change is going to be. But you also need the choreographers to work across the organization to make all those pieces of change happen. So you basically are designing your entire organization to be embracing this kind of change.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Now you said earlier that a lot of times companies put in place things that they think are fostering innovation that really aren't, so the examples of the hackathon or the innovation lab, et cetera. Is there any sort of self-reflection test or criteria a company can use to determine, do we think we're innovating, but we're really just continuing to promote incremental change maybe at a better than average pace? Do you know what I mean?

Dan McClure: Oh yeah, absolutely. So frankly, if they were promoting incremental change at a better than average pace, that would still be a positive outcome. Frequently what you see with these programs is really nothing is happening. So the first piece would be simply measuring what your actual outcomes are from these operations and whether it's a lab or a hackathon. Not how many things were generated this week in the hackathon, but rather for last year's hackathon how many of those things actually went into practice. So there could be just some discipline in classic lean fashion of how much did this change matter to me?

Dan McClure: I think more fundamentally though, as we've talked about just more, better incremental change is not going to be enough. And so the real question is, how do I know that I'm on the path for doing something deeper and more systemic. And there it really begins with understanding that there is a systemic change that you want to make and putting that front and center of everything and then starting to build in measures around how close am I to making this systemic change. It becomes really a case of refocusing yourself on that bigger, deeper change.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So talk to me about the role of agile in all of this and then also some of the misperceptions of what that means.

Dan McClure: So for a lot of folks, both the phrase systems and the phrase agile is tied to technology teams. And there are certainly uses of those terms. So if we're talking agile as far as agile software development, what that really is a more flexible business aware form of software delivery. It allows for less upfront design and allows you to deliver software in ways that you could learn as you go along. That's great stuff. You should be doing that no matter what. Agile applied to an enterprise level is really a much bigger change. And what you're really talking about there is the organization can exhibit agile practices. They can identify long term goals. They can adapt and change. They can respond to insights as they go along.

Dan McClure: All of these things are at really a different level than agile technology teams. And so while we've called them the same thing and they have some of the same principles, learn as you go along, have clear goals of where you're going et cetera, it's a very different type of journey for the organization and you shouldn't assume that you can simply take your agile scrum coach and throw them into the enterprise and you'll get the kind of results that you want. Because what you're really trying to do is a much different type of creation. You're creating a new system in the organization rather than creating a new piece of software.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Now is there advice about how to adopt a more agile mindset and business mentality?

Dan McClure: So is an element at the senior level of beginning to recognize where you want to go from an opportunity perspective. So instead of focusing on scheduling the projects that you're going to do in the next year, understand the opportunities that you want to pursue. The advantage here is that once you've shifted to think about opportunities, you can continue to change the way you approach and pursue those, rather than simply saying, "I've now executed this project and it didn't really didn't make a difference whether I changed anything in the marketplace or not." So this shifting the executive focus to opportunities and where do you want to go. So what are these big new things you want to do?

Dan McClure: Then when you start to make change across the enterprise, you're going to want to do it in a vertical slice. So it's going to be very difficult to get the entire enterprise to change all at once. So instead, pick a layer of executive, middle management and folks on the ground who can all work together around a new idea. And that type of slice will allow executive sponsorship, middle management, operational control and hands on work on the ground to actually all work together around the change. And then move additional thin slices as you go through.

Sarah Nicastro: Now is there a typical slice that usually works well, or it just depends on the industry, the organization, et cetera?

Dan McClure: I would say it depends on the system you're trying to create. But the key thing here is to note that opportunities come from bolting many things together, multiple things together. So your thin slice won't necessarily be just the marketing operation. It may well be multiple pieces of very different things that all need to work together to create this new opportunity.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And that sort of higher level orchestration, the elimination of silos, they change management of getting everyone bought into these concepts, I mean, that is the hard hard work. I mean, those are the things that come up time and time again in the conversations we have here about why regardless of what that opportunity is, it can be very, very hard to make progress. So yeah, this is great insight, Dan. I wanted to ask what are you favorite sources of insight or motivation related to innovation and considering how to make progress here?

Dan McClure: I think one of the things that's really exciting is, for a long time, if you were a system innovator, there was not a lot of language around what we did. So there was sort of very academic abstract systems thinking books that you could get. And then there was a lot of sort of management theory books about some details of ways that you might do bigger strategies. But there wasn't a lot about people who were actually doing system change. It's exciting in the last year and a half perhaps, to see the level of embrace of practical system change. And so I think one of the things you could do is simply look for examples of places here people have changed the way things work and look at how they did that. And I would strongly advise to look outside your particular field. It's often easy in your own domain to get trapped into the idea that's the hot new idea and think of that as the innovation. Whereas really the question is, is how do you make systems work differently? How do you make the organization work differently and bring together different pieces? And for that, being the generalist, looking outside your own particular domain, can provide a lot of inspiration.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. That makes sense. I mean the idea here is not following the latest trend to be able to orchestrate yourselves to deliver on that. It's this concept of re-engineering the way your business works to be able to recognize and deliver on opportunities. Whatever those are and as they change. I mean-

Dan McClure: And it's complex opportunities. It's not we were the first person to pick up X and then we were the first person to pick up Y. But rather, it's we re-imagined how this manufacturing business might go if we thoroughly integrated service to the product offering. Or we imagined how we could be more customized in the delivery of services to customers. And those aren't a series of one off type additions. They're really reshaping the way the organization works and creates value.

Sarah Nicastro: ... Right. Right. Okay, this is some wonderful food for thought. Do you have any closing thoughts or last words of wisdom before we wrap up for today?

Dan McClure: I don't know, if I was in an organization that was on the cusp of being a burning building, whether or not the flames have come out or not, I think if I was the choreographer, I would say rise to the challenge. See the big opportunities there and learn how to make big ideas acceptable to leadership. And for leadership I would say recognize that this big change that you want to do is going to require you to change things across the entire enterprise and you're going to need the support of choreographers within your organization to do that. So there's a real opportunity for everybody here to rise to exciting new challenges, and I think while it's exciting as all get out, it's also pretty exciting.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I agree. It's a little bit of both. All right, well Dan, thank you so much for being here with us today. I appreciate it.

Dan McClure: Thank you very much.

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you. You can learn more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter at the Future of FS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more by visiting IFS.com. As always, thank you for listening.

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August 16, 2021 | 5 Mins Read

Breaking Up with Incremental Improvement

August 16, 2021 | 5 Mins Read

Breaking Up with Incremental Improvement


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Let’s be clear – no one is suggesting that continual improvement isn’t a good thing. However, what deserves some real exploring is whether incremental improvement is killing true innovation within your business. There are a number of reasons this can happen – incremental improvement can feel like “enough” if your business is achieving success; even as opportunity for true innovation abounds. Incremental improvement feels safe, whereas innovation can be scary. And, perhaps worst of all, you are focusing on incremental improvement under the guise of innovation – in other words, you don’t really see the difference.

In any of these instances, it is time to break up with the idea of incremental improvement and accept the fact that today’s market landscape demands true innovation. I recently had a conversation with Dan McClure, systems innovation choreographer at Innovation Ecosystem, which you’ll see soon on the podcast. It was clear in the first few minutes of our talk that Dan isn’t one to shy away from the challenges of true innovation, and he’s created a career from his inclination and passion for it in helping companies embrace real innovation.

“Most organizations are in the habit of working. They have built up a set of systems, they've built up a value proposition. They've built up a marketplace. That all work together to essentially deliver value to their customers and to their shareholders and to their employees. Everything works,” says Dan. “And for those types of organizations, simply making an incremental change to make things a bit better makes them more profitable, more competitive. Sustains their role in the marketplace. The challenge is, if they need to make a bigger change, let's say a competitor comes in and offers a radically better proposition, or the fundamental basis for their marketplace disappears, then they can't make small changes to the way things work, because those won't be enough.”

Disruption Can Be an Opportunity or a Threat

What Dan’s referring to is disruption as a threat, which is a very common viewpoint. What happens if a new competitor enters our market with a compelling offer? How do we pivot if the need for our core product declines drastically? What do we do when our value becomes commoditized? These are the type of disruptive circumstances that kick companies into gear when it comes to taking action – but of course, they have to hope it isn’t too late.

But it’s important to remember that disruption can also originate as an opportunity. Perhaps you see a gap in your customers’ needs that isn’t currently being met, but to jump in and address that need will be disruptive to your organization. Disruption as an opportunity can sometimes be more challenging in the sense that it is far easier to squander. Whereas disruption as a threat is obvious and forces action, disruption as an opportunity can be more subtle and easier to overlook – particularly when your current business is performing well. Weighing the decision of disruption when it is an opportunity versus a threat is an important skill to practice.

With disruption of both types rampant in a number of industries today, meeting these threats and opportunities with innovation is imperative. But companies commonly default to the comfort zone of incremental improvement. “An incremental project is going to be easier to sell, lower risk to execute, and easier to adopt. And that's a very attractive thing in an organization. Nobody wants to be the person who's spearheading a failed project,” explains Dan. “Now contrast that to a disruptive change, which requires an entire system to change. Here we're saying, ‘We're going to imagine a much bigger opportunity, we're going to have to hypothesize over what we think the opportunity is, we're going to have to change lots of different pieces and put in new things that nobody's thought about before really carefully and therefore the risks are going to be higher. And finally, we're going to have to get everybody else onto an entirely new page.’ If you compare selling those two projects, it's a heck of a lot easier to sell that small incremental project. And at the same time, it's the big disruptive system change project that really offers the hope of getting past these big threats that we were talking about earlier.”

The Art of Selling Innovative Change

With both the threat and opportunities of disruption high, it’s important for stakeholders across the business to become more comfortable with the unknowns and discomfort that embracing innovation brings. That said, as Dan points out, some of the discomfort can be alleviated with a more refined approach to suggesting innovation. If you recognize an opportunity or threat within your company, make sure you think about what innovation you think is needed before you articulate the need. “Let me give you a few examples of things that people do wrong when they go and talk to senior management about innovation. The first thing is they arrive and deliver a dead rat,” says Dan. “So, they walk through the door and they say, ‘The world is ending. Everything is going to go bad and we need to change something.’ And then they stop talking and they've delivered the dead rat, but they don't actually have a solution. As the innovator, the person who's proposing the change actually has to think through what it is they want to see.”

As you envision an innovative change to address disruption, be sure you don’t inch back into an incremental approach. “Come in with a solution that is complete and compelling. It's not enough to make one little foray into some change.,” warns Dan. “I think Servitization is a good example because companies think, ‘we'll simply add a bit more service onto our product, do what we've always done.’ What the system innovator needs to do is if they're going to go to management is come up with a big enough and powerful enough system change that it truly does create new, differentiated value.”

Finally, consider how to not eliminate but minimize risk. Risk is inherent in innovation and it needs to become more comfortable for companies looking to take market-leading positions, but that doesn’t mean it should be a free for all or that strategies shouldn’t be explored to minimize risk. “You're asking an organization to take big leaps in faith, plow into areas of uncertainty and so you need a strategy that allows you to evolve this new market opportunity over time,” says Dan. “And it can't be we're going to invest for four years, put millions of dollars into it and then see if it works at the end. There must be early points of feedback, all the way along the way to show that this is all working. I think if you do that well, we'll find that a lot of those senior leaders that seemed like they might be anti-change, are very appreciative of the fact that they don't want their company to fail either and they have a real opportunity here.”

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August 13, 2021 | 2 Mins Read

Back to Basics: Asset-Centric Service and IoT

August 13, 2021 | 2 Mins Read

Back to Basics: Asset-Centric Service and IoT


By Tom Paquin

This is part of an ongoing series on the state and standards of service management software. Here are the previous articles in the series:

For businesses working with large, complex assets, whether it be in manufacturing, utilities, telecommunications, or simply service operations, there’s a growing necessity to develop a sound strategy for how assets impact your service workflow. As we’ve discussed previously (and like any major business initiative), doing so is not as simple as switching on a lightbulb. There’s naturally a timeline of events that need to occur in a logical sequence in order to initiate or overhaul an asset-centric service practice.

This all starts with IoT.

It Starts with a Good Data Stream

I’ve said this before, but bad data begets bad data. That is why it’s important, within any data model, to have a strong process in place to collect, validate, and process data. Within the context of asset-centric service, this often means that we’re talking about IoT. As with anything that we talk about here, there are plenty of resources, use cases, and best practices that you can call on to support what that looks like in a variety of different contexts.

IoT, largely, functions as a vector through which you analyze things like work history, which will benchmark an asset’s condition against the needs for service previously in order to predict service needs. A frequently overlooked way that IoT can be used is considering an asset within the broader context of your organization, where it organizationally fits within an ecosystem that may not, in some cases, be under your direct control. There’s also, of course, the direct monitoring of data, which can be used to assess asset condition during remote repairs, or simply to identify outages, and understand where, downstream, those outages are happening.

This is, of course, the first step. Next is to consider the software you’re using to manage your assets, and what it’s offering your business. That’s what we’ll discuss next time.

Most Recent

August 11, 2021 | 21 Mins Read

The Art of IT at Compugen

August 11, 2021 | 21 Mins Read

The Art of IT at Compugen


Catherine Wood, Service owner, Engineered Deployment at Compugen, talks with Sarah about the role of creativity in IT and how she views it as an art form as well as her experiences as a woman in IT leadership and the advice she'd pass along to newcomers.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we are going to be talking about the art of IT. Yes. You heard that correctly. We're going to be talking about how IT relates to art. I'm excited to welcome to the podcast today, Catherine Wood, who is the Service Owner for Engineering Deployment at Compugen. Catherine, welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast.

Catherine Wood: Hi, thank you for having me.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks for being here. So before we talk about where are the worlds of art and IT collide, why don't you say hello to our listeners, tell them a little bit about yourself and your role with Compugen?

Catherine Wood: Sure. Well, I've been with Compugen for 15 years. Before that I was with IBM. I am currently the Service Owner for Engineered Deployment. So the installations across the country, very technical services role. And that's about it. I've been in IT for about 20 years.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. All right. So let's talk about your life before IT. So I found this interesting when we connected, it hasn't always been IT for you. You went to school for fine arts and you were a teacher at one point. So tell us a little bit about that and how this transition to the world of IT occurred.

Catherine Wood: Yeah. It's been a strange road. I went to school for fine art. I loved art, always have, but I've always been interested in computers since I was a kid. When I was finished school and started having a family, I wanted to go back to work after my kids were in school. So I took a computer courses at a local computer college, but just to be able to use a computer again, been a while, but I got a job as a teacher, teaching arts. I was teaching art for a while and I moved to a couple of different schools. But at one point I was teaching at a private school and their computer teacher left and they knew I had this computer background. So they asked me to fill in and they needed a teacher fastest. So I all of a sudden became a computer teacher and it turned into me only being a computer teacher after a few years. And from there I went to IBM and now I'm here.

Sarah Nicastro: And the rest is history.

Catherine Wood: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Cool. Okay. So this correlation between art and IT, so you said that one of the reasons you love IT is because for you, it requires the same type of creativity that art does. So talk a little bit more about what you mean by that.

Catherine Wood: Well, first of all, the exciting part to me is you could do anything with a computer, whether that's programming or automating, it's very creative. All you have to do is dream it up. Computer programming is just another medium. It's just like oil painting or water painting or writing or film. It's just another medium. And it requires that somebody dreams up something new to do with it. And so it requires that creative process right at the beginning, what do I want to do? What problems am I trying to solve? And from there, then you decide on the technical pieces and you put the technical pieces together about how to build it, but the dreaming it up, that's absolutely creative.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay. So you paint. So when you are going to paint, do you have in mind what you want to create?

Catherine Wood: Yes. Me personally, I do. Not everybody is like that. Some people get in front of a Canvas and they just start. Me personally, I do. I have an idea in mind. I have something I want to say, something I want to communicate. So I will start with sketches and then outline. And sometimes you do color samples and you test different things on test canvases. Absolutely. Plan it all out beforehand.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I was just thinking about the consideration of those two mediums, if you will. So thinking about your process when you paint and the process of an IT project and you have a vision in mind for where you want to be and that process of working towards it and the use of technology as a medium is the creative journey. I think there it... Just the reason I was asking is I was thinking if you had a different type of creative process where you just sat down and painted, and you didn't know what you were trying to get out before you start.

Catherine Wood: Well sure. I mean, if you're going out and you're painting something spontaneously or you're painting outside but you're still choosing what it is you want to do. You're not trying to create a great work of art or necessarily, you're trying to paint what's in front of you. So yeah. In that case, you're not doing a lot of planning other than making sure that you have all the tools you need with here. There's still not. And you have to be skilled enough with the medium that you're working with too, whether that's paint or whether that's computers, or IT in general, what is it capable of doing so that I know when I get inside in front of something that I can do whatever it is I want to do.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Just it's interesting because it had me thinking a bit about and I know agile becomes a tricky word, but just the idea of what you can find or learn as you're going through the process. So the idea of maintaining some level of flexibility. So as you embark on a journey, either journey, you're going to create as you're going along to some extent, so okay.

Catherine Wood: Actually an interesting point about that. So part of creativity is not creating something right up front, like starting to sit it down and write a program or build something, but how you're going to find creative solutions for the limitations or the challenges that come up. And I think that speaks to the agile piece that you're talking about there, where coming up with creative solutions to things that come up in front of you are really part of the creative process and all part of it. You're constantly creative as you're trying to problem solve.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So let's talk about this idea of creativity for a minute. So you hear people say, well, I'm not creative. And then there's people that wholeheartedly identify themselves as a creative. So there's two ends of that spectrum. Do you feel like people either are, or aren't creative? Do you feel everyone is and it's just a matter of whether it's tapped or untapped. Like what do you think about that?

Catherine Wood: Well, yeah. People look at me like I have two heads. I'm creative in IT, that can't possibly work. How does that work? So I think I innately feel that everybody has a creativity that they don't make it necessarily recognized in themselves. I mean, somebody who builds their own deck or renovates a house, or even cooks or bakes or how about creates a PowerPoint presentation because they have to for business. To do that those are all creative endeavors. And I think people fail to recognize in themselves when they're creative. I hear that all the time. I can't even draw a stick figure. I'm not good at that. But people are creative in so many different ways. They just don't recognize it. And so they don't give themselves that credit and they don't have the confidence to say that I can create something new when they do it every day in other areas of their life.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So I think confidence is a really good point. But if we take that a layer deeper, I think that this idea of how creativity fits into the way you just explained it into all of these different work projects and processes that we do or could be responsible for. Part of it is confidence. It's kind of like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets.

Catherine Wood: Sure.

Sarah Nicastro: But I think the other thing is in terms of corporate culture, it isn't necessarily urged in the sense of an employer may think it's great if they have a creative employee, but they're not necessarily giving people the space or the fail-safe environment that they might need to feel that they have the latitude to explore their creativity or build that creative confidence. Does that make sense?

Catherine Wood: Yeah. No, absolutely. Creativity, well, has been traditionally not thought of in business or in IT. So I definitely think there's some, it's undervalued there for sure. I think that's changing. The employers are starting to see where creativity needs to come in to problem solve. And if you look at any CEO or anything else, to be able to change is a creative action itself, but it is undervalued. But I think that it also takes a leadership team or the leadership needs to be able to provide the trust. People need to be able to trust that they can take chances and that they can try things and fail and fail fast and recover.

Catherine Wood: And that's all creativity, but that comes from the leadership down. Absolutely. The other thing is that I really think is the organizations don't tend to value that time, where someone is sitting in themselves and just giving themselves the space to stop and think and people have been told our whole lives. You're sitting there doing nothing. What are you doing? You're not doing nothing. You're thinking about... you're problem solving. You're thinking about things. Your mind is wandering. You're making connections that you wouldn't be able to make if you didn't give your mind that kind space.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I think that's such a big part of it. Everyone's busy, everyone's overtaxed and it can be really hard as individuals and then for organizations to prioritize the white space that tapes to have time to think creatively, definitely something that I struggled with a little bit. I always blocked time in my calendar and never keep it. So, yeah. So is there any tips you have either, again as an individual or as a leader for how to give yourself some of that creative space or provide that creative space to your employees?

Catherine Wood: Well, for myself, it really is that set the time in your calendar and keep it. You need to have time to think about things to problem-solve, to strategize, all of that kind of thing. You need to give yourself that space. For my teams, I try and for team members that really are comfortable doing that or don't have time, I'll try and get on a call with them and brainstorm with them and then give them the time and space to take it away and say, look, this is a priority that we solve this or that we find a strategy for this. So we'll start to brainstorm and Hey, why don't you take that away and see what else you can do with it? What else can you come up with? And that's encouraging that creativity time. And hopefully they understand that they can take that and they can take the space to do that. It is a priority and it's a part of their job.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That makes sense. Can you share an example of what it looks like to use your creativity in practice in IT at Compugen?

Catherine Wood: Oh, it's pretty messy. I use a lot of whiteboards. And when we were locked down in the pandemic, one of the first things I did was run out and order. Now I have a lot of easels around, so I have an easel in front of my desk here and by all sorts of big newsprint and colored markers. And so when I do book myself, that time that I need to write it down or I need to see something visually, or I can do a mind map or where I'm just brainstorming with myself and trying to let my mind free flow, different concepts in different words.

Catherine Wood: And then I can sit back and I'm a visual person, obviously I'm a painter, so I can sit back and I can look at it again and from a distance and say, oh yeah, okay, that works or that doesn't work, or, oh yeah. What was I thinking? I'm a visual person. So I use those kinds of mediums to try and work on something creative if I'm doing it just the same as I would, if I'm painting where I'm going to do a bunch of sketches beforehand and sketch it out, what works, what doesn't.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). That makes sense. So let's talk a little bit, shifting gears slightly, when you first transitioned into IT, we talked about the fact that, so you said that was 20 years ago. And you said you were often the only woman in the room. So how much or little would you say that that has changed?

Catherine Wood: It has changed. It's slow, but it has changed. I'm not as often the only woman in the room. Men are more comfortable seeing women in IT. And we're seeing more women in leadership roles in IT, which gives other women the confidence to be able to say, Hey, I can see myself there or I can succeed in this. It's unfortunate. It's still happens where you get questions. But and even just a few weeks ago, I was in a meeting and someone tried to explain to me where the start menu is.

Catherine Wood: He knew we both work in IT. He knows the company I work for. He knows my role. And he's explaining to me how to find the start menu. I don't keep quiet in those situations. I used to when I was younger, but I don't anymore. And I really asked him as politely as possible. I asked him what makes you think that you need to explain to me where the start menu is? And I know he was uncomfortable, he was. But I said, Hey, look, if you're wondering, ask before you explain something like this. So it is changing. When I first started at Compugen, there was no women in upper leadership and there are now, and that goes across the industry. So it's so exciting and women bring new perspectives and new problem solving and new experiences to IT that I think really expands and helps solve the problems of the world that we're all trying to deal with right now. But yeah. There's still ways to go.

Sarah Nicastro: Work to do, yes.

Catherine Wood: Yeah. Work to do.

Sarah Nicastro: What would you say have been the biggest challenges of often being the only woman in the room?

Catherine Wood: Hmm. I often feel, I have to give my resume every time I'm in a new room and I'm asked questions that nobody would think of asking a man, because if he's in that room, he's already qualified to be in that where they see a woman walk in and they think, oh, she can't possibly be technical, or she can't possibly know anything about this. Women get talked over. We still get spoken or talked over in meetings or dismissed or someone will say something and will get ignored. The conversation will just keep going. Those are still challenges that we deal with today.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It's interesting. I mean, you hear a lot about, you hear the term like microaggressions, you know. And it is really true. There's a lot of things that get said that I question, "Would somebody say that to a man?" And it's not always malicious, but that doesn't change the impact of it. And so it's very easy to say or think, oh, they probably didn't mean it that way. But it's still harmful even if there isn't mal-intent behind it.

Catherine Wood: Well, isn't that just the same boys will be boys kind of excuse. Like they didn't mean it that way. Just move on, get over it. If it happened once in my lifetime, I'd get over it.

Sarah Nicastro: Sure.

Catherine Wood: When it happens multiple times a day, it starts to have an impact on me. And maybe it's multiple people during the day and they all didn't mean it. But the challenge is changing everyone's understanding of what that is not dismissing the fact that it has an impact on the people it's happening to.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So you gave the example of the start menu the other day and speaking up about that, and you said you wouldn't have always spoke up. So can you talk a little bit about what do you think helped you find that voice and being more comfortable using it and what might you say to a younger woman who's starting a career in a male dominated field in terms of not maybe waiting as long to speak out or speak up.

Catherine Wood: Hmm. Those are a few different questions in there.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I have a tendency to do that.

Catherine Wood: Okay. Well, let me see. I might start with the second one. What I would say to someone who's younger than me is advice based on what I had to learn, which is first be a sponge, learn everything that you can from every interaction, because there's always something that you're going to take to the next meeting, to the next project so learn everything that you can. And the other thing is, don't worry about it. If you ask a question and you think it's stupid or forgive yourself, if you make a comment and somebody gives you a look like I ask it that, just let it. Forgive yourself, because we are so hard on ourselves that we're going to say the wrong thing or somebody's going to think less of it. Nobody's thinking that. Nobody in the room knows everything. Everybody contributing makes goes towards that shared goal of solving the problem of moving that project to completion of great customer experience, all of those kinds of things.

Catherine Wood: So speak up. Even if you think that it's stupid or it's wrong, it's a bad question, or maybe you're wrong. I was in the room. And so to address the first question, what did it for me was leadership. People who would call someone out in a meeting who hadn't spoken, do a round table at the end of the meeting so that everybody gets a chance to vocalize something. What do you think? And what do you think and what do you think? And leadership that would say, "Hey, Catherine, we haven't heard from you, did you have anything?" "Well, yeah, yeah, I do. And the more you do it, the more confident you get. And so leadership goes a long way towards giving people that confidence, men and women, young men have the same problem. Men and women, giving young people the confidence to speak up and say something in these projects and in these meetings.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's such a good point because some of this issue, the issue of learning to use your voice. Yes. It's something that everyone's personally responsible for. And you want to work on and work on doing well. But that point, I think, is an important one because there are ways that leaders can really help enable that rather than just sitting back and waiting for everyone to miraculously build their own confidence level enough to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. Yeah. I think that's a really good point. And I think it's also a good point that the idea of asking questions. I've shared a story a bunch of times about very early in my writing career. It was actually the first like case that a type article I ever wrote.

Sarah Nicastro: And I didn't understand probably 80% of what the guy said to me in the interview, but I didn't want to seem stupid. And so I just did a lot of aha. And then I tried to write an article based on that. And the copy editor just threw it back at me and said, call him back. And I had to call him back and so it was a good lesson and just asking and once I became comfortable in really any situation, just saying I don't really understand what you mean. Can you explain it to me differently? Or I've never come across someone that wasn't willing and it's helped me learn so much just by being able to, you know, ask for clarification or examples or details, you know?

Sarah Nicastro: And then the final thing, I think is the example that you shared from the other day with that gentlemen. I think it is important to, you said he was uncomfortable and you're probably at a point in your career where you could have just easily ignored it or blown them off. Like, you don't need to point that out to make yourself feel better or different. But I think it is important to do because in a lot of cases, like I said, there's things that get said that it's not ill intent, but it's unnecessary and it shouldn't happen. And so it does take someone who has built up the confidence to speak out so that maybe that person thinks a bit about how they're coming across and can acknowledge that behavior so...

Catherine Wood: Right. And it wasn't trying to... My goal wasn't to make him uncomfortable obviously. But my goal was to gently educate him. Because he wasn't doing it on purpose. He was trying to help. He really thought he was trying to help, but he just was going about it in a way that he needed to think about it a little bit more and be aware of.

Sarah Nicastro: And he was probably uncomfortable because he cared about the fact that he had come across that way.

Catherine Wood: That's right.

Sarah Nicastro: If he was doing it maliciously, he probably wouldn't have been uncomfortable so much as combative or dismissive. I think that discomfort comes from any time you realize you've done something wrong and you care about what you've done. You feel that discomfort. And to your point from earlier, you have to forgive yourself. You do as best as you can until you know, better and then you do better.

Catherine Wood: And then you do better.

Sarah Nicastro: So hopefully that'll help him.

Catherine Wood: Sure.

Sarah Nicastro: A couple other questions. So before you were with Compugen, you changed roles pretty often because you liked variety, you liked new challenges and now you've been with Compugen for 15 years. And so when I asked you what made you stick around, we talked about the culture and how as a woman and especially a working mom, the culture has been a really good fit for you.

Sarah Nicastro: This is a conversation I think is very important because also being a woman and also being a working mom, I started my motherhood in a career, in a workplace that was not a very working mom friendly culture and come to be a part of IFS and to be in this role, it's really honestly changed my life. I mean, it has made me feel that I can excel in both my career and my role as a mom at the same time, without constantly feeling like I'm sacrificing in any area. Of course, it's still a lot to juggle. I mean, we all know that, but it's at least impossible. So can you talk a little bit about as companies look to continue to bring more women into the workplace, particularly into IT roles and things like that, what are some of the aspects of culture that you think are particularly important and beneficial?

Catherine Wood: Well, first and foremost, I would say flexibility. I mean, women are responsible for so much when it comes to the family. Rightly or wrongly, I'm not going to debate that one way or the other at the moment. But at the end of the day, when it comes to dentist appointments, doctor's appointments, dealing with schools, all of those kinds of things, they tend to fall more on the mom, on the woman in the household. And so to be able to have an environment that you've got some flexibility with your schedule, whether that's here's your deadline, you meet your deadline and you figure out how you're going to meet that deadline, or whether it's just, you are in an environment where if you have to say, I have to run out to my child's school, something happened, they just fell off the swing set or something.

Catherine Wood: And you can say that without fearing for your job or that it's going to negatively impact your career. The flexibility that I was afforded in my first few roles went a long way to that. It really gave me a quality of life and feel and quality to my children's life and my family that I could be there for them. And that only made me want to work for Compugen even more and even harder and do everything I could to help the organization succeed. And I think organizations miss that. Some organizations who don't do that really miss the point that doing that will make the employees work so much harder for you.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It pays dividends.

Catherine Wood: It definitely does.

Sarah Nicastro: I really really believe that. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Catherine Wood: Yeah, I do too. Compugen has employees who have been there for well, and I still feel like the new girl at 15 years, because they've got 15, 20, 25, 30. There's a lot of employees that stay and stay for a long time. And that's a real indication of a great corporate culture. So that's a lot of it. The other part of it that made me stay personally is I worked in all these different jobs and different roles and I think this is career number six for me overall.

Catherine Wood: And I like variety. So I don't have a role right now. And I haven't in the last 15 years where it's the same day, every day. I'm not doing the same thing all day, every day, the kind of variety and choose what I'm working on right now. I mean, I have a list that I've been given. I have to do all of this, but I don't have to do it all in a certain order. As long as I get them done by my deadlines or a new problem comes up that I have to solve, or a new project comes out that has a different, so that gives me the variety to keep me interested and keep me excited about what it is I'm doing. And they afforded me opportunities to succeed. Like I have been in multiple roles in Compugen. And so I've been able to feel like I can grow my career, that I'm valued, that I'm respected. All of that is that corporate culture in Compugen specifically which has really kept me here.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I just think it's an interesting dynamic. There's huge conversations happening right now around what will the future of work look like and how are we going to attract and hire and retain talent, all over the board, from leadership all the way to the front line and I think this whole idea of re-examining company culture and really thinking about what your employee experience is like, and is it conducive to the type of experience that the level of talent you want to attract is going to want for themselves? And some of the things we're talking about, it's not trips to Aruba every year and $50,000 bonus. I mean, it's nothing ridiculous that is so important. They are things that are absolutely attainable if people are just willing to reflect and think through and that sort of thing.

Sarah Nicastro: So I think it's important for across the board. I think particularly the idea that we talked about as working moms, I think that we bring a lot to the table, but there's some of those key factors that are going to be extra, extra important. And I think the point you made about being, given that flexibility, making you only care and be more loyal is absolutely true. Okay. Last question for today is as a leader, but I'm also going to ask you as an artist, what are your biggest sources of inspiration?

Catherine Wood: Hmm. People. People are my biggest source of inspiration. As a leader, I really only want to be of service to people. It's about my team. It's about giving them everything they need to succeed personally and to be able to succeed and for the organization to succeed and to guide them and to be of service to them. In my art and creativity, it's still people, it's learning in so many different ways from so many different people. So mentorship means a lot to me. Me mentoring, because you get so much back when you mentor, but also me having a mentor and guidance and different kinds of medium like podcasts and books and other people's experiences. That brings me so much inspiration for where I want to go and what I want to do. People is my biggest source of inspiration. And it's also what I paint. I paint. I do a lot. All of my paintings revolve around the human form and portraiture and things like that. So, yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Very cool. Very cool. All right, Catherine. Well, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. I really appreciate being here.

Catherine Wood: Thank you so much for having me. It's been fun.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks. You can find out more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter @TheFutureOfFS. The Future of Field Service Podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.

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August 9, 2021 | 7 Mins Read

The Microcosm Approach to Realizing Your Company’s Service Potential

August 9, 2021 | 7 Mins Read

The Microcosm Approach to Realizing Your Company’s Service Potential


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

I talk to leaders all the time who are frustrated with their company’s lack of progress when it comes to embracing the potential that Servitization and delivering outcomes holds. This frustration is understandable, but it isn’t surprising – there’s a lot of deep-rooted legacy that holds many companies back from the world of potential that service can bring. On last week’s podcast, I talked about this issue in detail with Scott Weller, partner at Mossrake Group.

Scott was formerly the global leader for the support services business at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a role in which he helped build a multi-billion-dollar IT-as-a-Service business that is now known as GreenLake. In his current role with Mossrake Group, Scott helps companies achieve success in introducing As-A-Service offerings in their own businesses based on the lessons he learned in what works – and what’s doesn’t – during his time at HPE.

According to Scott, the history of most product-centric companies creates an identity that is hard to overcome, both culturally and operationally. “Identity in a company is really around the unwritten rules it gets codified into the business model, so that the value chain aligns to it, and really, the business is optimized for that identity, and even over time, as the business might evolve, identity is what survives,” he says. “And so, if you try to introduce a new business model into an existing business, what can happen is the entire value chain can work against you. The identity becomes a barrier to change.”

As such, creating a new identity – say, as a service versus product business – is a difficult, fundamental shift that, as my conversations with leaders reflect, many organizations are still struggling to come to grips with. “This is why you find a lot of mature product companies either haven’t started on the journey or are working through the journey even though there are clear demand signals from the market,” says Scott. “Just think about the impact – you think about sales, for example. Salespeople have to move from a transactional relationship to one that's continuous and collaborative. And of course, there's the never-ending questions about, how do they get paid? You will find people who strongly believe that anything that leads to a monthly payment must be in the purview of the financial services organization or an external financial partner. And consider product development. You have engineers and product management who identify with making the coolest thing, the fastest thing, the best, the highest quality thing, and now they're asked to be a supporting cast member in an ensemble trying to deliver unique experiences and outcomes.”

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

While we’ve painted a daunting picture, though, it isn’t without hope. Bit by bit, organizations across industries and across the globe are recognizing the demands of the market and the value service holds in differentiation and growth. But the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and this is why Mossrake Group so highly recommends the microcosm approach when it comes to making tangible progress in introducing As-A-Service and outcomes-based service offerings.

“Our view is, having done this in practice, is that the microcosm approach is really the best one. The internal incubator where you start small and take an agile approach is really the best way for us to see this evolution to succeed, because in the end, what this approach does is it allows the new business model to essentially gestate within the existing machine,” Scott explains. “This allows a company to knock down all of the value chain barriers one by one, which is not a small challenge. But when you do it in a microcosm, it's just much easier, and by the time the bigger machine realizes what's going on, the model is entirely proven. And then the question is not whether it works, the question is, how do you go faster?”

The microcosm approach, which we discussed in detail with Schneider Electric who recently worked with Mossrake Group to introduce power-as-a-service, circumvents the often snails-paced acknowledgment of and alignment around an opportunity and enables a “dip your toes in” approach that minimizes the impact of failure should failure occur. But this self-starter approach isn’t without personal risk for the leader that decides to spearhead the effort, and it requires the right mix of some key ingredients:

  • A visionary leader. Someone needs to be willing to take control of building some momentum for this change to take hold. The visionary leader sees the potential of service for the business and is willing to take some personal risk in evaluating and evangelizing its worth for the company to pursue at scale. “Once you have someone who's visionary, by that I mean they can see how this plays out, they're getting the demand signals locally, and they really believe in the idea, then they're willing to put their neck out a bit and have the courage to see it through,” says Scott.
  • Initial pilot customers. To begin, you’re really testing the waters to determine what new value proposition will fit. “First of all, determine, are the demand signals that they are personally seeing representative of the broader market? If so, then what is the opportunity in the market?” says Scott. “And then get down to, okay, well, what do we want to offer here? Define that, build it out, again, using an agile approach, where you don't solve every problem at the beginning, you know that you don't know everything, and you start building.”
  • Enlisting adventurers. A visionary leader can’t go it alone, but in the early days of building this in the microcosm, resource is scarce – so they must enlist the adventurers around them to bring the vision to life. “It's harder than it looks,” says Scott. “You can find people who are really up for it, but they're just bored and aren’t the kind of people that you need at the moment. You look for people who seem to be high energy, always looking for how to do things in a better way. It's almost like you know it when you see it. And even then, not everybody can sustain the level of energy and output.”
  • Test and refinement of the go-to-market. This is where the agile aspect really comes into play. “The presumption is that you have a pretty good idea of the pins that you have to knock down along the way, but you certainly don't know everything. You have a pretty good idea about what will resonate with the market, but there are pieces that you can't know, and you might have to, maybe not do a hard left or right, but you have to be able to shift direction. And especially for the sponsor of a program like this, they have to have a rapport with their peers and management chain that allow them to come in and say, "Hey, listen, what we've learned is we need to shift a little bit to the left or right, and that's got to be okay. That's not going to kill this," right?” explains Scott.
  • Initial wins for internal evangelism. The goal is to be able to provide evidence-based insight that service is a viable future for your company. “In my experience, what happens is once senior management sees this, they're like, "Okay, this is really good, and why aren't you going faster?" At some point in time, after enough work has been done, there should be a hard go-no-go decision, not unlike the classic waterfall model, you do need to prepare for that moment in time where you're going to say, "Okay, we've learned enough. Is this what we really want to do?" Because the next phase will inevitably require more people, more resources, more investment. And especially, if you've built a local successful business, now you want to take it on the road, and take it to other locales and try to build the business in those places,” says Scott.
  • Documentation to expand success outside of the microcosm. If you find success, that success must be able to be replicated across the business. This means that every step you take should be well documented. “This has to be well documented, again, across the value chain, every aspect,” says Scott. “Every aspect is within what we call an operational blueprint, so that when we're no longer involved in the activity, the business is able to survive personnel changes and so on. It's essentially a matter of institutionalizing what you're doing to the point that it will survive personnel changes, and certainly, our involvement coming to an end.”

Now neither Scott nor I can tell you the microcosm approach makes this evolution from product to service easy, but it is a viable, proven method to consider if you feel progress needs to be made at a faster pace. Perhaps you are the next visionary leader? “In storytelling, it's thought that really there are only a few unique themes, like coming of age, or good versus evil. One of them is about courage and tenacity, perseverance. And I would say that that is the theme of moving to as a service and outcomes,” says Scott. “You have to have courage, or some small group of people have to have the courage to think differently, to put themselves out there a little bit, to champion the cause, to fight the good fight to stay with it through and through, and those kinds of people are hard to find. It's much easier to play it safe and let somebody at the top of the company make the big decisions.”

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