By Tom Paquin
This is part of an ongoing series of articles about the current State of Service going into 2022, along with the contributing elements that have and will continue to impact the industry in the years ahead. Read this to get caught up:
While last week we spoke specifically about how the service stack has been impacted by COVID, and gave a fairly comprehensive rundown of the features and functions that define best-in-class, we’re now going to take that towards looking at service software trends as they relate holistically to the product.
We know that service technology, like anything, can get bogged down in the novelty of new and exciting technologies, which are often solutions in search of problems. The last few years have provided us all with the opportunity to separate the gimmick from the true tools for differentiation, and this year, there are certainly some standout insights that we should explore:
Cloud Hype Continues to Wear Off
Is the ubiquity of cloud with us permanently? I would imagine, unless an EMP wipes out all electronic devices tomorrow and Future of Field Service needs to transition to a print publication, that the answer is yes. And while business models for software companies inevitably want you to invest in cloud software (preferably by subscription)l the actual business models of service companies sometimes don’t support that.
Still, forward-thinking companies realize that deployment flexibility is often key. That flexibility keeps your business on a regular update cadence, and ensures that you get the support that you need in the day-to-day. This hybrid-izes the cloud model into a container-oriented model. Containerization offers a greater threshold of control. You can run the cloud instance multi-tenant, on a cloud platform of your choice, or on your private server in the server room. Ultimate flexibility.
Is Automation Coming to the Physical World?
Self-driving cars haven’t taken off with the expedience that one would have anticipated five years ago, but we’ve spoken about how automation will take us to this place eventually, allowing technicians to work, eat, or relax while their van gets them to their next appointment. But we’ve also talked about Roomba-like autonomous workers designed to allow for completely zero-touch service. This has seemed like science fiction, but with delivery, we’ve already reached the era of automated service.
While I don’t expect R2-D2 to roll over to a terminal and fix the hyperdrive, I would expect that within a few years, the concept of a drone supporting shared view and remote assistance will become part of the conversation. Getting a high-level view in energy production, for instance, can safely provide a view for workers to validate and enrich IoT capabilities. This may all sound a bit silly today, but as drones become cheaper, easier to use, and more precise, their first stop will be a service visit.
Do You Have the Big Picture?
We talk about this all the time, but there’s no excuse, in 2021 to not have all of your service processes integrated in your broader stack of technologies.
I will say that I would not advise doing so under a single product banner. What happens with an all-in-one shop is that you end up with a wide breath of superficial functions that require compromises in order to get them to fit into your business. As we’ve noted before, this is why a more specialized solution is more likely to fit the contours of your business. Through integrations, combining that system with your broader infrastructure, you can get a much more effective top-down view of how your service practice fits within the context of your broader business structure. In a world of increased interconnectivity, this is becoming increasingly imperative, which brings me to the final point.
Mobility is a fully mature business function today. As are PCs, tablets connected assets, telephone lines, and numerous additional functions. Both customers and technicians require a unified experience that passes through each of these functions. For customers, this means mastering CE systems. For technicians, this means full mobile functionality and a 1:1 desktop-to-mobile view. Not doing this now means that you’re already falling behind. Service companies owe it to their customers, and their workforce to get this right.