Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. I’m joined today by Darren Roos, CEO of IFS, to talk about all things service and reflect a bit on the most recent iteration of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management. Darren, welcome back to the podcast.
Darren Roos: Thank you, Sarah. Thanks for having me again.
Sarah Nicastro: Yes. Thanks for being here. It’s been another exciting year in many different ways and this marks the sixth consecutive year in a leadership position for IFS on the Gartner MQ for Field Service Management furthest for vision. How are you feeling about the MQ this year?
Darren Roos: Look, Sarah, we’re incredibly committed to our customers and we’ve worked tirelessly with them building capability that’s important for them to be able to run their businesses better. When we see that recognized in the MQs, it’s obviously very satisfying. We have a team that’s constantly thinking about what additional value we can make available to our customers. They’re out there talking to customers, their challenges, day in and day out, and that means that we have a very open communication channel, the customers talk to us and that’s reflected in our vision position. So, very proud, but it’s a reflection, frankly, of the work we do with our customers and then that MQ is a by-product.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, absolutely, and reflecting on the last year, I know everyone’s very tired of talking about COVID, myself included, but it is just an undeniable part of our reality. I will say that not being able to change that fact, it’s made me very proud to be a part of IFS both in how you led the company to handle the impact of the pandemic internally, so the culture we have, and then also how we’ve banded together to help our customers in various industries, various regions handle the complexity that was thrown at them. When you think of the internal and external experiences of the past year, what comes to mind for you?
Darren Roos: Look, I think the key… First of all, thank you. It certainly didn’t feel easy going through it.
Sarah Nicastro: It wasn’t. That’s a fair assessment and it still isn’t, so yeah, for sure.
Darren Roos: I mean, that’s a good point. I think, first of all, it’s not over. Not only is COVID not over, but the repercussions and consequences of the decisions that have been made by governments and companies over the last 18 months will live with us for likely decades to come. At IFS, it was really about communication both with our employees, with the leadership team and then also with our customers. But if I just start with the internally, I was running these monthly fireside chats with the whole company, as you know, it was really about increasing visibility and giving people the opportunity to talk about what was on their minds, what were they concerned about. From an IFS perspective, the direction that we took, as you know, was to make sure that we protected jobs. I didn’t want to be in a situation where we were having to make people redundant during COVID when they would be at their most vulnerable.
Darren Roos: Job security was my number one priority. And then, in reality, the business continued to grow and our customers saw value in what we were doing. In that dialogue with customers, immediately became apparent that there were ways in which they needed us to change what we were doing to be able to navigate these wild fluctuations in demand and work circumstances, so different demand and different work circumstance. Can we take a couple of examples of that with, for example, the technology like our IFS Remote Assistance, with Munters, they needed this remote assistance capability urgently to continue to run their business. We did the initial deployment in just six days and now we’re expanding that remote assistance globally where we’ll finish the full roll out globally in the next couple of weeks, and that includes build technicians, third line support who are using the solution on their existing mobile devices.
Darren Roos: We also had experts guiding customers and people internally on the opening of new production lines, for example, in their manufacturing facility in the Czech Republic. So, crazy levels of innovation within the business, but really rapid. That was capability that we had, but frankly, we just hadn’t been as much demand, but because we had this dialogue, we were able to identify areas that we could help customers. So, that’s one example. Panasonic was another one where Panasonic heating and cooling systems had been piloting remote assistance in the UK and in Germany. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Super interested in the technology throughout Panasonic and, in the pilot, it’s super interesting how you learn new things that in addition to driving service consistency by having this remote capability, it also enabled them to capture and transfer knowledge while retaining technical insights that they just didn’t have before that they’re now used to educate and upskill their workforce.
Darren Roos: Just everything that we’re doing has changed but it comes down to communications then close to our customers, close to the employees and finding ways in which we could help employees and then help customers.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. When I think about the communication side, it’s a lot of honesty. I think about those fireside chats and that’s one of the things I liked about them is you weren’t pulling any punches, there wasn’t this facade of everything’s great guys. I mean, it was an acknowledgement that, “Hey, this is a really hard experience for us all to go through, and let me try and tell you as much as I know about the current moment, knowing it’s all probably going to change again before tomorrow.” I think, in the same way, our customers had to get very honest with us. Munters, for example, they had this on their roadmap, but just to your point, hadn’t been an urgent priority. It was something they were prioritizing a bit ahead. The idea of them calling IFS up and saying, “Hey, we need this, but we need it right now,” and being able to say, “Okay, what do we need to do to adapt internally to be able to boom? If this is going to help them, let’s get it done.” The speed of that is full.
Sarah Nicastro: But also, I don’t want to say things have normalized. I just think, what does that even mean? I mean, that’s a whole different conversation, but what’s cool about Munters and another example is Alfa Laval. They also turned to remote assistance for business continuity, but they are evolving that use as the business needs change. Where it was we cannot travel, we need a way to do remote service as our lifeline, once travel became an option again, it’s not we don’t need this anymore. It’s great. This is awesome. We have it. How do we evolve its use to become a part of our service delivery and our overall strategy?
Darren Roos: It’s a great sustainability angle there also which every company on the planet today is thinking about ways in which they can reduce their carbon footprint by which they can run their businesses more sustainably. Travel is a huge carbon polluter and I don’t know a single executive that doesn’t have this on their agenda today and finding ways, as you say, in which they could sustainably change that dynamic of travel is huge. Massive. For people who aren’t in service, you think about travel as transcontinental travel. But when you have thousands of tens of thousands of technicians that are driving around in polluting vehicles and historically the narrative would have been, can we convert these to electric, and now all of a sudden, because of COVID, you actually know you can do this remotely, that’s a massive benefit and we definitely see loads of examples of that.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It’s a super good point. I mean, I’ve had a lot of conversations just over the last few weeks, one with Bureau Veritas, one with Tetra Pak, one with the Advanced Services Group at Aston, all around the shift people seeing in sustainability being a key factor to the driving factor in a lot of these decisions, technology investments, et cetera. I think that there’s conversations I’ve had around the goal isn’t all service be remote service, but when you’re sending technicians out in a truck to drive however many hours or miles or kilometers, and for them to just say, “Yep, I went to figure out what’s wrong, didn’t have what I needed to fix it so I’ll go back next week.” You know what I mean? The idea of how much of that that is inefficient and unnecessary that can be eliminated is just astounding. Okay. It’s been a crazy year and a lot of it has been challenging, but there’s been a lot of good things going on too.
Sarah Nicastro: When it comes to the momentum that IFS has internally and related to service, we have not slowed down. We’ve just kept full speed ahead and then some. Can you talk about, you know, some of the highlights of the last year that I’m sure have had a big contribution to our leadership position?
Darren Roos: Yeah. Look, again, thanks to our customers, we’ve experienced a fantastic growth, significant growth in service management in particular, 2020 was another triple digit growth year. We demonstrated agility as we responded to these crazy needs that we just talked about in the way the market changed in providing solutions that were more relevant to customers and help them keep the business on track. We didn’t just hunk it down and this year we are continuing the growth and transformation plan. We’re completing our own digital transformation by implementing IFS cloud within our own business. We obviously have Clevest having joined the family in the utilities service management and asset management space, Axios in the IT service management space and Customerville customer satisfaction surveys, and those are just three of the acquisitions that we’ve done over the last 18 months. They’re all connected by our goals to support companies as they evolve their own business towards servitization.
Darren Roos: We fully relaunched the IFS branding and our new product, IFS Cloud, obviously has come to market. In fact, we’re coming up to the second release already now in October. Customers can see that this is why they’re choosing IFS and providing the most incredible feedback to analysts like Gartner, et cetera, and others as we see in the MQ.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It’s funny, I was thinking one of the calls I was on this morning, someone says, “How’s it going?” I’m like, “It’s insane.” The pace is crazy, but for me, it’s energizing. I think that all of these things are very visible in the industry as to what is going on behind the scenes and it’s fun and it’s exciting, and it’s all to your point geared toward what is the best value we can deliver to the customers, what do they need, how do we continue evolving to meet those needs and I just think that that’s really cool.
Darren Roos: I think if I can comment on that. Every business leader deals with this challenge of change management. We are compelled to continue to evolve the business. There’s a great Jack Welch quote around the pace of change in a business. Effectively, he says that when the pace of change outside the organization is greater than the pace of change inside the organization, the end is near. I think we can all relate to that. Even COVID aside, the landscape around if we think about the topics that we’re talking about here, technology and servitization, they are rapidly changing. If you are static and you’re not evolving, then you will not be competitive and you will likely not exist. But, the counterpoint to that is that people are naturally resistant to change. Employees don’t want to be doing something different all the time.
Darren Roos: It is difficult to continuously train people and make them aware of new technologies and new capabilities. It’s difficult to continuously evolve and change your business model. These are tickets to the game today and I think it’s the organizations that have embraced technology to support the business, that have an appetite to change and evolve that are the ones that are most likely to succeed. It’s the old Darwinian Theory of Evolution. It is the ones that evolve that survive, and that’s what we’re seeing. During times like this, that pace of change is much quicker and therefore much more difficult to manage.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I haven’t shared this with you, Darren, but I’ve tossed around the idea in my head multiple times and at some point I’ll get to it. It’s just something that would take up some significant concentration, but the journey that you’ve been on for the last three years at IFS, three and a half, and the journey that a lot of our customers are on in service really parallels one another in a lot of ways. This idea of disruption and innovation and change, and how do you modernize a company culture, and how do you put people at ease and bring people along on the journey and equip them with the training and knowledge they need and all of those different things, I mean, there’s a lot of what we are going through as an organization that gives us a real sense of empathy for what our customers are going through as they face a lot of that same thing.
Sarah Nicastro: The shift to servitization or outcomes-based service or advanced services, I mean, it is a foundational shift in how a company does business and it’s far bigger than just technology or just focusing more on service. I mean, there’s layers and layers of everything that has to evolve. I think it’s an interesting parallel that I’d like to explore a bit more at some point. Okay. One of the other things that was introduced in the last year is IFS’s messaging around Moment of Service. I absolutely love this messaging. Tell me a little bit what that means to you as it relates to us and how we serve our customers.
Darren Roos: When the idea was initially pitched to me and as you probably know, Sarah, we didn’t hire an agency to do this. We got a focus group of employees together, people that we felt were at the right mindset to be able to shape where we would go in the future and they did a load of work, and then we came up with that Moment of Service messaging. When I heard it the first time, it immediately resonated with me because what we recognize is that every single one of us understands the concept of the Moment of Service. We’ve all, whether it’s buying a car and having that delivery, or whether it’s having the, I don’t know what you guys call it in the U. S., a boiler or geyser, the thing that makes hot water break down and then call a service company and the technician arrives, and you’ve got hot water again to stick the kids in the bath. We’ve all had that moment of service. The next step is appreciating and realizing that every single business has moments of service. When you’re able to shape a business by helping them to create outstanding moments of service, which is what we do, it’s the reason we exist, is to help businesses in the industries that we operate to orchestrate the parts of their business, their assets, their people, their customers, to orchestrate those to create outstanding moments of service.
Darren Roos: That’s a fantastic thing to be able to do. When we think about the ways in which we’ve built out technology and the acquisitions that we’ve made with customable, being able to listen to our customer’s customer at that moment of service and validate that we’ve given an amazing moment of service is really important. A lot of people think this is about us offering outstanding moments of service. Of course, that is important, and we measure our moments of service. Much more importantly, this is about how we help our customers create outstanding moments of service for their customers. They can be no doubt that if you stay close to your customers and you can create those amazing moments of service, then you have a sustainable business model. That’s simple.
Sarah Nicastro: When I first heard this message, I immediately saw in my mind moment of service, but the word could rotate. So, moment of impact, moment of opportunity, moment of differentiation, moment of influence. There’s all these things that that moment represents for businesses both that are trying to really optimize and protect and master that moment, but also those who are looking at how to evolve and innovate what that moment means for their business. I just think that I love the term because I think it can represent so many different things and is just super, super important, and really reinforces the really immense power that the frontline worker has in helping you carry out your service objectives, which I think is a whole another topic that’s super important.
Sarah Nicastro: Okay. I realize I’m a service nerd and probably get a little bit overly excited about all of the potential and innovation and opportunity, but, trust me, I didn’t think I would be here either. When I started and didn’t know what field service was, I certainly didn’t envision myself 14 years later being still fired up about this stuff. But, I think it is something that I get really excited about because I think that we’ve only just begun. Both IFS, I truly believe, and also the innovation and the evolution and transformation that’s taking place, you know what I mean, we’re there, but we’ve really only scratched the surface of all of the potential. Looking at the future and all of that opportunity, what do you think you would list as our biggest strengths and differentiators for helping our customers really seize that service opportunity?
Darren Roos: There’s a few things I would talk about here but let me just start by saying that I agree a hundred percent. I think that we are at the beginning of a very long continuum of service improvement and artificial intelligence and machine learning, and next generation analytics, IOT, all provide for provide incredible opportunities for us to significantly improve what service means across virtually every industry, and anyone that asserts that it’s just about the human touch, just doesn’t understand it at all. There is so much that we can do and ways in which the insights and technologies that are available to us today that simply weren’t available in the past, it really changes the game. So, the key things though, the ways that I think IFS specifically impacts the service capability is, the first thing is that orchestrating this capability across an organization, I said earlier, customers, assets, your employees is incredibly hard.
Darren Roos: What’s happened in the IT industry over the last decade, particularly, is a massive fragmentation of that IT landscape. If you go back further than 10 years ago, we had quite large monolithic systems that were integrated single data model, single UX, and that in some ways, while it was clunky and it was slow move, it was integrated at least. At least you have the idea of a single view of those three elements, customers, assets, people was potentially possible. With the advent of cloud and the fragmentation of the IT landscape, nobody’s solving that, there’s no standards, which means that the complexity of integration falls to customers and that is incredibly difficult to do. The first thing is that IFS cloud is one single solution and it supports this idea that we can provide a single view of our customers, single view of service, and enable customers to orchestrate these reports. However, we recognize that not every customer is going to start from scratch.
Darren Roos: Not every customer wants everything from IFS, and therefore we approach it from a very integration centric, API centric approach supporting the idea of a composable enterprise, but whereas, idealistically, you want to be able to do that with 50 disparate applications, one for HR, one for procurement, one for travel and expense management, one for service, one for finance, you can carry on forever. That’s not really practical unless you’re in an enormous company and you have thousands and thousands of people in it. What we give customers the ability to do, and this is the most common use case for us is that they will run a chunk of their business on IFS that might be asset management and field service management, it might be ERP and field service management and ITSM, it might be ITSMs and service management, but at least we give them the ability to have this platform on which they can then add on other things. So, that single solution is incredibly important.
Darren Roos: Next thing, and I touched on the role of innovative new technologies, digital twins, low code development environments, embedded analytics, artificial intelligence, all of these are capabilities that we bring to the customer natively in the platform. This is newer technologies that many customers that perhaps are a little bit less sophisticated are saying, “You know, how do I leverage artificial intelligence or machine learning or IOT or digital twins in my business when I don’t have a thousand people in it. And I don’t have a budget of billions to go and do a massive POC.” We bring that capability in a very pragmatic way to our customers today. So, single platform innovation embedded, not attached, embedded. And then the third thing is choice where we offer customers the ability to deploy either on premise or in the cloud. We offer them choice around who deploys.
Darren Roos: It could be us; it could be one of many partners, and we’ve worked very hard across those elements to provide customers choice, not being overly prescriptive, not saying you’re going to have it in the cloud, you can’t configure this application beyond the very tight parameters that we’ve given you and you’re going to take an upgrade every year or plus a year, et cetera, et cetera. That’s not the way we think about it. We offer them choice because we recognize the complexity of that heterogeneous IT landscape and we’re not saying we’re going to be overly prescriptive. I think those are the three big things, choice, innovation embedded and single platform to reduce that complexity of integration.
Sarah Nicastro: It’s interesting. Our customers are all very heavily focused on improving their customer experience, and so when I think about the fragmentation you described, the first thing I think about is all of the failure points that that surfaces for areas where they are likely to drop the ball on their customer experience. This idea of more cohesiveness and simplification, elimination of unnecessary failure points, all of those things are so, so important and I just want to urge listeners, I don’t know the number off the top of my head, but I did a podcast interview with Pekka from Cimcorp who is leveraging IFS Cloud and the insights he had on their more modern IT strategy were just spot on, I think, in where people need to head to. I certainly would recommend anyone go listen to that. Darren, I have two more questions and I know we’re almost out of time, so we’ll try and keep them really brief. Six years and running as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management, what is going to be the key for us maintaining that status?
Darren Roos: Look, I think I’m actually going to go back to something that you said now and answer a question that I’d rather answer here than that one because maintaining that status actually for me, is not an objective. Making sure that our customer is happy is an objective that I’d want to maintain, but you touched on this voice of customer and the customer satisfaction, and how do they make sure that their customers are happy. Actually, I think it’s a pretty simple equation. For me, and I’ll use IFS as an example as a company. We run IFS. We also run a host of other applications because IFS doesn’t do everything. We run a very heterogeneous application suite. Everything’s in the cloud, everything’s integrated. The way we think about it is that we offer moments of service to our customers and we’ve identified, I think it’s seven or eight different areas where we provide and we endeavor to provide an outstanding moment of service to our customer.
Darren Roos: That could be, if we just think about our business, during the sales cycle, it could be when we respond to a request for some work, when we’re in the implementation phase, when we go live, et cetera. There are these moments of service and what are the critical things that we’ve done is that we’ve leveraged Customerville, which we now acquired, but prior to acquiring Customerville to listen to our customer’s feedback at those moments of service, and now we know whether we’re doing well. I think it’s a much simpler equation. I think, just going back to your question of this complexity is that every business leader goes, what are the moments of service that I provide and am I listening to my customers at that moment of service to know whether I’m doing a good job or not?
Darren Roos: If I’m not, let’s get real-time feedback so I can fix it. And then, we have the capability to orchestrate the bits of the business that I need to fix it. Not as complicated as many people would make it out to be. I think we provide that capability, but I think technology aside that for me is got to be the aspiration. That only anyone’s going to argue that whether you’re building carports or whether you’re a pest control company killing bugs, or whether you’re a mining company, you all have a customer and every one of them is trying to delight their customer. If they offer their customer outstanding moments of service, then they will get more customers.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, absolutely. All right. Last question, Darren is, in this wild, challenging, but also exciting last year, what’s the biggest lesson that you as a leader have learned?
Darren Roos: We touched earlier on the communication and I think, historically, I’ve relied a lot on my ability to get out and see people face to face and meet them and get to know them, and all of a sudden that luxury wasn’t there. I think that it became incredibly important for me to be able to make it clear where are we today, where are we headed and how is each person expected to help us get there. There’s a few different dimensions to this. There’s clarity for everyone and where we are, there’s clarity for everyone on how we get there. Everybody has different roles though. It starts to become quite difficult on how do you make sure that you’re communicating effectively across the various functions of the business, how somebody makes a contribution. But, we did a lot of this. We did a lot of talking. I think we’ve got to the point where I was pretty sure people were tired of hearing from me, but it was very important to me that we over communicated and that everybody understood the role that they would play in taking IFS to where we were going.
Darren Roos: In the feedback that I’ve had, it’s proven to be more important because people were suffering with mental health issues, people were struggling with the fact that they couldn’t get out there, almost caged, and the fact that they had a sense of importance, that they understood the role that they would play, that there was a bigger cause underpinned by this job security topic that I spoke about right at the beginning really made a difference. Frankly, I was just trying to figure out how to do it. There was no genius involved. I think I got lucky. I had a great leadership team that, together, we coached each other through it.
Darren Roos: One thing I would add, and I’m not just saying this for effect, but I learned more from our customer CEOs than anybody else. I continue to talk to our customers. Many of them shared fantastic ideas of how they were responding to the crisis. In fact, our initial actions when we responded and what we did right out of the gate was based on a customer that I spoke to and some guidance that they offered me on what they were doing. So, really appreciative to everyone who shared their ideas with me. That was the big thing, super communicate, over communicate, make it clear where we’re going, have people understand where they are now and how they can individually contribute.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I love that illustration of the power of community, and how you’re connecting with them and taking just as much from those interactions as you’re trying to give. I think that’s really cool. Darren, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Thanks for being on. You can find more on all things service at www.futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter @thefutureoffs. The Future of Field Service podcast is, of course, published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.