Sarah starts the New Year off with her recap of the highlights of 2021 and a look ahead at the topics she’s excited to dig into in 2022.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro.

Happy New Year! When this episode airs, it will be the first week of 2022. As you can tell by the bits of North Pole behind me, I’m recording this at the end of December. So, we’re going to do an episode today just talking a bit about the highlights of 2021 and some of my thoughts around the headlines I’d like to see in 2022.

So, I’m often asked for predictions and I’m not a fan of predictions for a couple reasons. One is none of us can predict what’s coming. I think COVID has been a case study in that, right? We never really know what’s coming. The second is I think when you look at the topics that we cover here at Future of Field Service, we’re really talking about a continuation of a lot of themes, a maturation of trends that is coming together and culminating to really bring immense opportunity to the industry.

So when I’m asked for predictions, I always feel this pressure to come up with something new or unexpected, when in reality I think a lot of the headlines that we’ll see in 2022 are growth and progression on trends that we’ve been talking about for a bit.

So, those are the things we’re going to dive into today. So, highlights of 2021. The first I would say is we survived. I don’t know that any of us expected to still be in the situation we’re in right now with the pandemic, but we’re here and we’re plugging along and we are getting things done. We’ve found a way to persist through all of this, and so that’s what we’re going to continue doing one day at a time.

We did have the opportunity to get back to some face-to-face events in 2021, and I myself thoroughly enjoyed that. I was able to attend the Service Council Symposium in Chicago in September, Field Service Palm Springs in November, and I was also able to take my first trip out of the country since COVID began to visit the Netherlands to attend IFS Connect, and provide a keynote there, which was a really wonderful experience. I had the opportunity to connect with some folks face-to-face that I had thus far only met through Zoom and Teams. So, that was certainly a highlight for me to be able to get back to engaging face-to-face.

We are up to, I believe at the end of 2021, 143 three episodes of this here podcast, which I just am so thankful for. The ability to have these conversations and share them with you all, the wonderful, wonderful guests that I’ve had on and gotten to know, really. It’s just been a very fulfilling experience for me, and I hope you all have enjoyed being along for the ride.

The other thing that I really enjoyed about the podcast in 2021 is we had the opportunity to really diversify some of the guests. So, we had folks from really all over the world. We had folks from Malaysia and Singapore and Australia and Finland and Iceland, and so I just really, really have enjoyed that as well. Getting to see how the trends and conversations differ from region to region across the globe, and also just getting to know some of the wonderful people that I’ve gotten to know.

I have had the pleasure throughout 2021 of running a customer community group at IFS, and that has been a wonderful experience for me as well. I have a group of just about 40 folks that we have actually met very frequently in 2021 about twice a month, and we have focus groups of an hour at a time where we come together and talk about different business trends and challenges and opportunities. Really just in a situation where we all haven’t been able to travel for quite some time, we started these to really have that sense of community and connection and to be able to build collective knowledge, and it’s been just a wonderful experience.

So there’s much, much more that happened in 2021 that was fantastic, and if I were to try and go through every highlight, we would be here for a very long time. But it was a good year and I appreciate you all being a part of this podcast. I’m incredibly thankful for the wonderful guests that joined me on Future of Field Service throughout the year, and there was a lot of great highlights.

So, if we shift gears and talk about 2022 headlines. I’m not going to say predictions, I’m going to say headlines. So, the way that I put this together was to think about some of the conversations I’ve had throughout the past year, throughout the past years really, and how I would like to see those progress in 2022. The conversations I’m very interested to continue and see evolve essentially is what I’m looking at here.

The first is a whole host of topics really around the employee experience and employee engagement. I think we all know that the great resignation is posing immense challenges for industry, after industry, after industry, region, after region, after region and business after business. It’s an issue that I think has been a long time coming, but is becoming critical for folks to address. There’s some different layers to this, right?

I think if you look at some of the content that we’ve done throughout 2021 as a platform to start the discussion this year, we’ve had some wonderful conversations. You look at the responsibility of organizations to become more creative in how they recruit and hire and what their employee experience looks like.

I actually have a podcast episode coming up that hasn’t yet been released with Roy Dockery. He was one of my first guests on the podcast, I think it was episode two. We sort of had this conversation I think before folks were ready to hear it, and we recently revisited that conversation and that podcast will be coming to you soon. But his point is as businesses in this space, we need to take more responsibility for solving this problem, rather than just kind of dwelling in it. So, that’ll be coming.

We took a look at how companies are doing that, right? So Tetra Pak, Bonnie from Tetra Pak joined, that was episode number 85. We had Bureau Veritas come on and talk about how they’re building the future of work. That was episode 129. So, those are episodes that are great to go back to and sort of think about how we can continue this conversation in 2022.

I think the topic of mental health is going to be very important for us to address this year. I know that I talk about this quite a bit myself, because I like to normalize the conversation and share my own experiences, but I think collectively when we look at the impact this has had on all of us, this being the pandemic, it’s just every everyone’s tired, everyone is a bit worn and a bit burned out. I think that as employers and as businesses, we really need to elevate the way we are considering how we can help related to mental health.

I had a great episode with Jordan from QIAGEN, that’s episode 105, and he was very open about how he has realized this is such an important issue with his team. He’s in Australia and some of the things he’s done, and so this is a conversation, I think, that’s going to be imperative. Also just leadership, right? What are we doing to create a culture within our companies that employees want to be a part of, that they feel fulfilled and they are happy and they want to stay, right? We can’t force people to stay in role, but we need to look at what we’re doing to impact that.

A couple other episodes I’d point out. Just recently I had an episode with Karin Hamel from Schneider Electric. Episode 140, where we talked about five areas of focus she’s considering when she looks at building the future of the frontline workforce. Also had an episode with Lauren Winans, who is the CEO of Next Level Benefits, she’s a consultant in this space, about creating a strong employee value proposition. That’s episode 132. So, all of those will be great things to check out if you have some time to go back and kind of set the stage for where we can take that conversation this year.

The next area is really around digital. Again, this is kind of an umbrella with a lot of different sublayers, right? But I think the idea here is I anticipate 2022 is going to be the year that it clicks for a lot of companies that they need to become far more strategic in their digital strategy, right? So, companies know that they need to be deploying digital tools and they need to be considering the digital experience and things like that, but it’s still very disconnected. It’s still in many cases, not in all cases, of course.

So I think there’s a lot of sort of refinement, I also think this is an area where some businesses are going to realize … I wrote an article last year called It is Time for A Digital Rebirth? So, I think it may also be a situation where folks realize that they need to go back and kind of start fresh in certain instances.

Some of the podcasts from 2021 that are kind of great lead-ups to continuing this conversation in 2022. One is a conversation I had with Pekka from Cimcorp, that’s episode 110. His was a conversation really around modernizing our approach to IT, which again, I think is a very important subset or pillar of sort of becoming more adept at digital.

I had an episode with Russell who was formerly with Rolls-Royce, Russell Masters. That’s episode 128, and we talked about the need for more digitally-adept leaders, which is super important. I had an episode with Eduardo Bonefont from BD, episode 139, who told a really interesting story about how related to their digital tools and digital investment specifically, they decided to press pause and take a chunk of time to kind of reflect on what was already in place and address some employee feedback.

Which the idea of what’s your digital reputation among your employees, and are you making decisions with their best interests and their voice in mind are very, very important things. The elimination of silos as it relates to digital strategy, I think, will be an important conversation to continue, and evolving into how are we leveraging digital and data to tell stories, and how does that result in new and different employee value propositions? So, lots to discuss there.

The other big topic that I’m excited to continue exploring is the progression on As-a-Service and outcomes-based service offerings. Had some great episodes last year with Kaer. That’s Dave Mackerness, episode 136, told the story of how they have evolved to a completely As-a-Service business, wonderful, wonderful insights.

Schneider Electric Australia shared their story in a two-part series, 113 and 114 of how they kind of tackled it in a microcosm approach and made a big impact in their region that will spread across the business. I did an episode with Kevin from TSIA on some of the myths around As-a-Service, so there’s some great stuff to dig into there.

Towards the beginning of last year, I had an episode with Tim Baines from the Advanced Services Group talking about the blueprint for servitization. I also had a great episode last year, number 104, with Jennifer Deutsch from Park Place Technologies. She’s their CMO and she came on talking specifically about the marketing of services and service businesses, and it was super interesting. I think that’s another area that as we evolve the business models and the go-to-market strategy, there’s a lot to consider around how are we communicating this evolution to our customers in a way that will resonate? So, lots of cool stuff to discuss.

Finally, I’m super excited to continue the conversation around sustainability. This is of growing concern and interest across the globe, that we had a few episodes in 2021 to sort of initiate this conversation. One was with Sasha Ilyukhin from Tetra Pak talking about the intersection of service and sustainability. It was episode 131. Similar conversation in terms of that intersection with Bureau Veritas, episode 133.

Had on Dr. Andreas Schroeder of the Advanced Services Group at Aston Business School. He was on a few times this year. He’s a great person to talk with, but specifically 127 was about this topic. So, I think that’s also an area that there’s so much to dive into both related to how companies improve their own efforts around sustainability and how that also translates into new service offerings for customers.

So I’ve been doing this for a while, and I’ve been in this space for a while and I often get asked how do you keep writing about this stuff? Don’t you get bored? It’s all of these layers that exist in each of these topics. There’s these sort of buzzwords or these categories of conversation that people know are important, or have heard, digital transformation or As-a-Service. It’s really when you dig into those things and you start to talk to people that have done it or are doing it and understand all of the layers that go into that type of change and that type of transformation. That’s what makes it interesting for me, that’s what keeps it interesting, and I’m thrilled to be here sharing that all with you.

So I look forward to some great, insightful, fruitful, actionable conversations this year. Thank you so much for joining me here on the Future of Field Service Podcast. I know it’s been around for three years now, which is hard to believe, and I’m looking forward to a wonderful 2022. So happy new year, thank you for being here, and I’ll speak with you all again soon.