When CRM giant Salesforce decided to enter the field service management market with the launch of Field Service Lightning earlier this year, it surprised many by licensing a significant part of the functionality from an existing vendor, ClickSoftware. Turning to Click for complex capabilities such as scheduling and optimization meant that Salesforce was able to shortcut its time to market, but it was an unusual move by a vendor that rarely holds back from acquiring the products and skills it needs to expand its product footprint.
Click, which supports Salesforce with dedicated development resources, is only just getting used to being a cloud vendor itself. Founded 20 years ago, its history is as a conventional on-premise software vendor. Until this year, the only way to get its software from the cloud was to have a hosted instance — or to sign up for its Salesforce-native ClickWorkForce app, which debuted on the AppExchange in 2013.
That all changed in January this year when it launched Field Service Edge, a fully multi-tenant cloud platform, which Click hosts on Amazon Web Services. The company has poured all of its learning from the past 20 years into the new cloud product, says CEO Tom Heiser:
Service Edge is taking two things. It's taking a brand-new, fresh, multi-tenant cloud platform developed from scratch — and taking twenty years of knowledge and experience off of our prior versions, and combining those two into an incredibly powerful platform.
So how do customers choose between the Salesforce Field Service Lightning product and Click's own Field Service Edge? Heiser, who I spoke to during Click's EMEA conference in Richmond-on-Thames last week, believes existing customers of Salesforce Service Cloud will see the Salesforce-native product as a natural add-on:
If they're a Service Cloud customer, it makes it a lot easier to add Field Service Lightning to that.
I think that the original intent was that we [Click] would be working on the more complex environments that probably required more customization and more services. I think that Salesforce is really, really good at rapid deployments and implementing what's available [out of the box]. So I think that there is a natural bifurcation along those lines in terms of simple, rapid, perhaps a little bit more down market, versus larger, more complex, heavier service requirements.
And once again at the [enterprise] level, are they a Service Cloud customer? That makes it much easier. They can implement Field Service Lightning if they aren't, but I think you're going to see the vast majority of [implementations] going on to existing Service Cloud customers.
The market for field service management software is seeing such explosive growth that the two vendors are unlikely to find themselves bumping into each other very much. Heiser quotes a recent Markets and Markets research report that forecasts a 21% compound annual growth rate until the year 2020, with the global value of the market rising from $2 billion to $5 billion in just five years.
Click's traditional competition in the on-premise world has been TOA Technologies, which Oracle acquired in 2014 and SAP's field service management tools, along with various smaller players, such as IFS. Salesforce-native ServiceMax is a significant player in the Salesforce ecosystem. So as the market moves to cloud solutions, there's all to play for.
Heiser says that managing a field service organization used to be all about visibility and cost management, and more recently process optimization. But that moment when the engineer is in front of the customer has now become such an important touch point, enterprises want to maximize the value of that interaction, and ideally differentiate their service by outperforming expectations.
Many of our customers bring Click on to help improve efficiencies, lower costs — the ROI is compelling in terms of the investment and what the cost savings are. But every single one of them I talk to has [said] 'But we need to drive and improve customer satisfaction along with that journey as well.'
We're working with them on this movement to differentiating through the overall total customer experience, which is largely led by this service interaction. Many of our customers, the only face-to-face interaction is with their field service professional. Companies want to make this just an exceptional experience.
First of all, did they show up on time? Are they doing a better job than giving you a four hour window with which to show up? How professional was the individual? Were they trained? Were they able to fix it? Did they have spare parts? ...
If we can help customers go from a four-hour window, down to a two-hour window, down to a one-hour window, then ultimately — predicting through street level routing and Google Maps — with the van showing up literally down to the minute. How helpful would that be? That's a game changer. That is a massive paradigm shift in field service.
A readiness to embrace new technologies has been characteristic of Click, which drives its development from Israel, where the company was founded. Machine intelligence was an important part of its optimization engine right from the earliest days, and the company's proprietary AI is still core to the product. Better analytics and more predictive capabilities are the goal here, says Heiser.
Click moved early to support mobile devices as they were rolled out to field service teams. Now it's working on Internet of Things projects and partnering with wearables vendors to enable augmented reality and other capabilities. During Heiser's keynote last week, the product demonstration was driven through an Amazon Echo device, showing off voice control of the application. Another demonstration shows a Click product that ties into Google maps so that customers can monitor the service technician's progress towards them and estimated time of arrival — the company calls this the 'Uberization' of field service.
Moving to the cloud will help Click accelerate the pace of innovation, says Heiser, with two major releases a year and minor updates most months.
We're going to have a rapid cadence of innovation and pumping it back out to the platform.
It's flexibility, it's performance, it's ease of implementation, it's being able to leverage the latest innovation that's coming out of Click.
It's all the benefits of cloud, packaged up into a consumption model that customers want today.
Meanwhile, large numbers of Click customers remain on on-premise versions of its software and the company accepts they will choose to move to the cloud at their own pace. It's currently continuing to support on-premise deployment.
Frequent refreshes on the cloud platform will help to encourage customers to make the move, but they'll want to be sure that it will still meet their specific needs. One challenge the vendor will have to master is prioritizing enhancements that benefit multiple customers, Heiser admits.
Is what this customer wants unique? Or is it a brilliant idea that our customer base will all want and it's something that I think we need to work on and understand? If it's a one-off, then we'll work with that customer specifically.
An interesting insight into one of Salesforce's most surprising ISV partnerships.