Salesforce/ServiceMax detente continues with Asset 360 field service launch

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan September 1, 2020
Summary:
The first fruit of Salesforce Ventures investment in ServiceMax appears in its asset-centric form.

Image of Neil Barua ServiceMax CEO
(Image sourced via ServiceMax)

Back in February, the relationship between field service ‘frenemies' ServiceMax and Salesforce took an interesting turn when Salesforce Ventures joined forces with ServiceMax's owner Silver Lake to pump $80 million into the field service management firm. It was a new era of detente, it seemed. At the time, ServiceMax CEO Neil Barua told me:

Our product teams will spend considerable time thinking about what are great things that Salesforce is doing on their platform, or with AI, that when we look at the asset-centric use cases that ServiceMax is focused on, what can we do and build together, or collectively do things that can make that use case a lot better in terms of value to the customer? What didn't happen up until today was those teams weren't talking to each other.

Flash forward to today and things have evolved as Barua explains:

Particularly with COVID…and ultimately the 39 million technicians that are really relying on us right now as essential workers that need to have the right tools to do their jobs to keep the world running, two competitors have put their brains together, put aside their differences and really focused on the customer. Right now, particularly in this day and age where people and companies need to reach across the aisle, we've done that with Salesforce, and now we're going to really accelerate jointly our approach to the marketplace.

What that means in practice is the launch of a new offering, ServiceMax Asset 360 for Salesforce, available from November this year, combining ServiceMax's asset-centric background with the wider Salesforce Field Service offering. According to the formal pitch document, the resulting operational benefits are laid out to be:

  • Accelerating time-to-value to support asset-centric business processes with pre-configured templates and industry best practices.
  • Gaining greater visibility into warranty coverages and improving service margin by preventing uncovered work with warranty and entitlement management.
  • Maximizing contract attach rates and renewals by monitoring the install base to ensure warranty-to-contract conversion while delivering on entitlements.
  • Automating RMA/depot repair processes to efficiently manage returns, meet compliance and lower inventory costs with purpose-built interfaces.

Two products

ServiceMax says it will continue to "offer, support and invest in bringing new technologies to its existing Core platform", but it's clear that the focus will increasingly move onto Asset 360 over time. Barua tells me:

Asset 360 is very nascent. We're just launching that. It will take some time to gain maturity in terms of all the bells and whistles...There's a timeline by which parity occurs. If the customer during their transition path of moving to a new technology platform needs something immediately, they will look potentially at Core...We will continue to offer the Core to our existing customers in how they're expanding into new divisions or geographies…In new prospects, in all the new industries…as we go to market, we will be making sure customers see that the long term value of Asset 360 is very high, given the way we have built it natively on the Salesforce Field Service platform.

At launch, there will be no standard migration path from Core to Asset 360, so customers who want to move from the existing offering to the new one will have to deal with this on a case-by-case basis. Barua commits:

We are going to be, in earnest, talking to our customer base very soon here. As we have promised to them through 13 years of hard work, of multiple generations of ServiceMax, we are going to do right by our customers. We're going to have dialogue on a case-by-case basis and make sure they are not left out hung out to dry. We are very focused on making sure we do right by them. I think what this new offering plus the existing Core offering does is create really nice long term view of maybe where ultimately they would want to go, or at least another option which they have some certainty around. We'll be talking to them around what they really need from a long term perspective. We will make the right call on the customer.

To market

One thing that has changed since February is how ServiceMax and Salesforce go to market here. Previously Barua stated:

We have two independent sales teams. We now will 100% focus, as we have, on asset-centric industries and will continue to reinforce our process and innovation there. And they'll continue with a sales team that sells a lot of different things. But our thrust is asset-centric. We are keeping our sales people completely separated.

That was then; this is now. As diginomica suggested at the time, the financial investment by Salesforce Ventures seemed like a first step in a much longer journey. Today the two firms are considerably more aligned it appears. Barua pitches the relationship as a strategic partnership, not just a case of ServiceMax being another offering on the Salesforce AppExchange:

We proceeded to work really deeply with [Salesforce] on thinking through, "Are there things we can do better, together with our customers?' and we ultimately decided through the skunkworks and a lot of work between our product R&D teams that we should introduce Asset 360 to the marketplace. In anticipation of that, we have now collectively formalised the way to sell Asset 360 together. That's a material change where now we have both sales teams together offering this to the marketplace, by which there will be no confusion in the space around Salesforce ‘Option A' or ServiceMax ‘Option B'. We are one now in terms of an offering, particularly around the Asset 360 offering….There are compensation models that make sure that everyone is taken care of and incentivised in the right manner.

There will also be some co-marketing going on, confirms ServiceMax Chief Marketing Officer Stacey Epstein:

We now have two main product lines to sell and market. We also will be back to collaborating very closely with Salesforce, and we fully understand the strength and power of their marketing engine. So I think you will see a very significant amount of marketing around Asset 360, letting [customers] know that it's available, letting the market know that now they don't have to choose between the great features of Salesforce Field Service, like scheduling optimization, and an asset-centric solution. Now they have the option of one solution, built leveraging native objects.

We will be doing our own marketing to generate demand in our industries and targets; they will do the same. We have a joint team called the Center of Excellence in partnership with some people from Salesforce and some from ServiceMax. There's a process that you would follow if you had an opportunity and we will immediately connect the sales team to work on it together.

My take

As a first public deliverable coming out of the February investment, Asset 360 looks like a solid proof point that the two companies can play nicely together.

That said, this is going to take time to shake out. Epstein makes the point that no-one is expecting a wholesale take-up of the new offering from day one in November among the existing ServiceMax base:

We actually don't anticipate that there's going to be a big number of customers on day one saying, ‘I can't wait to move.'

Building that demand and ensuring clarity around how to differentiate the two ServiceMax offerings will be the short term requirement, as well as demonstrating how the Salesforce relationship works in practice on the ground. Over at Salesforce, Gary Brandeleer, Senior Director of Product Management, Salesforce Field Service, tells us:

The collaboration goes as far as we'll have people going on site, showing to customers, demoing customers, from the two companies, because at the end of the day, they will use Asset 360 on top of us.

All told, an interesting development and one that ties the fortunes of these two companies ever closer. For the conspiracy theorists among us - hiya! - it might also read as another step closer to what I previously called "a fairly obvious long term destination". Barua's not being drawn on speculation:

This is going to put a lot of high octane fuel in the tank, and we're focused on making sure that the partnership works really well. I don't think anyone could predict the future. I surely couldn't predict back in February that we'd be sitting here on Zoom calls all day. I'm focused on making sure that we really execute well here, take care of our existing customers, accelerate the growth, and most importantly, use this to put aside all differences, to actually [give] some help to the people that actually need it, who are the frontline workers that are really keeping the world running. That's what we're focused on. Whatever happens after that, happens and we'll see where it goes.