ServiceMax added new features to its core Field Service Management (FSM) app last week, including greater use of maps for work planning, geo-fencing for technician alerts and automation, and tighter integration of its Zinc messaging app. But the big picture surrounding the latest release is a more joined-up approach to delivering service in the field, as Sumair Dutta, Vice President of Product Marketing at ServiceMax told me in an interview yesterday.
While a lot of the buzz in the industry is around new technology trends, such as applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) to field service data, or using Augmented Reality (AR) in field service settings, Dutta says those are not necessarily a priority for customers at the moment. What's important is putting the right data foundation in place to enable those future capabilities, which won't happen without first joining up processes and providing the convenience and automation to ensure the data gets collected in a reliable and robust way. Only then will there be sufficient data to be able to take advantage of AI to really move the needle forward. As Dutta explains:
The ambition is, once you've established that common platform of data, of asset and service data, and you've established the different stakeholders who are constructing that digital thread, then can you begin to more intelligently mine that data to provide insight and recommendations.
Where everyone wants to go with AI is, 'Can you proactively tell me that this machine is going to fail, so I can fix it? Can you proactively tell me that I'm going to need XYZ part?' That doesn't happen if you don't have the data in the context of all of that. If you just have an individual bit of data, it's not going to drive that level of insight. So we see that as the third wave, if you will, that we are going to help our customers get to with these common platforms.
Bringing components together
The new release brings enhancements to ServiceMax Core, the vendor's flagship FSM offering, which it offers alongside Asset360, its asset-centric add-on to Salesforce FSM, and FieldFX, based on its acquisition last year of Liquid Frameworks, and which targets the oil and gas sector. Each product has its own development priorities, based on the needs of the market each serves, but also benefits from the work of the other product teams. Dutta comments:
We want to grow each product individually, because they all have their own ambitions and they have their identities — they want to innovate and they want to ensure success. And then of course, trying to bring innovation across those product lines.
For example, a new component called Data Guide, an advanced forms and workflow tool, was added to ServiceMax Core in the last release, based on functionality that came from FieldFX, and gains more features in the latest release. Originally designed for highly detailed and regulated inspections and maintenance, it helps to automate and guide data collection and associated tasks in the field, with pre-population of ServiceMax data about the work order and the asset, and automated follow-up workflows and document creation.
The overarching theme of the summer release is to encourage customers to bring together their use of the various components in ServiceMax Core. There's a particular focus on linking its Zinc communications and collaboration tool across other components such as the Service Board scheduling solution, the Engage customer self-service offering and the Go work execution mobile app that technicians use in the field, which the new Data Guide plugs into. Part of this is a cross-selling initiative, as while most customers use Go, some potential Service Board users are on an older dispatching product, and a smaller subset use Engage and/or Zinc. Dutta explains:
If you were to think about all of those different tools, the idea behind that is that each one of these empowers a different personality or different persona within what we would call the service delivery chain.
Ideally, that service delivery chain is a flexible, end-to-end connected process, but in many service organizations the various components still operate in separate silos that get in the way of providing the kind of joined-up customer experience that's becoming more of an expectation these days. For example, an older scheduling app may create each day's schedule in advance and not have the ability to reconfigure an engineer's diary during the day to accommodate a new service call or to work around a mid-day hold-up. Or an engineer might not have the information to hand about the customer's contract cover and do work that hasn't been authorized for payment, resulting in a disputed invoice.
Extended service chain
Meanwhile, customers expect a more digitally enabled portfolio of assistance than the simple break-fix processes of old. Dutta says that today's extended service chain starts with the customer maybe attempting a self-serve fix, with help from an internal service desk via Zinc. The service desk then might escalate the issue using Engage, sending images or video over Zinc to show the problem. If a call-out's required, the assigned engineer can check what parts they need using Go and Zinc before heading out to the customer site. He sums up:
Ultimately, what we're trying to say is, you've got all of these different people in an extended service chain, who are speaking about one constant, which is the work order on that particular asset. We see the opportunity not only to empower each one of these individuals with the product, as you can see, but to actually begin to link all these products together ...
If you think about phase one of ServiceMax, it was empowering all these people with applications. Phase two is bringing these applications together in a digital thread of sorts. And then phase three would be, now that they're all communicating on the same thread, what are the insights and automations that we can begin to surface to each of these people to deliver a better experience?
The value of this ... is that there is a better customer experience. They're linked into this overall service delivery experience. They understand what is happening when it's happening. You have a much more effective service team because they're no longer disconnected from each other. They're all brought together on this thread. And you have a much more proactive way of approaching your customers, which has an efficiency but also a customer loyalty and customer satisfaction play, if you will.
While the underlying ServiceMax platform provides a single data store to collate all of the relevant details, its Zinc communication and collaboration app — which ServiceMax acquired three years ago — helps the people involved to co-ordinate their actions. Just as people in their personal lives use several different messaging apps for different groups or communities they're part of, Dutta says people are using Zinc alongside other apps as the one that's best suited for collaboration within the service chain. He explains:
We don't see Zinc as necessarily a Slack or Teams competitor for a variety of reasons ... When we initially brought Zinc into the fold there was this whole population of technicians and service practitioners who liked Zinc and wanted to use Zinc because of the simple nature in which it communicated the relevant information that they needed. So while you could use Teams and Slack to reach out to other people within your organization, the people that you want to reach out to within the organization are on Zinc ...
A large chunk of our customers have their technicians on both. They use Teams for team or company-wide information that's coming through, and then they use Zinc for more specific service execution of field service tasks.
The themes of this ServiceMax release are in line with the growing trend towards joining up data across historic silos, as enterprise applications adapt to the digitally connected environment of today's Frictionless Enterprise.