In a world where every product is a delivered as-a-service and remains connected as part of the Internet of Things, field service can no longer be an afterthought. That's the mantra of ServiceMax CEO Dave Yarnold, who sees a crucial role opening up for his company's cloud field service management platform:
The entire product lifecycle, the entire customer lifecycle, all needs to become integrated. Service is a big part of that — and today's systems treat service as an afterthought.
Our hypothesis is that manufacturing companies are really going to need a new operating system that takes this into account from day one of their product development and their underlying business model.
Just as we do in the software business, we are going to see that [emerge] throughout the global economy with product companies. For us, having this connected service platform, it's going to be very leverageable, helping people get to that new business model.
Yarnold's vision gains backing from a recent McKinsey report on the Internet of Things, which projects that 70 percent of the multi-trillion dollar impact will come in industry rather than in the consumer world. Enabling new business models is one of three major impacts the study foresees, he told me.
The anything-as-a-service phenomenon, which has swept the software industry, we're finding that manufacturing companies want to get to a similar model where it's long term recurring revenue and it's a locked-in customer relationship. The ability to connect creates a dependent relationship.
With IoT it's all going to be connected, it's all going to be a flow, it's all going to be contemplated from the time the product gets designed through the entire lifecycle of that product.
The other two areas of impact identified by McKinsey are in improved asset utilization through collecting and analyzing IoT data and in predictive maintenance, another area where Yarnold said ServiceMax plays well.
You're anticipating issues either through pattern recognition or because you're sensing that temperatures change, vibrations are different, and before the customer even knows there's going to be an issue, you're dispatching somebody.
You're eliminating unplanned downtime, which again, accrues enormous benefit to the business user.
Yarnold sees the ServiceMax platform as the unifying layer that brings together and enables four 'P's to deliver on that vision:
- People with the necessary skills and tools to perform the services
- Product knowledge and data about the assets customers have bought
- Processes that will deliver value for those customers
- Promise, which is the proposition offered throughout the customer lifecycle
Integral to this vision are partnerships with Internet of Things platforms that can collect and analyze the IoT data being generated. IoT vendors PTC, which operates the ThingWorx IoT platform, and GE, which recently launched its Predix industrial Internet platform, are both investors in ServiceMax. Salesforce, which has just launched its own IoT Cloud, is also an investor.
There's a lot of buzz around the data and the analytics, but to really deliver on the promise of predictive maintenance you've got to have a service app. So everybody's looking to us, because we've got this incredibly robust data model, which allows you to track all these installed assets, basically your database of things.
If a company wants to roll out an IoT strategy, they better hook it into something like ServiceMax to make it actionable.
So that's how these relationships with folks like GE and PTC have evolved. As they've become more active in the IoT world, they've realized that there's a missing element that we can provide through our partnerships.
We've created the platform, delivered it on any type of mobile device, and the products themselves are now the hub, the connection to the Internet of Things.
We're not looking to provide the technology to distill all that data. We'll be thrilled to be able to accept input from SalesForce's IoT cloud over time as that becomes product, just as we do with the ThingWorx cloud, or we do with the Predix cloud.
ServiceMax is already building real-world IoT solutions for customers through its partnership with PTC, said Yarnold.
We can actually implement an IoT solution to deal with all of that data coming off their customer assets, and take action and deliver an outcome that delivers tremendous value to their customers. We can actually turn the issues around very quickly and make customers happier as a result of that.
While it's important to have IoT in the product roadmap, Yarnold was emphatic that ServiceMax must also deliver value to customers today that haven't yet developed IoT strategies. The focus is on being IoT-ready rather than exclusively IoT. He pointed to two recent product innovations shown off to customers earlier this month that make use of the connected ServiceMax infrastructure.
Tapping tribal knowledge
The first, called Pulse, is a mobile application for collaborative knowledge sharing. It allows service engineers in the field to tap into the 'tribal knowledge' of colleagues as well as connecting back to product managers and the service knowledgebase. This will help organizations where many of the most experienced engineers are retiring, and potentially losing the on-the-job knowledge they've built up from decades of experience. Yarnold explained how it would work:
So I'm a young field tech, I'm out at a client site, I haven't seen this issue before. I hit the Pulse icon, it immediately fires up a mobile app that basically goes out and interprets what is the product, what is the issue that I'm dealing with, and it generates a number of orbits for you to dive into.
The first orbit is, who are the field techs who understand this issue to whom I can go to for some help? And if one of those field techs is actually online I can just punch them up, I get a video screen. They can collaborate together, fix the issue, and that whole conversation gets recorded.
The second orbit is all of your product folks who may know how the product was created. The third orbit is all of your knowledge base articles — which may be knowledge base articles written ten years ago, [or] a conversation between two techs on a related issue ten minutes ago.
So that is something that we think is going to have a profound impact on the ability of the field techs to collaborate amongst themselves to get customer issues fixed quickly — and recapture all that tribal knowledge that's walking out the door as all of these folks are retiring.
The second new application, called Product IQ, connects into the ServiceMax asset database to present detailed information very visually to service technicians on products they're working on in the field. This will have the option of connecting into IoT data if that's available, said Yarnold.
If that's enabled, you'll actually be able to see the real-time data from the machine to be able to analyze any kind of issues, or record the data that was a symptom of the issue.
ServiceMax has moved quickly to seize a strong position in the emerging IoT-enabled field service management space. Even if this is still a very early market — and one that's rocketing up the apocryphal hype curve — it's important to stake a claim so that customers can see a credible roadmap.
Meanwhile, it's good to see the company continue to think about new ways of using mobile applications to maximize the effectiveness of field service teams. Most enterprises have barely scratched the surface of what can be done with connected platforms to deliver truly joined-up field service. It will be fascinating to see what emerges in the next few years.
Disclosure: Salesforce and ServiceMax are diginomica premier partners. My travel to attend Dreamforce was funded as part of a paid consulting engagement with Salesforce partner Vlocity.
Image credits: Business partners look at marketing concept © Creativa Images – Fotolia.com.