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Field Service Automation: Enhancing Productivity and Service Operations
By Dr. Marlene Kolodziej, DBA, ITIL; AVP - End User Services, Northwell Health
1. What are the current market trends you see shaping the Field Service space?
Over the years, technology has revolutionized people’s lives by creating incredible tools and resources, putting useful information at our fingertips. People use them for personal reasons, ranging from controlling their homes to personal banking. It’s not just the millennials that are using mobile technology; some of the biggest consumers of mobility today are seniors.
However, when we get into the workplace, whether consumers need health care at home or need to see a doctor; these tasks are done either using older technology or not using technology at all. So when you think about the market trends, there is a sort of “have and have not” perspective focused on delivering consumer experience. However, in the workplace, people are not getting that same experience that they get personally using their devices or gadgets. So, the trends that we see in this space are focused on trying to take that consumer experience and bring it into the workplace.
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2. Field service automation is proven to generate faster revenue, reduce costs, increase productivity levels, ensure quality, accuracy, and consistency, and more. Your views on this trend.
I like to say that device strategy has nothing to do with devices. It has everything to do with the ability to provision applications and services in a lightweight, thin-client way to allow individuals to have a seamless experience. The front end automation; devices and wearable’s that people have, are nothing without backend changes and automation. The network, applications, and development teams, as well as our data centers and storage and cloud providers, enable the delivery of efficient field services (both in terms of hardware and software).
3. Please elaborate on the challenges related to Field Service that organizations will need to address.
One of the challenges is around the need for taking out existing applications and processes and bringing in upgraded or modernized ones. These applications can only service a consumer to a certain extent. As a result, the challenge is this investment that’s needed both in dollars, and resources and time to take these types of applications and modernize them-To be able to move them into a space that allows their users to access them either remotely or through a mobile device. Concurrently, with all these applications redesigned or invigorated, it’s vital to ensure security and at the same time making sure the data is secure and reliant for the end user.
There is a need to embrace new ways of using technology and change the way we service clients
4. What are the major tasks for organizational CIOs at this point? Is there any unmet need pertaining to Field Service space that is yet to be tackled from the vendors?
It’s about creating a strategy that supports initiatives to either enable mobility or even leapfrog the current technology; and accordingly, the workforce should be trained to engage at that level. It’s not just about new technology, though that’s a huge user satisfier. But at the same time, we can’t necessarily take consumer devices and make them enterprise level devices or provide enterprise level experience. There still needs to be that “lightweight” feel for users in the corporate world to be able to get to what they need and then be able to utilize all of that to be more effective for their companies. I think that organizational CIOs need to think about the strategy and the initiatives that support that strategy, and the best investments required to enable ease of use mobility.
The unmet needs in the field service space from vendors plane is that they do expect many of the corporations and organizational CIOs to already be in this lightweight space. But a lot of corporations aren’t there yet. As a result, there’s a little bit of a disconnect from the vendors and their expectations of where corporations are at from a consumer or mobile perspective and the investment, time, and money that is needed.
5. What can organizations do to stay abreast of emerging technologies?
Today, Machine Learning and AI are the buzzwords, whereas 5 to 10 years ago, there wasn’t enough energy and vision for folks to realize that there’s value in this space. Now, it all comes down to how to deliver the support in an environment without the user having to think about the tools. For instance, in the workstation that is having an issue, we don’t want the user to pick up the phone or send an alert to the helpdesk that’s disruptive to their work, and it hinders the financial growth of their company. To this end, it would be of great help for users if the machine understands if it has an issue to call for help by itself, and have a technician in the pipeline who can preemptively take care of the issue without disrupting the user’s work or them having to focus on the tool that they’re using versus the work that they need to be doing.
With AI and Machine learning, field service management can be made effortless. These technologies will help to diagnose the reasons for a problem and also automate processes; relieving technical staffs of the task of identifying a problem, thus helping managers optimize everyday work.
6. What is your advice for budding technologists in the Field Service space?
We need to focus on utilizing peoples’ skills to transform organizations. There is a need to embrace new ways of using technology and digitally updated work culture to service clients. For instance, imagine field services staff are not walking around with a screwdriver and working on a machine. What if they used their skill sets to help re-engineer a process? We need to understand where the value proposition is in terms of devices, and how users consume data, and how to bring all that together for high user experience. There’s a lot of untapped knowledge service technicians and field resources have, and how consumers utilize equipment today. I think there are opportunities in the field service space for many of these resources to take a step back and contribute to designing, solving process, and technology issues rather than fixing an issue after the problems happen. “Focus needs to be more on prevention than reaction.”