Which Enterprise Application Is Best For Field Service Management?
For field-focused organizations, efficiently delivering services to your customers and equipment requires flawless execution of dynamic business processes. Efficient services delivery also demands laser focus on improving the KPIs that matter most — CSAT, first-time fix rates, SLA compliance rates, routing efficiency, field tech utilization— and, with the right enterprise application, eliminating weak spots and potential points of failure.
As a field service leader, you have an array of cloud-based and on-prem enterprise applications from which to choose to help improve your field service delivery operations. These range from niche-focused software tools designed for providers in specific industries to full-scale enterprise applications that serve as the cornerstone of both business and field operations.
Depending on the nature of your field service organization, whether strictly services or a product services mix, a CRM, ERP, or a service management platform may be used to meet field service management requirements. The ideal scenario is for field service organizations to rely on one comprehensive enterprise application or system that enables key business and service delivery functions. This is not yet a reality, however, for today’s larger field services organization with technicians, assets and equipment dispersed around the world.
Through our independent research, we have found that more than 65 percent of field-focused organizations use between two and four enterprise software systems to manage their field service operations.
ERPs are broad in scope but lack the specialization that is required for world-class services delivery. CRMs, which are sometimes offered as part of ERP packages, are traditionally customer facing and designed to serve those who are on the frontlines of the business. Think call-centers and contextual awareness, not managing back-office essentials like inventory, financials, procurement, and workforce utilization. Service management platforms that enable traditional field service management functions sometimes fall short in key business areas, especially in customer relationship management, financials and procurement. As a result, it can difficult to determine the ultimate value each type of system brings to your field service organization in terms of customer satisfaction, productivity and potential ROI.
Only after analyzing back-office and customer-facing service delivery and developing a plan to automate and streamline processes should field service leaders choose software tools that can most easily integrate into their environment and best serve the business, field technicians, and customers.
CRM for Field Service Management
In addition to facilitating customer relationships and sales processes, CRMs offer many capabilities for outward-facing parts of the business, including customer service and support, case and problem management, marketing automation, lead management and social interactions. Other front-office capabilities that many CRMs excel at include call-center management, mobile self-service functions, messaging, and context mining for both voice and text.
Due to CRMs being customer-centric tools by design, field service organizations may find them lacking in traditional back-office functions such as enterprise asset lifecycle management, scheduling, resource and workforce planning, and procurement, which are all central to field service operations management.
Many popular CRM packages are cloud-based and delivered on a SaaS model for affordability, access, ease of administration and scalability. Some organizations, especially those faced with strict regulatory compliance measures, may have concerns around data security and ownership. There is also the potential for latency within global organizations.
Mobile capabilities for field technicians may also be lacking within CRM systems. Mobile functionality tends to include more general operations for sales, marketing and customer service functions, not process-driven mobile apps designed to fully enable field technicians to deliver efficient and effective service.
Because repairing and maintaining remote equipment is expensive and time-consuming, CRMs are starting to offer more Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and have deeper “smart” capabilities on development roadmaps.
Leading CRM systems: Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP
ERP for Field Service Management
Enterprise resource planning systems are more internal facing and facilitate traditional business processes like financials, supply chain, human resources, procurement, risk management, e-commerce, and sales order processing. In recent years, ERPs have evolved to provide business intelligence and outward-facing functions like sales management and marketing automation.
Because ERPs set the standard for comprehensive business software tools beginning in the early 1990s, many ERP platforms are legacy systems that are firmly entrenched in the business processes of the organization. Customization of ERP systems is also difficult. Therefore, utilizing an ERP for field service management functions might prove cost-prohibitive from both a development and integration standpoint as well as from a licensing model perspective.
Field service leaders may need to evaluate field service management platforms for a system that can easily integrate into an existing ERP business environment while still serving the needs of field techs and customers.
Leading ERP systems: Oracle, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Infor
Service Management Platforms
There are many software systems that provide functionality specifically for service providers. These point solutions are focused on managing operations and demand, scheduling and dispatching technicians, processing work orders and ensuring customer satisfaction. These tools are designed to address specific service processes, typically putting work orders and technicians at the center of their logic.
Many of these tools have basic mobile capabilities as well, allowing field technicians to be more productive and knowledgeable while at a worksite. Service management platforms tend to lack advanced mobile capabilities that allow technicians to have a direct impact on revenue, profitability and customer satisfaction. Many of these software packages are aligned with SLAs and service contracts, giving the field organization the ability to instantly make decisions and avoid potential breaches.
IoT and AI support are becoming more prominent among these tools and will be a future focus as the technology becomes more mature.
Leading Service Management Platforms: Oracle, SAP, ServiceMax, Click Software, ServiceNow, BMC
Field service leaders should check into all available options and take advantage of existing systems when possible, especially if the business delivers products and services. Strictly services organizations may benefit more from a dedicated service management platform, which can be customized to match their business processes. No matter the combination of enterprise software packages — ERP, CRM or service management platform — that ultimately prove necessary for efficient field service management, it is important that systems are largely integrated. Keeping your customers happy and your enterprise assets up and running is dependent on reliable, real-time data. This flows out of a united software stack that equally enables both your business processes and your field force.
This article first appeared on Field Technologies Online.