In this episode of the Five Questions for a Field Service Expert Podcast, we chat with Jeff Oskin, president and CEO of Jolt Consulting Group. Jeff is an expert in understanding business goals and translating those goals into concrete action plans that field service organizations can implement and execute. Jeff outlines the questions a field service leader should ask software providers when they are evaluating solutions to automate and improve their field service processes. He also discusses the macro trends that are currently driving the field service industry. The episode runs about 17 minutes.
If you prefer, you can read the full transcript below.
[00:00:08] Mobile Reach: Welcome to the five questions for a field service expert podcast. This is the show for field service professionals where we dig into the big questions about field service delivery and management. Every episode we ask a field service expert five questions that can help you do your job better. Today we’re talking to Jeff Oskin, founder and CEO of Jolt Consulting Group, a business and technology services firm that works with field service organizations everywhere. Jeff is an expert in understanding business goals and translating those goals into concrete action plans that the field service organization can implement and execute. In his 20 plus career, Jeff has consistently optimized business process business operations business processes and managed large-scale programs to achieve the best possible service outcomes. Prior to founding jolt Consulting Group, Jeff was president of ViryaNet, a mobile workforce management software company and actually ViryaNet net went on to be acquired by Varasay which in turn was acquired by a company called Accruent. Before his work with ViryaNet. Jeff was the director of Global Service operations for Teradyne, a provider of capital equipment for the semiconductor industry. Jeff welcome. We’re so glad to have some time with you today to talk about your areas of expertise.
[00:01:27] Jeff: Dan, thanks so much for the kind words and introduction. Very much look forward to our conversation today.
[00:01:32] Mobile Reach: Cool, well listen, so we have five questions for you as we do for all of our field service experts so are you ready to get rolling.
[00:01:40] Jeff: I’m absolutely ready let’s go.
[00:01:43] Mobile Reach: Cool, so first question. Looking beyond basic features, integrations, security, price tables, that type of thing, what questions should a field service leader ask providers when they’re evaluating solutions to automate and improve their service processes.
[00:02:02] Jeff: That’s a really interesting question. We work hand in hand with a lot of service organizations and select the technology and invariably you know, just as you said they snap to grid on looking at feature function and making sure that the software is capable of supporting their business processes. Which is all well and good, but in our travels, we’ve kind of identified two things that most organizations don’t think about that they need to carefully consider.
[00:02:31] The first is understanding who’s the team that’s actually going to do the work once the ink is dry on a contract? We have found far too often where the team coming in is not as capable or knowledgeable about the particular service organizations business and most of the time is spent educating them on processes and procedures that should come as second nature to a well-run technology company. So we really encourage folks to kind of look behind the curtain a little bit and you know ask to meet and talk to and understand the experiences of the team that will actually be doing the deployment for them.
[00:03:15] And the second would be oftentimes, in fact, I know of nobody that doesn’t ask for reference clients. And invariably the technology company will give them the best of the best but really taking a step back and asking to talk to clients, even if not in a direct industry, to talk to clients that have solved the specific business problem that is facing the service organization that’s causing them to think about investing in the technology.
[00:03:42] In our experience, you want to work with an organization or technology company that has the experience in working with and solving your specific business challenges and problems. So again you’re not educating them along the way and hoping that they arrive at the right solution for you.
[00:03:58] Mobile Reach: That makes that makes a ton of sense. I love the notion of being familiar with the individuals who are going to do the work after the contract is executed. That’s very wise and very sage advice. So, thinking about all your experience as a practitioner as a provider and now as a consultant and an implementation partner, what are some of the macro trends you’re seeing that are driving the industry and what do service executives need to do to prepare for to capitalize on some of those macro trends.
[00:04:38] Jeff: Yeah, so I think that you know as we listen to and reflect on what we’re seeing in the industry there is a kind of a couple of things that come to mind. Number one there is a growing technician’s shortage out there in the world. As kind of the baby boomer population that has grown up in the service industry nears or enters retirement age, there has been a bit of a vacuum in terms of the younger generation stepping in and embracing field service as a career.
[00:05:13] And so that’s leading to a couple of things that on the surface may seem as technology-driven but are really driven because of the technician shortage. Things like artificial intelligence where you’re able to tap into the knowledge and minds of your most senior technicians and allowing them to share that knowledge not just on a particular job they may be working but with a broad cross-section of the workforce to be able to help bring them up to speed quicker and in turn expose that newer workforce to more technology that they’re used to is something that we’re seeing to help try and combat that technician shortage.
[00:05:59] The second kind of macro trends that we’re seeing is the beginning of something called outcome based services for a long time the service industry has really been all around no great fix and preventative maintenance and service contracts. And while those are all good wonderful, and kind of in this day and age table stakes into the service world, really the future is about outcome-based services. And what I mean by outcome-based services is instead of guaranteeing a number of visits or a dollar value of coverage, providing a guaranteed uptime for a particular piece of equipment or guaranteed availability or guaranteed energy savings in a building management scenario. And basing contracts on that outcome regardless of the number of visits it may or may not take a service organization to realize that outcome. It creates a tremendous incentive for the service organization and it provides a great revenue opportunity for that service organization because its clients are willing to pay a premium for that outcome. So that’s certainly another macro trend that we’re kind of seeing in the industry today.
[00:07:19] Mobile Reach: So let’s go down that let’s go a little deeper down that outcome based services road a little bit and talk about Jolt for a minute.
[00:07:27] Jeff: Sure.
[00:07:27] Mobile Reach: You work with organizations that are obviously looking to improve critical business processes service delivery and the like and they’re implementing any number of technologies to do that. Are you seeing in either a move to deliver more outcome-based services or otherwise are you seeing any trends toward or away from particular technologies whether they are CRMs, ERPs, or even purpose-built service platforms that solve specific issues. And any trend toward or away from any of those technologies?
[00:07:59] Jeff: That’s a very insightful question, Dan. You know I guess we take a step back and look at the history of where kind of the systems have evolved. It, in turn, provides the answer to your question. So you know CRM really kind of came on to the table and into the picture driven largely by the sales organization, right, wanting to understand and build the pipeline and grow revenue opportunity. And it’s home has been most closely linked to service or to sales excuse me. And field service management platforms, by contrast, have largely been about work order management. Scheduling and dispatching, mobile and making sure that my technicians do what they need to do at the appropriate time and ERP is really kind of been around the back office, you know, the billing. Make sure that we collect the revenue that we’re supposed to collect for the work that we’ve done.
[00:08:51] What we’re starting to see in a more and more because of the outcome-based approach is an integration of the three to provide a more holistic picture. Said differently to improve the customer experience. Outcome-based services all about the experience and expectations of the customer. And by integrating those platforms more tightly and providing a more integrated view of the experience of the customer, organizations were able to reduce friction between the customer and the service organization in turn improving that customer experience and in turn putting themselves in a position to begin thinking about outcome-based service because they now have a more holistic picture of what’s going on with that customer interesting.
[00:09:43] Mobile Reach: So it’s really an underlying sort of discipline underlying capability that that would enable that more evolved thinking towards outcome based work.
[00:09:57] Jeff: Yeah it’s you know each of the pieces is nothing new necessarily in any of the pieces of technology that exists today but it’s putting them together in a more holistic and harmonious way that allows a service organization to have a better appreciation for what it’s like for a customer to interact with them. Far too often when deploying, you know take field service management for example, when deploying field service management, often times we use the analogy people’s backs are to the window looking inside the organization and looking at the ways that field service management can help the internal processes of the service organization. What we’re encouraging people to do is turn around and look outside the window and look at the experience of the customer and design your processes and your infrastructure to minimize the friction that that customer has in interacting with you. And that invariably leads to putting infrastructure and integrating that infrastructure in a manner that lends itself very very well to an outcome-based service model.
[00:11:05] Mobile Reach: That is very good counsel. Let’s go down the technology road a little bit further. We ran a survey not too long ago six months or so just to get a sense for the number of technologies that an organization uses, a field service organization uses, to manage their operations and certainly, n is greater than 1. What systems do you think as a consultant to the space, what systems should a field service leader be thinking about as they zero in on things like strengthening their competitive advantage versus just sort of getting past, you know, first-time fix rates and sort of the blocking and tackling?
[00:11:47] Jeff: Yes so I think you know we have to work with an assumption here that the service organization has a present day generation field service management platform. They’ve got a scheduled dispatch, mobile infrastructure that allows them to get outside of managing the fires associated with most traditional service organizations. So with that kind of assumption in place, the couple of things that come to mind are number one analytics. Number two the Internet of Things (IoT) and number three just tighter integration not necessarily a new system but back to the conversation around you know putting a more holistic view of the software that is in place through just integration. And you know so from an analytics perspective it’s having a view into the data that cuts across the different disciplines again from a customer perspective. Understanding what is the experience of the customer like and what are the where the rub points that I can eliminate from my internal process to make that external experience so much the better. From an IoT perspective, how can I start investing in that technology in a manner that is going to allow me to participate in an outcome-based service world. And that means different things to different people.
[00:13:18] And then as I said promoting integration standpoint thinking about how can I take the investments I’ve already made and make them communicate with each other better. So that again I can look to extract friction from the process from a customer perspective.
[00:13:32] Mobile Reach: Easier said than done, no doubt.
[00:13:36] Jeff: Very much so.
[00:13:38] Mobile Reach: So, crystal ball time. Let’s talk about sort of where you see things going in the industry. Where do you see field service heading in light of, we’ve all read about it right, heightened customer expectations real-time communication updates and then, of course, you referred to it a minute ago, IoT in particular. As a consumer I engage in I consume emerging technologies I adopt them quickly. I suspect you do too. If that’s our customer. Where is the industry headed with those kinds of pressures being put on field service organizations?
[00:14:15] Jeff: Yes, so interesting. You know I think there’s probably a two-step hop here that we need to make. You know the first is looking at why are things like IoT and artificial intelligence, you know what’s really the purpose behind them. And I’m going to go back to and not harp on too much but I definitely want to make the linkage between IoT and the outcome-based service model. No what it is really about is you know not so much about monitoring different devices but rather about creating an infrastructure or a technology infrastructure that allows me to in real time monitor what’s going on in the network that I’m being paid to manage so that I can be more in control of my service resources so I can deliver to my customer a higher level of service than the competition.
[00:15:10] And that leads to kind of step number two which is organizations that use service as you know no longer an afterthought but really service as the key differentiator for helping the overall organization grow and not just the service and grow but the entire organizations PNL to grow, those organizations are the ones that are investing today and they’re really kind of the three tenants of any good business which is their people their process and the technology. We’ve talked about the technology but let’s not forget about investing in the people and investing in the processes that that technology is in extra inextricably linked to so as to produce services is a great differentiator to organizations.
[00:15:59] Mobile Reach: Well Jeff I have to say I wish this podcast was called 10 questions for a field service expert because there’s there’s probably a whole bunch more we can discuss and maybe we need to do a part two to this but that actually brings us to question number 5 were wrapped up.
[00:16:16] I want to I want to thank you for clearly you’re very seasoned perspective on these topics. And thanks for spending a few minutes with us today. I appreciate it.
[00:16:27] Jeff: Dan My pleasure and happy to up just getting around to it so desired and I love the work you guys do and hope you continue it. So best of success and thank you very much for including me.
[00:16:38] Mobile Reach: Thank you, Jeff. You can learn more about Jeff and his team’s work at Jolt Consulting Group. Thanks for listening everybody.