In this episode of the Five Questions for a Field Service Expert Podcast, we chat with Rosemary Coates, president of Blue Silk Consulting. Rosemary held previous roles in leadership and operations at SAP, KPMG, and HP. Rosemary has considerable international experience and has worked in Asia and Europe for extended periods. She is also the author of 42 Rules for Superior Field Service. In this podcast, Rosemary discusses cultural influences on field service and aligning field service management with the overall goals of the corporation.
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.
[00:00:25] Today we’re talking to Rosemary Coates, president of Blue Silk Consulting. Blue Silk has more than 80 clients around the world and they help them with global sourcing and manufacturing, import/export, and, of course, field service operations. Before jumping into consulting and never looking back with Blue Silk, Rosemary held leadership and operational roles that SAP, KPMG, Answer Think, which is actually now part of the Hacket Group, and also with HP. Rosemary has considerable international experience and has worked in Asia and Europe for extended periods at a time and actually will touch on that some of that today. Rosemary’s experience spans a broad range of industries including high tech, healthcare, industrial goods, transportation, and oil and gas just to name a few. And Rosemary is also the author of the book “42 Rules for Superior Field Service.” Rosemary welcome to Five Questions for a Field Service Expert.
[00:01:24] Rosemary: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
[00:01:27] Mobile Reach: Well thanks for spending a few minutes with us today. So, Rosemary, we have five questions for you as we do for all of our field service experts. And we want to know, from your standpoint, where you think our field service is headed and we’ll get to those here are you ready to get ready to roll into the questions?
[00:01:45] Rosemary: Yes, absolutely, go ahead.
[00:01:47] Mobile Reach: Perfect. So you’ve done a lot of work in Asia and Europe as I mentioned in your intro. You know, based on your experience over there, how would you characterize the cultural influences on employee behavior especially as they relate to things like field technicians and field service engineers?
[00:02:06] Rosemary: Yeah, that’s a really great question. So, as you mentioned, I have a lot of international experience and one of the things that pop up again and again that I think not everyone recognizes is the culture and background of many employees is going to affect the way they execute their jobs. And by that I mean, well, let me give you an example. In China, for example, the culture heavily weighs on people. So there are things like teamwork that is highly valued in Asia and not so much in North America. For example, even though we talk about teamwork all the time most people execute their jobs individually as would field service people. But in China, you’re likely to have a whole team go out to fix something. In Europe and take Germany, for example, you likely to have an engineer to go out to assess the problem first followed the next day or soon after by the technician a plumber or electrician or something like. So that you know the culture and the way they think about the background and experience and execution really affects the operation in a way that is surprising I think to a lot of people. And also the way employees behave. So you had mentioned behavior before, for example, you know a Chinese technician is not going to tell you directly that you’re doing things wrong. Rosemary: So if you’re fixing something in the field and that’s because you’ve been operating the equipment incorrectly, they’re not likely to tell you that simply because it’s a matter of saving face. So, you know, understanding these nuances of cultural differences is very important because it’s going to affect your whole operation worldwide.
[00:07:41] I worked for a big power generation company a few years ago in their field service organization. And we looked at the way machinery is serviced in each location. So in the U.S., for example, there is a problem with the machinery, we’d send out our field service technicians to go in and do the fixes. And they were very well trained. They were well managed and so forth. They also had field service operations in Europe and in Asia. So in the U.S., we’d send out a technician. In Germany, as I mentioned before. And this happened again and again. They would send out an engineer with a with a computer or a laptop to diagnose the problem first. Then they would offer a solution. You know you know a technician or somebody come out fix the problem. In China, and this is culture also, they send out a team of people to go and swap out the subassembly and just put a new one in. That’s how they fix things. And you find that very good that’s very common in China. Instead of trying to fix a component part they swap out a whole host of assemblies. That’s just the approach because they’re used to manufacturing new things all the time. So, those kind of nuances and differences and examples are learning opportunities for field service organizations to improve the way they execute their operations.
[00:09:14] Mobile Reach: Yes. So what we’re really getting at here is sort of the notion of alignment or the notion of consistency. And has been known to happen that a field service organization’s goals don’t always align with its company or the parent company has broader goals. You have for instance a company that wants to maximize margins might have a field service org that wants to maintain peak inventory. So those don’t always coexist peacefully. How do you recommend a field service leader reconcile their departmental goals with the broader corporate goals when they’re in conflict?
[00:09:52] Rosemary: That’s a huge issue. I can tell you that when I go to a consulting job, I get hired to go, the first thing I do is talk to the leadership and say, “How were your KPI and the goals of your field service organization align with your corporate goals?” And I would say 90 percent of the time I get a blank stare. People don’t really know. So I asked, “Well is it coming from the top? Is there some set of three or four key things that the company is trying to achieve this year? Have you read the annual report? The first two pages always say this is what the company is trying to achieve. And how is the field service organization aligned with that? So, for example, if a company is trying to achieve you know bigger margins in 2018. Is that what you’re focused on in field service? So are you executing that way? Or if the company is trying to improve customer service by X percent. Is that what you’re also aligned with field service? And almost inevitably the answer is no, that there has been no alignment.
[00:11:07] So the field service people are all off trying to fix things and to execute service level agreements but not necessarily on the same pathway as what the corporation wants you to be. So that alignment is key to making sure that you’re successful in your organization. And neither of the goals is right or wrong. It’s just the goal of the company and you need to be in alignment with the goal of the company.
[00:11:36] Mobile Reach: Makes perfect sense. Easier said than done no doubt but makes perfect sense when you say it as you have. Let’s shift gears for a second away from the notion of alignment and cultural differences and talk a little bit about technology and emerging technology in field service. So we all know that certainly, IoT’s taking hold in certain segments of field service and certainly at the consumer level. But thinking more at the industrial or B 2 B level, energy, manufacturing, etc. How does data produced from a device monitor or a sensor actually represent a risk to a field service organization that has deployed them or that is that is consuming the data produced by them.
[00:12:16] Rosemary: Yes, that’s a very good question. I mean obviously, the world is moving to more and more IoT and that means that machines there’s 50 billion machines or so out there that are likely to be connected to the internet. I mean just think you know when we talk about Internet it’s not just you sitting at your laptop. Your phone’s connected your car’s connected. I mean these kinds of advances in technologies are predominant everywhere as we go forward and that includes the industrial sector. So IoT connecting machine to machine or machines that are sending information back home saying you know they’re failing or they need service or that kind of thing. All this information is connected one to another. But what I think a lot of people don’t recognize is that it also presents a significant amount of risk. I don’t think you mentioned in the introduction but I also do quite a bit of expert witness work. So I get involved in legal cases that involve company disputes and contractual disputes and so forth. From an IoT perspective, if you have a company that’s communicating with one another their machines are communicating, data that is produced between that if it’s in a dispute, it’s discoverable. So let’s say, for example, you’ve got a machine that is failing and caused an issue and the customer sues you because of that issue or some something got damaged or someone got hurt. The communications between the machinery. How often it communicated, what it was saying regarding failures and so forth. All of that is discovered and is open to a subpoena and discovered through the legal process. And that may put you in jeopardy for losing cases and so forth. You know thinking about the information that’s transmitted over the Internet and between machines is a very, very important part of managing your overall risk in the company.
[00:14:42] So, I think that field service leadership needs to be very aware of that and also raise a hand when they’re talking about risk in the company and say, “You know have we thought through how this information is being processed? Who gets it? What the customer knows and what we want the customer to know? You know how we protected our own company through this process to make sure that we are keeping you know private information private and that you know we secure that information if we need to? Or you know do we want to have this kind of open communication back and forth.”
[00:15:21] But you know there just seems to me like there’s an awful lot of companies that are going after IoT and not thinking through not only the benefits but also the risks that might be involved. You don’t want to end up in court with me. You know, I’m too expensive and lawsuits are expensive. You know, it’s not where you want to go. You want to think this stuff through and avoid it. Avoid it from happening from the beginning.
[00:15:54] Mobile Reach: Well let’s let’s take out the crystal ball for the last question and this is indeed number five. How do you see the field service industry evolving? You talk about risk you talk about new technologies. Beyond those or even I guess in line with those, where is the industry going and in the next few years would you say?
[00:16:16] Rosemary: Well I think over the past 25 years or so we’ve all become very globalized. So now we can look up things on the Internet for any country in the world. We have global networks. We have global sales. In the U.S., companies have moved from being very domestically focused to internationally focused exporting and so forth. And even though you know the political environment is somewhat you know turned internally and trying to bring things back to the U.S.
[00:16:54] I think you know the cat sort of out of the bag. We’re never going to be non-global. And so you need to think about field service and how it evolves as a result of that. So, you know first of all looking at your organization. Where you have an installed base? Where do you have people to service that install base? How does it align with the corporate strategy going forward where the risks and the opportunities? You know and really taking a step up. I mean in the years that I’ve been consulting I’ve seen a lot of field service organizations that haven’t evolved as quickly as the global environment. And I think it’s time to really open your eyes and step up and take a more strategic direction instead of always being worried about execution. You need to also think what the strategy and what are the components of that strategy that are going to make the organization successful.
[00:17:57] Mobile Reach: Well Rosemary this has been. Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to cut you off with you on.
[00:18:03] Rosemary: No that’s okay. I think the question was in the next couple of years where is it going? I think there’s stopping the globalization and certainly, no stopping the march forward of technology and IoT all of that is really coming to fruition very quickly.
[00:18:19] Mobile Reach: There’s no doubt in and apologize again for cutting short there I certainly didn’t mean to. But you’re spot on in terms of where things are headed. And certainly, we see things from the same vantage point. It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you today, Rosemary. We really appreciate it. Thanks. Thanks for the few minutes you spent with us.
[00:18:38] Rosemary: Sure, thank you.
[00:18:38] Mobile Reach: To learn more about Rosemary coats and Blue Silk Consulting you can visit bluesilkconsulting.com. Thanks for listening to the Five Questions for a Field Service Expert Podcast.
Be sure to check out our Mobile Field Service Apps Guide. It’s the best resource on the Internet for field service leaders who need to make their teams full mobile enabled.