The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the field service industry in ways that few could have foreseen just a few years ago.

While most of us were focusing on machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and the prospects for augmented reality (AR), the IoT was already beginning to be leveraged into smart systems and connected field service solutions among more progressive services organizations.

While some companies are just beginning to evaluate the benefits of integrating AR into their services operations, AR is already morphing into mixed (or merged) reality through combined deployment with virtual reality applications. This trend will only continue to accelerate.

Ten clear benefits

The IoT is not just for M2M anymore. It is the tool that can make any services (or other) process “smart” if applied effectively. It is already taking service organizations to places they never dreamed possible and is cutting the costs of delivering their services.

The top 10 benefits to field service organizations, as they see it, are expressed in our firm’s 2017 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey. They are:

  1. Enabling a more efficient field service operation by eliminating silos, etc.
  2. Improved customer satisfaction
  3. Providing customers with an end-to-end engagement relationship
  4. The ability to establish a competitive advantage
  5. Improved field technician utilization and productivity
  6. Reduced total cost of operations
  7. Reduced ongoing/recurring costs of operations
  8. Improved service delivery time
  9. Enhanced inter-departmental collaboration
  10. The ability to complete the automation of all field service operations

Many reports have been written about services organizations “drowning in data lakes.” However, the key to success is to establish early on what data is needed to effectively run the operations, and hone in on specifically those types of data when collecting and processing the reams of data generated from IoT-based systems.

IoT will change the way services organizations deliver their services, and then the way they package them.

It’s essential to identify which data is “need to know” compared with “nice-to-know.” Nice-to-know data will ultimately prove too expensive to collect, process, analyze, monitor, and distribute, but need-to-know data is critical to ensuring the well-being of the organization.

You don’t want to pay for more data than you will ever need. Rather, focus on harvesting just what you need for now, plus what you’re most likely to need in the future. If that storage space is large enough, then put it in a data lake – but one sized for your needs.

What IoT will change

Watch for the IoT to first change the way services organizations deliver their services, and then the way they package them.

Leveraging IoT will allow service organizations to perform more maintenance and repair service remotely, rather than on-site. The growing use of predictive diagnostics will also reduce the need for on-site services. Many customers may not even know that their systems or equipment have been serviced, since anything needed was performed remotely.

Through the use of a portal, customers can see exactly what types of maintenance have been performed, on which systems, when, and with what results. But customers who choose not to use a portal, or whose provider doesn’t offer one, will have virtually no visibility into the maintenance that has been performed. This ultimately becomes problematic for organizations that must report what they have done for the customer and convince them of the added value provided.

Packaging the new way of providing services through an IoT-powered field service management or service lifecycle management system involves an entirely new way of serving customers. For example, instead of providing a certain number of hours of support, within a designated time window, and providing a guaranteed uptime percentage, some organizations are now selling uptime – period.

Instead of throwing service contract hours at an aviation customer, for instance, they now provide an “airplanes in the air” promise to this segment. Similarly, instead of selling a standard service level agreement to a wind farm customer, they sell “power by the hour.” Instead of selling standard SLAs for extermination services, they’re selling a “rodent-free” environment.

This new way of packaging services may be difficult for some services organizations to deliver and for some customers to get used to. It may not be an easy conversion for some, but it is the future for field service organizations. In my next blog, we will look at the financial and service impact of IoT and what organizations need to do to embrace it.