Field Service 2011 generated a lot of buzz around how managers can adapt to the influx of new technologies that are remaking the service sector. The conference brought together more than 300 service and support professionals across myriad industries. While attendees included service pros responsible for managing the service operations at large aviation companies such as Boeing and GE Aviation, consulting experts from renowned firms such as McKinsey & Company, technology vendors and everybody in between, three overriding themes created the most buzz among the field service experts on hand.

1. Consumer technology is (finally) arriving in the field

Technology was the hottest topic at the show, as service managers grapple with the rapid innovation in the space. Fleet management tools; social CRM and collaboration tools including’s Chatter and Yammer — essentially Twitter for the enterprise; and mobile were central themes to many presentations at the show.

Attendees were especially interested in mobile — namely tips on how to seamlessly implement a mobile strategy, the ROI of mobile and what the future holds for mobility in the service sector. The mobile thread, which lasted throughout the conference, touched on the immense power of these devices, both in the field and in the back office. Discussions around GPS technology and proactive dispatching all tied into the dependence on a sound mobile strategy.

2. Managing great field teams remains key

New systems and technologies are great, but, as several Field Service 2011 panelists pointed out, the success of any new program hinges on building great teams with the correct people. Speakers, including the McKinsey & Company delegation, stressed the importance of effective management to ensure technicians in the field don’t resist changes. The overarching theme? Hire and promote the correct people at the management level, ensure they clearly communicate expectations and hold field teams accountable. As one speaker said, “The reward for doing a good job is that you get to keep your job.”

3. Growth opportunities in medical devices

It was interesting to see how many service techs from the medical device field attended the show. The medical device industry is hugely profitable industry, with U.S. sales expected to top $95 billion in 2011, according to Zack’s, an investment research firm. And with all those sales come service level agreements and other service contracts. Programming for the fourth (and final) day of the event was actually focused on the medical device industry. Reps from GE Healthcare, Medrad, MedTech America and others swapped notes on the future of medical device service.

Overall, we met a lot of bright, energetic service pros who are remaking the industry. We at The SmartVan are looking forward to the 2012 event.

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