The Internet of Things has brought a mix of excitement and confusion to field service. But through it all — the warnings, the hype, the predictions, the promises — is a consistent message for service leaders: Big changes are coming. Don’t risk getting left behind.

Joe Barkai, a longtime analyst (formerly VP of research at IDC) helps companies figure out what, exactly, not “getting left behind” means. “Service has been the Rodney Dangerfield within many companies,” Barkai says. “It never got any respect.”

But the IoT is helping to change that reputation. We sat down with Barkai to talk about how organizations can capitalize on the IoT excitement in service.

You recently wrote that service seems to be “finally nearing its iPhone moment.” What do you mean by that?

Barkai: The iPhone, in a way, reinvigorated the mobile phone space. Until the iPhone appeared, the mobile phone was fairly limited — well-understood, but with a limited set of functions and services. The iPhone changed that, making the phone a platform for applications, services and other types of consumer engagement. They took something that was well-understood and gave it new life. The IoT is doing the same thing for service. It gives us new ways to talk about service, such as outcome-based service contracts or remote service.

Is this the year that CEOs, or other non-service execs, recognize the importance of service and open the company checkbook for new technology investments?

I think executives who aren’t close to the service business will pay more attention to its importance and impact on the bottom line. But there are significant technological limitations. Most of the industrial equipment isn’t IoT-enabled yet.

The average age of industrial equipment in the U.S. is over 20 years old. Most equipment is not connected, and equipment that is connected wasn’t designed for IoT business. Retrofitting isn’t always the answer. It’s too costly. And companies can’t just take down a production line to retrofit it.

What’s the timeline?

The migration will be slow. But the IoT drives the conversation forward and helps companies think about service as an integral part of the product lifecycle. I can’t tell you that the situation will be radically different in 11 months, but the thinking will be more mature.

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