The following is a guest blog post from Jake Smeester, director of marketing for ServiceMax partner ThingLogix.

I’m going to level with you: in the world of field service, many IoT solutions yield the same benefits.

They all record the same information and they all ping it back to your dashboard pretty much the same way. So while lacing your field service organization and equipment with IoT is one step on the path toward competitive differentiation, know that the competition’s probably doing the exact same thing.

So what can you do to stand out?

The truth lies in how you make sense of those data points. As a field engineer, you want a management solution that can look deeper into the data to reveal problems that could have evaded human radars.

Many management solutions act as paparazzi: they track a product’s every move but won’t tell you why it’s doing what it’s doing or what to do about it. And sometimes, if not set up correctly, it can even trigger what’s known as a “no-fault found” error.

A smart service management solution acts as a private detective. It’s able to dig deeper and connect the dots in a broader sense. It not only keep tabs on an asset’s daily progress, but it can look at the big picture by cross checking multiple data points such as long-term trends, performance history, and business context to reveal problems you might have missed.

For example, let’s say you receive data showing your water meter is pulsing full steam –– in other words, it’s pumping a lot of water. That alone probably isn’t  cause for alarm. But if those real-time pulses arrive during a store’s non-business hours, that’s another story. That probably means there’s a leak. Only by connecting these two data points — the meter usage and the time of day — would you discover that leak.

Using a robust rules engine, you could program your meters to turn off if they are revving up during non-business hours, and ping your field technicians to go check it out -all automatically. A service manager with real-time rules and automated alerts makes it easy to connect the dots to make your data work for you.

It’s Not Enough to Have Smart Devices. You Also Need a Smart Manager.

The technology piece is certainly a big part of all this. But to truly realize IoT’s potential in the service space, you also need to optimize the human and operational aspect.

The technology piece is certainly a big part of all this. But to truly realize IoT’s potential in the service space, you also need to optimize the human and operational aspect.

Essentially, IoT technology allows service providers to communicate directly with customer assets. With this type of 1-on-1 communication, service providers can skip a lot of wasted time and streamline their service process for the customers. Best of all, with the right kind of management application, technicians can get a clear picture of the field and they can look deeper at trends that will make their work easier and more efficient.

Customers love it because they get an honest understanding of their business and it brings immediate value to their operation. Service providers love it because it allows them to service more (satisfied) customers with improved accuracy and timeliness. It’s a win-win solution for service providers and their customers that will solidify a stronger, and long lasting, customer relationship.

Two Places at Once

Let me paint you a picture of a real-life example.

One of our clients has a farm with a vast irrigation network. He wanted a connected service solution to keep tabs on his irrigation pump’s activity to ensure that even when he was away his farm would flourish. We designed a solution for all of his pumps that allows him to see the condition of each pump no matter where he is in the world.

That’s good news for our client, but better news for his irrigation technician.

That’s because he works for several farmers in his county. Right now, he has to drive to each location across several miles to check on each pump. It’s an inefficient and time-consuming process.

Technicians now have instant access to data right from their headquarters. For our specific client, if every one of his farms had the same connectivity, he could better plan his route, prioritize which farms need physical attention, and even reset pumps from the road. He can manage more pumps and farms more efficiently, saving his company money and himself some significant hassle.

This technology provides real-time metrics that increases efficiency for the technicians and increases the farmer’s operational value. With these capabilities, technicians not only have an innovative process, but they’re able to provide a level of service never before seen in rural irrigation.

Smart Devices Alone Are Not Enough

As the old-ish saying goes, there’s big data and then there’s the right data.

It’s been clear to me during my tenure in this space that technology alone can only get you so far. You can use IoT technology to open the firehose of data from all your equipment in the field, but if your operations and people aren’t up to the task then you’ll simply end up drenched with no idea what’s actually going on out there.  As the amount of collected data grows exponentially, service providers would be wise to get in front of the wave with the right data filters, a robust rules engine, visualizations, and cohesive processes. When data is correctly paired with the right people, service providers will be empowered to create disruptive solutions for their customers and their customers’ customers.

IoT is ripe for the taking. It’s only a matter of time before your competitors realize it too.

To learn more about operational excellence and how these aspects work together to create a service system that is far greater than just the sum of its parts, check out our new free ebook.