The first full day of Field Service USA 2019 is in the books, full of great sessions, great discussions — and, not surprisingly, soaring temps in beautiful Palm Desert, Calif.

During yesterday’s evening sessions and today’s keynotes, technology and talent emerged as the two big themes. And for good reason: New technologies, and changing workforce dynamics, are pressuring field service leaders in myriad ways.

The Modern Technician’s Toolkit? It’s Complicated.

With software vendors flooding the exhibit hall and everybody tapping away on their phones, it’s easy to forget that less than a decade ago, paper was how business got done. But Stacey Epstein, president of Zinc at ServiceMax, asked people to remember that, less than a decade ago, service organizations ran almost exclusively on paper. The technologies and capabilities taken for granted for today — mobile devices, IoT, service management software, servitization, artificial intelligence, augmented reality — didn’t exist a few years ago.

Things have changed for the better. But there’s still more work to do to truly connect the data (equipment and workforce) at service leaders’ fingertips.

Technicians now have a wealth of digital, mobile tools at their disposal. So, what comes next? Deputizing service divisions, and even techs themselves, to build custom mobile apps, removing the IT bottleneck. Luminex’s Michael Queen, Johnson Controls’ Pat Foley, ProntoForms’ Alvaro Pombo, and ServiceMax’s Lubor Ptacek discussed how IT trends like no-code/low-code and citizen development are rewriting service.

There’s a lot more on tap tomorrow about AI, AR, IoT, predictive maintenance and more.

Companies Are Only as Good as Their People

It’s a golden age for tech solutions that allow companies to better track their assets. But assets doesn’t just refer to equipment in the field. Perhaps the most important asset in any service business? People. There were a lot of discussions about how to find, hire, train, engage and retain employees; the growing importance of contractors; and even how to spot (and help to resolve) mental health issues among service staff.

And it all matters because, ultimately, service companies are in the customer experience business.

One theme throughout the day: soft skills. But Tennant’s Terry Diaferio said it best:

We’ll be back at it tomorrow for another full day of sessions. Stay tuned to Field Service Digital, or find us on Twitter, to follow along.