Over the past two years, there have been some encouraging signs that the field service sector has been increasingly embracing IoT and data collection. A report last year found that 76% of field service companies now had some connectivity with their install base. This is a clear indication that the value of IoT is being recognized more widely. But is it progress?

I’m still mindful of an IDC statistic I read a while back, which said that by 2025 there would be 79.4ZB of data created by IoT devices. That’s a lot of data. Any business collecting that data and analyzing it will surely be a winner. Imagine the insight, the ability to pre-empt, optimize services, upsell, manage contracts better, and even redesign products mindful of common faults. With so many service firms deploying IoT, this must already be happening, right?

How Prevalent is the Use of Asset Data?

It is to a certain extent, but not enough businesses are coming to grips with the data or doing anything with it. There seems to be a question of quantity over quality and a mixed bag of priorities. We recently conducted research with more than 230 field service leaders, The Impact of Asset Data Flow Beyond The Silo of Field Service Operations

The research found that more than three-quarters (82%) of respondents are tracking asset data. On the surface, that’s a good sign. It’s slightly up from last year’s figure of 76%. However, receiving, tracking, and monitoring data is only the initial step.

The more important question is how many organizations can effectively leverage that data to positively impact their field service operations? So, we asked respondents to identify if they could utilize data effectively, shining a light on the quality and application of the data.

More than one-third (38%) of companies claim they have access to enough asset data and state that they are utilizing it effectively. That leaves a majority of companies that are not. 57% of respondents claim they have data but are not using it effectively within the organization. There is a huge data problem that still needs addressing.

What’s Stopping Organizations From Using Asset Data Effectively?

Of course, it’s easy to jump to conclusions, the first being the failure or delay of digital transformation projects skewed by the pandemic. Data is being collected, but nothing is being done with it. It’s a bit like recycling–spending the time to sort plastics from paper only to see it all thrown into the same bin when it gets to the depot.

Interestingly, of those field service companies that state they are not utilizing their data effectively, there is a common theme. The barriers that prevent them from doing so ultimately come down to a lack of proficiency. As one respondent stated, “We are currently collecting data but are not proficient or aware enough of how to use that data to make or drive improvements.”

Additionally, the lack of proficiency is not aligned to a lack of adequate systems. Only 12% cited inadequate systems and technology as the primary barrier to the effective use of asset data. One of the most significant barriers (25%) is inefficient existing processes. It is a mix of this and a lack of adequate technology cited by the majority (63%) as the primary barrier.

Reframing Digital Transformation Through Asset Centricity

With complexity also a recurring theme, we are back to the need for effective digital transformations, focusing on asset data as a central fuel for business intelligence. Too many businesses appear to have their hands tied when it comes to using what data they have effectively.

This lack of proficiency, even at a basic asset data analytics level, undermines field service sector progress. The talk of servitization and its benefits to business, products and customer satisfaction, is fruitless without addressing the key barriers to entry. It’s about asking the right questions to ensure the whole organization is aware of and can benefit from asset data. If it is relevant to field service, it should also be relevant to the entire structure.

There is a glimmer of light. 38% of companies claim that they have access to enough asset data and can state that they are utilizing it effectively. These companies are leaders, but is the industry prepared to follow?

While the complexity of data does represent a significant challenge, according to the study’s findings, the most common trend among respondents is to identify further investment in connected assets and IoT. By focusing on the benefits to the business as a whole and not just to service teams, there is hope that organizations will start to see increased investment in accessing and utilizing asset data more effectively. Then we should see real progress in the industry.

ABOUT Mark Wilding

Avatar photoMark Wilding is the VP of global customer transformation at ServiceMax. In this role, he leads a team of experienced industry experts and specialists with a focus on supporting customers by stimulating strategic thinking, assisting in the challenges of the transformation journey, and helping to shape future industry best practices. Mark has worked for several leading companies such as Rolls-Royce Aero engines, Airbus Industries, EDF Nuclear Power, and more recently Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. While there, he had responsibility for the commercial and strategic development of their Global Service & Support organization. He has a background in Service & Support, Operations, and Supply Chain and is a qualified engineer, skilled practitioner in Lean principles, and holds a Six Sigma Black Belt.