If the title sounds like an obituary to Field Service Management (FSM), it’s quite the contrary. It is about how to sustain, rejuvenate and rediscover your FSM solution, where “R.I.P” stands for “Realize Its Potential.”
Adopting a modern, digital FSM solution is a point that many organizations get to in their FSM improvement or transformation journeys. But as time ticks by, things slowly start relapsing to a state of optimal inefficiency, where service leaders understand the shortcoming in the FSM solution but struggle to change. The inefficiency takes a steady toll on what the FSM business could potentially achieve, and I call it optimal because, from a business perspective, it is not bad enough to warrant immediate action.
This is the point where service leaders can draw inspiration from the Deming Cycle, a four-step quality improvement model that’s a principle of Six Sigma. But let’s put a twist on the famous acronym:
- Purpose (not plan)
- Discipline (not do)
- Collaboration (not check)
The PDCA not only helps sustain and improve the FSM solution, but it also promises to raise service operations to a new level.
Driven by Purpose
Purpose in business can’t be overemphasized, especially in field service management, which is a people-centric business. The technician on the ground is not just the person carrying out service for the customer. He or she is also the face of the organization and its salesperson in the field. Clear, transparent and well-communicated purpose tends to instill a sense of pride and ownership in the workforce, which directly impacts customer satisfaction and incremental service revenue.
In a Forbes article, William Vanderbloemen, CEO of an executive search firm that serves faith-based organizations, references a study that found that “companies with teams focused on their organization’s purpose had annual growth rates nearly three times the annual rate for their entire industry. According to the survey, 90 percent of people who worked in a purpose-driven organization reported feeling engaged in their work. In companies that aren’t as focused on purpose, only 32 percent of employees reported feelings of engagement and connectedness with the work they were doing.”
Sustained by Discipline
While clear purpose helps to create culture and set the right direction, great discipline ensures there is minimal gap between the design and implementation of standards (process, methods, behavior, knowledge management, etc.) in FSM. Discipline helps drive standardization, which forms the foundation on which further improvements—whether around customer interaction and management or service execution processes—can be identified and executed. And since great FSM is the coming together of great customer experiences and great operational excellence, discipline plays a key role in determining how good and efficient an organization can get with its FSM solution.
Enabled by Collaboration
Well-run FSM requires multiple internal and external departments to come together, including the call center, field service, product design, manufacturing, logistics, finance and IT. This internal team must work with external players, including third-party contractors, FSM software application partners and related consulting and system integration partners. Identifying regular improvements in the FSM process necessitates a culture of collaboration, learning and continuous improvement process (CIP) involving all these various participants or stakeholders.
In “Abundance,” authors Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler write: “In the early 1950s, scientists began to suspect that there might be hidden patterns in technology’s rate of change and that by unearthing those patterns, they might be able to predict the future. One of the first official attempts to do just that was a 1953 US Air Force study that tracked the accelerating progress of flight from the Wright brothers forward. By creating that graph and extrapolating into the future, the Air Force came to what was then a shocking conclusion: a trip to the moon should soon be possible.”
Going by the explosion of digital technology adoption in FSM, this industry is clearly following the pattern described above. However, for a FSM organization to be in lock step with the evolution of these digital trends and to “predict the future” so that their business model is specific to their industry and to their customers, it is important that they are able to effectively collaborate with all relevant stakeholders in their ecosystem.
Achieved by Action
Finally, success in FSM belongs to organizations that show not just action, but action that is bi-modal. In other words, where one thread of action is dedicated to improvements that the organization must make to sustain the solution they have at the moment, and the other that is focused on working on the action plan for the FSM solution of the future.
Even though the PDCA we discussed have been attempted, in part or in whole, by organizations, the main reason why it is sustained in some and not so sustained in others is culture. And if a FSM solution is central to your business strategy, then you would be smart to make culture a starting point of your digital transformation. After all, as Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”