What is Field Service Management? (Nearly) Everything You Need to Know

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What is field service management? It isn’t sexy technology, that’s for sure. It doesn’t offer the glamorous aesthetics of Instagram and its potential use isn’t nearly as widespread as autonomous vehicles. In fact, chances are those outside the industry haven’t even heard of it.

Yet, despite a lack of press and high-profile CEOs, field service management software is shaping the world of tech as we know it. We just might not realize it yet.

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What is Field Service Management

Field service management software is used by a variety of industries. Here are a few.

Table of Contents

What Types of Businesses Use Field Service Management Software?

Any company that deploys skilled laborers and assets to off-site locations likely uses field service management software. But let’s demystify what “deployment of skilled laborers and assets” looks like.

It’s all about resource allocation on behalf of the company. If the technician is bringing tools, arriving in a company vehicle or installing rented hardware, they’ve probably got all of that logged in their businesses’ FSM software. Professionals like:

  • Electricians
  • Cable technicians
  • Plumbers
  • Carpenters
  • Carpet cleaners
  • IT technicians
  • Painters
  • Construction workers
  • Skilled craftsmen

All utilize field service management software in one way or another. Emergent fields like solar panel installation are also starting to take advantage of FSM software.

The Four Types of Field Service

Field services can be safely split into four different categories, which should put to rest the question: “What is field service management?” Technicians handle a lot of responsibilities while out on the job, and they rely on software to help them tackle the following tasks:

1. Repair

No fancy language or acronyms for this one. If something is broken or not working right, a fieldworker makes an appointment and shows up to fix it.

2. Maintenance

This is where things get a little more complicated compared to simple repairs. Maintenance is all about maintaining equipment in proper working condition, hopefully preventing the need for repairs. Which is why of the different types of maintenance (yep, there are different kinds of this too), preventative is the first and foremost.

  • Preventative: Routine, scheduled maintenance can help things run smoothly, with the goal of preventing the need for repairs entirely (that is the ideal, but not often the case). By pulling in data about their current assignment, they can also order replacement parts or schedule follow-ups to avoid the need for repairs altogether.
  • Predictive: This type of maintenance is done in anticipation of future faults and problems, and is often predicated by a non-critical warning of some kind. It could be an inordinate temperature reported by a gauge or a small leak of some kind. Predictive maintenance is powerful because it is performed on a still-working product, alleviating the need for repairs.
  • Corrective: Unlike predictive maintenance, corrective work is done on products that are still functioning, but due to a mechanical error, aren’t functioning at their full capacity. This can also be done in order to optimize performance, in the case that nothing is wrong.

3. Installation and project commissioning

Though people would like to think of themselves as pretty handy with a set of tools, there are some things that just can’t be done without help from an experienced technician. Ever tried installing anything more complicated than a washing machine before? That’s what we have field service workers for. After the installation, the field worker will run a series of initial tests to ensure it’s functioning at its intended capacity.

4. Consultation

Sometimes field service workers aren’t making repairs or installing things — they’re making complex judgments about your facility or site and writing up recommendations or prices. These judgments can vastly improve the performance of your business and operations. You’ll be better equipped to maximize the usage of your tools or worksite, as well as plan accordingly for future work or projects.

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What Is Field Service Management Software?

Still, what is field service management software? It’s known by many names. Sometimes it’s called field service software, some call it field staff management software and others simply shorten it to FSM software. No matter what it’s called, however, its main purpose is to facilitate the tasks of field service management.

Essentially, field service management software is a piece of software that allows you to schedule workers, collect important data and documentation, issue invoices, manage fleets, assets and so much more. FSM is kind of like the alternator to a car. It’s a subtle, yet essential component that drives power to the other parts of the vehicle.

At its most basic level, field service management software is software used to track field operations of any kind. FSM software can also usually handle back-office tasks, like billing or invoicing.

What FSM software should ultimately provide above all else, however, is better customer service and higher customer satisfaction. You want all five of those stars on Google and Yelp, don’t you?

Common Field Service Management Software Features

We’ve touched on some of the features of field service management software earlier, but now it’s time for a closer look. Here are the features you’ll find in your typical field service management software vendor:

Workforce Management

Scheduling and dispatching your technicians is at the heart of what you do. You can’t service your customers unless you have someone scheduled to do so, and that’s just what field service management software does. We’re probably preaching to the choir when we say that managing your technicians’ schedules is cumbersome. That’s why FSM software automates the whole process so that as soon as a new job opens up it can be assigned to the next available technician. That way neither your customers nor your technicians are kept waiting. We call that a win-win.

Inventory Management

Knowing how much of your inventory you have and where it is at all times is a must, especially with expensive equipment. For companies in industries such as telecommunications, manufacturing or property maintenance, that equipment is your livelihood. Thanks to the internet of things and FSM software, you can keep track of each individual piece of equipment. The inventory you can track even includes your vehicles, so you know where they are at all times. Field service management software gets rid of the questions of where something is or where it’ll be at the end of the day. All you have to do is check your field service solution.

Billing

Part of keeping your customers happy is sending them the bill. Well, maybe not actually sending them the bill, but doing so in a timely manner. Customers can get annoyed if you take too long to send it. They may also forget completely and end up surprised when a bill shows up months later. Field service management software helps you avoid the annoyance and the shock by automating the billing process.

Real-Time Analytics

All of the above are possible thanks to information collected in real time. Field service management software collects data of all kinds to run your field services at maximum efficiency. For example, it uses your technicians’ current locations and job statuses to schedule and dispatch them once a new job opens up. It also keeps your inventory lists up to date by updating them whenever a component is used on a job. And lastly, real-time analytics helps the software realize when a job is done and what was done on the job so it can send the bill over. Basically, these real-time analytics provide you with the information you need to run smoothly.

Mobile Applications

Any field management software worth its salt will have some sort of mobile component to it. This is not a “feature” either. This is now a requirement.

A mobile application allows workers to stay in sync with HQ. It provides all the flexibility of a personal digital assistant with the mobility and agility of a mobile device. By tacking on a mobile asset, field workers are better able to serve the customer. They get access to data quickly, they can respond to jobs faster, and can constantly be in touch with their managers in the event that the higher-ups need to be pulled.

Mobile field service management can also help billing move quickly. Customers are able to sign receipts on-the-go, receive invoices and more. And all the while, that data is being sent back to HQ to be stored and processed.

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On-Premise vs Cloud Field Service Management Software

Fieldwork is an essential component of service companies. Supervisors and managers use field service management software to allocate field tasks to workers and then monitor their performance. It can help businesses improve field productivity, service delivery, business performance and increase sales. Some examples of businesses that use this kind of software are companies in construction and utilities, health care assistance and home repairs.

One of the major decisions for businesses that are looking to invest in field service management software is whether to deploy the software on-premise or in the cloud. Let’s explore both deployment options in-depth before analyzing which one you should choose.

On-Premise Deployment

An on-premise software solution is installed as well as hosted in your data center, which means the management of the solution is typically carried out by your internal IT staff. Such a solution allows businesses to have full control over every aspect of the system as well as secure company data. On-premise field service management software, like any on-premise software, typically entails a significant upfront investment. However, ongoing costs other than regular maintenance and service expenses aren’t much of a factor.

Cloud-Based Deployment

A cloud-based software solution is when the software is hosted by an external service provider who is responsible for all aspects of the infrastructure. Some of these aspects include data storage, security, server stability and maintenance. This software is accessible via the internet in a web browser and, sometimes, a mobile app. Cloud-based field service management software generally has a subscription-based licensing model. As a result, their upfront costs are low or nonexistent.

Now, when you’re evaluating which deployment option is best for you, what do you need to be aware of?

Which to Pick?

In the upcoming year, companies must be extremely agile in their response to the changing needs of their customers, as reports are saying that the field service industry could be worth nearly $4.45 billion by 2022. So which one should you pick in order not to miss your slice of the pie?

The cloud is:

  • Agile
  • Cheap (at least up front)
  • Scalable

But on-premise systems present their own significant advantages. On-premise solutions:

  • Are customizable
  • Can be scaled (in some cases)
  • Provide companies more control over their data

 

Field Service Management cloud vs on-premise installations

The cloud can offer some advantages — and drawbacks — versus an on-premise solution.

So it’s understandably hard to pick which solution will suit all of your needs. Thankfully, it’s becoming increasingly common among FSM vendors to offer cloud deployments alongside their on-premise solutions, letting you stay mobile and benefit from everything an on-premise solution has to offer.

Developments in Field Service Management Software

FSM is a surprisingly agile field. Just check out our trends article to get an idea of what we’re talking about. There’s constant growth in both the methodology and technology in service management, and one of the biggest ones comes from the unlikely fusion of uber-like technology with field service.

The Uberization of Dispatching

Do you remember what we said way back about how companies like Uber are using field service management software? Have you figured out how yet? We’ll give you a hint: start by thinking about automated dispatching.

When a passenger requests an Uber ride, the field service system processes the locations of all nearby drivers. Once it finds the closest one, it dispatches the trip to that driver. At this point, the driver can either accept or decline the trip. If they decline, the trip gets dispatched to the next closest driver, and so on. After a driver accepts, the passenger can track where the driver is, see the driver’s name and see an updated ETA.

The main difference between Uber’s field service management software and regular FSM software, however, is “crowdsourcing.”  As you probably know, Uber drivers aren’t full-time employees. Rather, they work whenever they want to, oftentimes only a few hours a week. This has become a massively successful business model, and traditional field service may follow suit. In fact, some companies are already trying it out, with positive results so far. It’s no surprise that the uberization of field services is one of the biggest trends in the industry.

Although requesting a technician at the push of a button isn’t here yet, the transparency is already possible. Boston-based Dispatch is a field-service platform that helps companies connect with their technicians and their customers better. Similarly to Uber, the platform lets customers see the incoming technician and provides real-time updates on their arrival time.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: Game Changers in Field Service Management

“What does virtual reality (VR) have to do with field service management software?” You might ask. Well, it’s got a lot more to do with field service software than you think.

We reported on how augmented reality (AR) and VR were changing the game. They’re lowering the barrier to entry by deploying workers with a live connection to the back office staff, who can see what they see and direct their actions.

Imagine sending two unskilled employees to go do the work of an engineer, guided virtually by that engineer. Or maybe the engineer takes to the field, and, using AR goggles, is able to visit a worksite and pull up live data on a piece of equipment he or she might be working with.

VR and AR are also being used in training scenarios across the field. Companies like Stefanini are deploying VR and AR goggles and software to train their field service employees.

The future of FSM might not be behind a pair of screens, but behind a pair of goggles instead.

AI and Field Service Management — An Unlikely Match Made in Heaven?

Think of all the rote, boring and mechanical tasks you have to take care of when it comes to running the back office and managing people. There’s scheduling, asset management, dispatch and more. After a while, this starts to eat away at the time you could be spending doing other things — even with some of the best asset management solutions, you’ll still be bent over the keyboard working out little details.

Getting any of these details wrong can spell trouble for your business: unhappy workers means unhappy customers, both locked in a self-sustaining cycle of dissatisfaction.

Though it may sound like a trendy buzzword to you, artificial intelligence might just be the technology to save schedulers and managers from themselves. Almost half of all surveyed field service organizations say that automation is leading to the greatest source of their revenue growth.

Software like ServiceMax is already deploying automated scheduling, asset distribution and more to help make their customer’s lives that much easier. Picture this: when you’ve got a full day of service calls on the board, ServiceMax’s optimized algorithm goes through and assigns the best worker to each one, in accordance with their own, already-set schedules.

But it’s not all left up to AI. You can set rules and regulations regarding who is assigned what, and the AI will work around those rules to come back with the most optimized placements and asset assignments.

Suddenly you’ve got your board cleared up, and can move on to more pressing matters, all thanks to AI’s self-learning and self-sustaining capabilities.

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What Field Service Management Software Vendors Are Out There?

If you’re ready to start Googling “field service management software vendors,” first take a look at our curated list of some of the top field service solutions:

Oracle Field Service Cloud

With a “buy once, run anywhere” philosophy guiding it, Oracle’s Field Service Cloud is built from the ground up to run on whatever hardware you can throw at it. Personal computers, laptops, workstations, set-top devices, mainframes and massively parallel computers are all going to be able to handle Oracle’s FSM solution. Field Service Cloud is built on predictive, self-learning technology, empowering your business and making sure you never miss a service-level agreement again.

Precise geo-coding, coupled with advanced map layering, keeps your techs on track and pointed in the right direction with their Oracle Field Service mobile applications guiding them along the way.

ServiceMax

With ServiceMax, you get an all-in-one field service management solution that’s based in the cloud but built for boots on the ground. Built with mobile in mind ServiceMax turns your field workers into autonomous, capable technicians. They’ll work on a ServiceMax optimized schedule and work towards goals defined by your ServiceMax installation. But they’ll never be at a job they can’t handle — ServiceMax lets you define what rules dictate who gets assigned what job.

Run on desktop, tablet or mobile — it doesn’t matter. Quit asking “what is field service management software?” and start asking about ServiceMax.

IFS

IFS is famous for its robust enterprise-level software applications. Popular in all field service industries, IFS’ field service management software helps companies streamline their complex business processes. Improving efficiency is at the center of every aspect of the application, from its asset management module to its easy integration.

CORESystems Field Service Software

Coresystems field service software is built on the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, bringing together some of the best asset management features into one easy-to-use application. Send your techs out to represent your business with their powerful mobile application and scheduling software, all while tracking their assets using Coresystems innovative QR code generating technology. And back at the office, you can own and direct your enterprise data with the cloud-based master data management, all built inside of Coresystems field service software.

ServicePower

ServicePower’s claim to fame is that it’s the only field service management software that provides “Hybrid Workforce Management”. Manage your own staff, customers and third-party contractors all under the Hybrid Workforce Management machine, which is built on top of the features you’ve come to expect from ServicePower — robust and rapid scheduling, real-time data analytics, and more. ServicePower’s customer portal will save you the back-office backache of managing customers and third parties.

Compare Field Service Management Pricing & Costs with our Pricing Guide

Some Closing Words On The Field Service Management Industry

Hopefully, you’re not still asking yourself, “What is field service management software?” But if you are, we’ve got a bevy of resources to help answer that question — and then some. We hope you’ve found this guide helpful on your quest to learn more about field service management, or maybe you still need help picking out some software to suit your business’s needs. If that’s the case, maybe look at our requirements template so you can get a good picture of what your company’s software requirements might be.

Have any questions about field service management? Let us know in the comments below!

Jason KellerWhat is Field Service Management? (Nearly) Everything You Need to Know

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