Some trends are so oft-discussed that it’s fair to wonder when they transcend the term ‘trend’ and are simply accepted as staples of our day-to-day life.
Technology is awash with such terms, from big data to cloud computing, which actually shape our everyday lives to the extent that they can, and should, shed their image as nascent trends. The Internet of Things (IoT) surely belongs to this group—a term that’s been cited as ‘the next big thing’ for so long that it’s probably fair to say that it is now just ‘a big thing’, and one whoseimpact is keenly felt throughout a huge number of industries, notleast the service industry.
Service providers, from home healthcare providers to beverage vending companies to depot repair shops, are witnessing a profound impact on how they deliver these services thanks to IoT and the connectivity it offers. Whereas service providers have previously relied upon a reactive response to providing support—if a piece of equipment breaks, they can guarantee a response time to arrive and address the issue—the entire model is now changing to one of predictive and proactive service; a model that can guarantee improved flexibility, mobility, and speed of response.
Make no mistake, IoT represents a paradigm shift in the service industry.
It means a significant increase in the type of proactive services companies can offer as the data collected by the assets and equipment in the field can offer valuable insights, not only into how the equipment is being used but when it is functional, when it could potentially fail and how it can be fixed. Service level agreements (SLAs) were once primarily focused on post-event response time—now, IoT will completely change this and allow providers to offer previously unmatched levels of service to their customers. In the near future, enterprises will be able to consider SLAs that feature 15-minute response times, rather than 2 hours, and the goal is to see just how proactive this can become. The potential for service providers to eventually guarantee zero failure rate is no longer fantasy, but a very real prospect.
Certain level of suspicion
Another shift in the industry is represented by technology that is often viewed with a certain level of suspicion. For example, the age of IoT can see drones become a competitive advantage for service delivery options in many industries. For example, when coupled with technology that allows service providers to identify service faults and requirements from afar, drones can be used to deliver the appropriate tools or equipment required to address these issues.
Their ability to save businesses time, money and effort will eventually see drones become a vital part of the value chain, and in areas such as home healthcare can produce benefits for users that cannot be understated, such as the delivery of medicine in a quick, cost-efficient manner or providing remote-site analysis in the case of a fire or other emergency.
How to steer ahead
So how can service providers look to usher in this brave new world? Field service management (FSM) software can help enterprises efficiently manage work tasks that need to be performed on location. Inorder to capitalize upon the age of IoT, the full process of field service must be automated, from data collection and analysis to action. But the software is only part of the solution; it should be powered by an open, flexible cloud platform such as Microsoft Azure—one that is able to capture the necessary data streams and make them actionable. This still represents a significant leap forward in the industry, though one which is currently being approached by FSM providers that are making ita reality. The age of IoT is certainly upon us though it still has an enormous amount of untapped potential. If service providers want to realize this, they should look to FSM and the companies moving the space forward; those who see IoT as less a trend, and more an indispensable model for adoption.
(Tom Bowe is the industry director for Enterprise Service Management at IFS. Tom has an extensive background in service management. Most recently he headed up the research and development of the IFS Field Service Management solution as VP of R&D)