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2015

MEDIVATORS is a leader in developing, manufacturing, and marketing medical devices, sterilants, and water purification products, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We have been experiencing exciting growth and recently launched our first global sales and service team, based in the Netherlands. Our field service organization is central to our success, and I am looking towards the future and considering what challenges we will see and which best practices we can leverage as my colleagues and I manage a global field service team for the first time. Here are some of my top priorities and strategies:

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Leverage Proactive Teamwork

I have the privilege of partnering with John Welisevich, the Salesforce Applications Specialist at MEDIVATORS, to manage more than 200 users on our Salesforce.com and ServiceMax programs. These users include our sales, service and marketing teams. Since it’s just the two of us,  we have to balance helping our end users, managing the integration with our ERP system, maintaining the Salesforce platform, and trying to develop new tools all on a daily basis.  We heavily rely on collaboration, and I believe that supporting each other is fundamental. While I am sometimes focused more on enabling our sales team in SFDC, I need to keep up with everything happening with ServiceMax and align with John on the Salesforce side for our North America programs. Our time is very limited, but as we look forward to a global future, that close partnership will be even more important, and our mutual support balancing act will be essential to success.

 

Anticipate Process Differences (and Leg Work!)

There are so many differences to consider when you cross borderlines or oceans. Even though the European office might say “We want to follow the same process the U.S. does,” there is a lot of groundwork ahead of us as we consider enabling our global field service team in one centralized way. We can never assume that our global offices work exactly as we do.  Maybe U.S. customers expect Preventive Maintenance plans once a year but customers in Europe expect PMs performed twice a year. Currency differences will also make a huge difference, as we will need to expand our system to include work and payment in GBP in the United Kingdom and EUR across the rest of Europe. Majoritively, we will stick to the same processes that have made us successful in North America, but nuances are everything! It’s not as simple as duplicating what we have. We are keeping in mind that we are endeavoring to go into other markets, with different rules, laws, and approval processes. We’ll need to learn and observe where stakeholders might do things differently than we do, and align our plans accordingly.

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Incorporate Learning from the Sales Side

In late 2014, our European sales team went live with our Salesforce tools and processes. There are many things that I can take away from my work on that transition since I had the opportunity to go to the office to train the end users and obtain feedback on how their processes were different than ours.  I found out essential details that I would have loved to have known before I started the implementation.This is why, in my opinion, the best thing that any company can do is bring the service director and salesforce implementation expert to the new regional or corporate offices before going live with an expansion to diverse teams. Face to face collaboration allows for unparalleled give and take. We were able to gather the exact business requirements and find out the merits of the existing programs and processes in place. Instead of saying ‘let’s just do what corporate does’ it was a conversation and a collaboration, and the result was that much better.

 

Respect In House Field Service Experts

As we look at everything we need to put in place and everything we want to achieve with our global expansion of the field service team, I have to incorporate the voice of our best experts, our field service engineers. I have to make sure the process is working here first, before we bring it to additional teams. We have a plan to gather extensive feedback from our current FSEs on their experience today and how ServiceMax is best serving them. We want to confirm if this process is working properly for us, and identify what’s working and what isn’t.

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Q&A for community members:

1.  How does your company integrate field service process with your ERP system?

 

          - For example, is there a two way integration from the ERP to your field service software (ServiceMax or other) at all times?

          - Or is the information pushed from the ERP, then completely handled from that start of a service call to closing the call in field service software (again, ServiceMax for us), and then the information is pushed back to the ERP?

 

2.   What challenges have you faced integrating field service software with your back end ERP system?

 

3.    Do you manage a global field service team?  Or are you thinking about expanding?

 

I’d love to hear your challenges and considerations that global expansion has presented to your business!

522153.jpgOn my drive to work every morning, I traverse San Francisco on my way out the ServiceMax HQ in Pleasanton, CA. Something I often notice in the city is the stark contrast between the incredible amount of new projects and construction with the un-maintained roads and infrastructure. Right before I get on the shiny brand new Bay Bridge, my poor car takes a beating in potholes, rough roads and other urban obstacles.

 

And this isn't just a problem in San Francisco. All over the country, infrastructure maintenance is being de-prioritized while new projects are increasing. As people in the service and maintenance industry, this can be frustrating. I think a lot of people agree that it's time for a change.

 

A change could not only be good for us as Americans, but could also be a boon for the service industry. After all, who is going to perform the maintenance? Ok, if you're a medical device company, perhaps you don't have much to gain here, but certainly some of the more industrial companies and service organizations will benefit.

 

So, what do you think needs to change? How do we get our politicians and representatives to start to prioritize maintenance and make my long commute to work more bearable!?!

A few months ago, while sitting in a project kickoff meeting discussing the definition of project  success, the service manager in charge, stood up abruptly. He wandered toward the door, obviously in need of a break, and left the room with his final word on project success,  “The only measure I care about is making the application easier to use. Our current applications and tools are too cumbersome. They all needed to be simplified.”

 

I became increasingly excited as I began to think about that measure of success. While our project team came prepared to walk through every field service metric known to mankind, I was confident on how we needed to proceed. I knew the meeting was going to take an interesting turn, and I was ready to take this challenge head on.

 

As the team regrouped from our break, the service manager walked back in and took his seat. We started back up and he asked me if I thought we could help. My answer was not a simple yes as you may have thought, it was a “Yes, but….” as I said that, he let out a sigh and looked at me. I finished by saying “Yes, but first, can you tell me about your processes.”

 

You see most complex applications are caused by a complex process it is trying to support. Many times this is a result of adding a single task and not taking the time to look at the end to end process that needs to consider the new task. Sometimes it's simply because of an aversion to change.

 

 

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People are averse to change, we all know that. We like to get into a routine and find that change can disrupt the natural flow of our days. process improvement is no different. You will find that many times, the way you do a process is the way you did it years ago. Keep in mind times have changed and so has your business.  Look at your business processes as an ongoing task. You don’t have to redo your entire way of doing business, but take a look at a few areas a year and identify ways to simplify.

 

Once you select an area to work on, REFLECT on the process(es).

 

    • REVIEW your current process and understand what it is trying to accomplish.
  • Don’t just assume that the way you understand the purpose of the process is what you think it is.

 

    • EXPERIENCE what your team does, and how they do it.
  • When was the last time you spent a day in the life of one of your technicians?

 

    • FEEL the pain, understand what your team doesn't like and what procedures they don't follow.
  • Don’t correct and say how they should be doing something. Chances are they know, they don’t like they way it gets done.

 

    • LET GO of personal interests (especially if one of those pain points were your idea to begin with).
  • It’s not that your idea in the past wasn’t good, its that business has changed and its time for your next great idea.

 

    • EDUCATE yourself on what others in your industry are doing.
  • I once had a boss that said “Copying in College is called plagiarism and it gets you expelled, Copying in business is called benchmarking and it gets you ahead”.

 

    • CHALLENGE your team to push boundaries.
  • Just because that is the way its always been done, doesn’t mean it’s right.

 

    • TEACH your team about the new process.
  • Don’t implement change and expect everyone to fall in line. Take the time to tell your team about the changes that are coming and ensure that everyone knows when these changes start.

 

Removing complexity from processes increases productivity and can also increase your team's  satisfaction. Process improvement never ends and you will always find a way to do something easier, quicker and faster. As field service continues to evolve, so does its processes.

 

What areas of complexity are you or your company looking to improve this year?

"Excuse me,” the customer said, “I have your office on the phone and they want to speak to you.”

 

That’s strange, I thought, I was given 5 calls to cover today, I wonder how the office tracked me down to this specific customer?

 

As it turned out my planner (dispatcher) called three customers before they finally found me.

 

It was 1989; I was a field service engineer; Did we really run service like that?

 

We all know that the right technology, implemented the right way, can be a game-changer for field service. Today, the jury is out on wearables like Google Glass (See Field Service Digital's post on Why Google Glass Is Not Dead In Field Service)  Throughout my career in field service, I've been on the front line of some of the newest devices to come to field service teams. As I look back, I have seen the advent of technology ‘revolutionizing service’ (or so we thought) in so many ways. To add to the conversation, I wanted to share a few of the funny moments grappling with technology over the years…

 

1. The service docket (in triplicate)

 

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The service report in triplicate was very much the mainstay of any service organization.

 

The customer has the top copy (signed of course), the office got the middle copy and the engineer kept the bottom copy for his/her records.

 

Of course engineers were empowered to send in all their job sheets to the office on a weekly basis. Now, like a typical service professional, paperwork was never my strong point. I cannot tell you how many times I found a chargeable docket under the passenger seat amidst coke tins and empty crisp packets. The docket was usually darned with a multitude of stains from whatever had been swilling around my the carpets of my car.

 

I use to sweat about the scenario where a might ask to see a copy of the signed service docket, and I would have to hand them something that resembled a child's homework submission (you know the story of the dog chewed, coke stained, crumpled up piece of paper.)

 

2. The pager – remember these?

 

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When I first got wind I was getting a pager, I felt like I ruled the earth. The ability for the office to contact me to re-route me was revolutionary! That is until I received mine and started using it.

 

Bleep, bleep, bleep. Picture the scene: I am on the motorway at 70mph and my pager goes off. I am 20 miles away from the next motorway service station.

 

"Hmmm, do I pull off the motorway at the next junction and find a phone box or carry on to the next service station?" (I had been recently trained on a new, high-volume, high-priority product)

 

I decided I need to pull off at the next junction and find a phone. I drive around aimlessly looking for a phone box. Finally after 10 minutes I found a phone and called the office.

 

“Hi, it's Dave Hart. I have been bleeped, what’s the problem?” To be met with “Oh hi Dave, it's okay. We did bleep you, but I have covered the call with another engineer.” The screams within the phone box could be heard miles away!

 

The pager was never a ‘hit’ with me.

 

3 . The ‘mobile phone’

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Obviously technology progressed and I moved onto one of these.

 

 

No more pager, great! But my, oh my, were these things heavy. They were quickly, but not affectionally, dubbed the 'brick phone.' Ever try lifting a tool case, vacuum cleaner, technical manuals and a ‘brick phone’ into a customer site? I was fitter than I had ever been! And boy oh boy did it fascinate the customers. As was customary back then, I would called the planner to get the next call. Customers would asking why I didn’t use my new ‘mobile’ phone? And I'd admit, it normally wasn't on anymore. The battery (even though it weighed 20lbs) lasted an hour if you were lucky and the cost of a call was the equivalent of some countries' total GDP.

 

The device did start to help with escalating calls to technical support and helping other engineers, connecting us in a new, but extremely heavy way.

 

 

 

4. The laptop PC

 

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Now we are talking! 20th century! I was issued my first laptop. The thrill and excitement of being in a  connected world….or was it?

Well one ‘good thing’ about a cell phone technology is it was now much lighter; but of course all that weight lost was more than made up for by my laptop!

 

Reporting using a laptop usually meant switching it on (as the battery life wasn’t great you kept having to shut it down) waiting SEVEN minutes for the operating system to boot, connecting via VPN, being booted out of the VPN, trying to re-connect, failing to reconnect, shutting the laptop down, waiting seven minutes for the laptop to load the operating system again, then try to connect to the VPN. Rinse and repeat.

 

Oh, the hours I have spent standing on a chair trying to get a 3g connection, waving my laptop out of the window, or in desperation taking the elevator up to the top floor and getting a connection so I could report my job ticket. Of course being 10 floors away from the product you are repairing does make ‘live reporting’ interesting.

 

And I wasn’t going to take the risk of running down 10 flights of stairs to collect a meter reading so ‘guesstimates’ were the order of the day…

 

Moving Forward: Getting New Technology Right for Field Service

 

Jeremy Frank remarked in Field Service Digital's article on Google Glass for Field Service:

 

"Just moving from paper work orders to mobile devices has required a cultural shift at many companies. With the Glass user interface the way it is today, the training and culture changes would have to be even bigger (and maybe unlikely) for successful adoption."

 

I may chuckle at the pitfalls and nuisances of decades past, but I don't despair in the power of technology to make a real difference in the lives of your field service team.  The key is to make the experience of the remote field tech a top priority. They want to get their work done, they want to be successful, and they want technology to make their job easier, not weigh them down. 

 

Q& A:

 

What about you?

 

What technology potholes have you and your team survived?

 

Where are your best (or worst?) anecdotes from the field with new devices?

 

What is most important to successful field service? Technology? People? Training? Some combination?

apple-watch-features-apps-2 copy.pngCan you think of an industry other than field service where literally every new type of technology hardware is relevant any may have a practical use? Let's think about a few recent ones:

 

        • 3D Printing: Don't want to carry trunk stock or tons of inventory? 3D printing may be the inventory manager's best friend with parts printed on-demand.
        • Google Glass: Yes, Google Glass has gone away temporarily but I think a majority of people would agree that field service was one of the most compelling use cases for it
          • Mobile: Ok, mobile has been around a while, but how many functions absolutely require ? There aren't many, but field service is certainly one of them.

 

The latest is the Apple Watch. While smart watches are not new, Apple does always seem to have a way to make their version of various technologies more palatable and useful to consumers. Ultimately, businesses follow right behind. The iPad, for example, was not the first tablet to the market, but it certainly was the first widely used tablet in field service.

 

So will the Apple Watch have a place in field service? ServiceMax director of product management Amit Jain thinks that it's promising. In this article on Field Service Digital, he outlined three areas where the Apple Watch could impact field service, but admits that a lot of this is just speculation and we will have to wait and see how it's adopted -- and how technology vendors like ServiceMax create apps for it (we'll keep you updated about that!)

 

As field service leaders, what do you think? We could wait and see, but that's no fun! Do you think watches will play a role in the daily activities of a field service technician? If the cost of a watch comes down, as Apple products usually do, will the cost be worth it? What are some of the use cases you think technicians could use a smartwatch for? Please let the community know your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

The last Maximize event was in 2013 and marked my very first day at ServiceMax.  Talk about an eye-opener!  I was fortunate enough to attend our annual special event with such successful and collaborative customers.  Since it was my first day, I was encouraged to just be a sponge and take everything in. As I did not have a lot of responsibilities at the event,  I met as many customers, partners, and ServiceMax people I could.  By the end of the first day, I was exhausted!   Admittedly, I didn’t know much about field service when I started, other than from a homeowner perspective.  I came from the ERP/HR software world and thought that field service was mainly about work orders.  I now realize how wrong I was!  After that week, I remember leaving Maximize thinking that I never met a more passionate group of people who were so eager and hungry to talk about field service and who felt responsible for truly elevating field service to the next level. It was my affirmation that I made the right choice to be here!

 

Fast forward to May 2015…I will be at Maximize 2015 and I’m looking forward to hearing the impressive customers’ use of ServiceMax, networking with our partners, prospects and my fellow ServiceMax colleagues.  Will you be attending?

 

I guarantee that you will leave the event with better energy, learn fantastic ideas you can act on, and meet many more people in your circle who have walked the same road as you!  If you are having a hard time justifying the trip, take a look at some of the points my colleague Jeremy Frank talks about in his justification  (you can meet more ServiceMax employees and customers in two days than you could the rest of the year!).  Need some more reasons to attend? 

  • Hear directly from ServiceMax customers best practices, tips & tricks, and actual results from their field service transformation
  • Meet 1:1 with ServiceMax product experts, professional services and customer support
  • Attend hands on training for ServiceMax customers (admins, dispatchers, technicians, and more)
  • Get to know like-minded peers from similar industries, companies, titles

 

From my perspective now, as someone who is showcasing our best customers, I can honestly say that there is something for everyone – every role, every stage of implementation, every size customer.  There will be several tracks including Revenue and Growth, Field Service Management, Technology and Applications, integration and Small Business.   This year the ServiceMax MaxChoice Customer Awards will be presented and awarded to our best customers.  Come witness this ‘first’ and meet the people behind the success!  Nominations are still open through April 10, 2015!

 

Our past surveys have taught us that customers find that they most enjoyed learning about how customers have succeeded with ServiceMax and networking with fellow customers, partners and ServiceMax experts, not to mention incredibly fun evening events!

 

Please join us! Visit the Maximize site for session descriptions and registration!  I hope to see you at Maximize 2015