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It's time to embrace change in field service management sector

Chris Proctor, head of marketing & sales at Oneserve, says that as the dinosaurs of the field service management head to extinction, real opportunities open up for the channel

For years the field service management software market has based its sales strategy on penetrative acquisition pricing policies backed by hugely expensive additional professional services. The old saying of ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’ has been lazily embraced whole heartedly by many of those at the top of the market, but this backward, arrogant way of looking at the market, customers and partners has to change, and it is.

Customers have been crying out for a more flexible, self-service approach to software sales in the field service management market for some time. They are fed up with having to watch problems manifest and grow and of paying extortionate amounts of money for additional ‘professional services’ forced upon them by the major players and the lack of innovation when it comes to their most basic requirements.

All of this adds up to a real opportunity for the channel. In a market that is seeing such fundamental change and with many of the big players unwilling or unable to change their business models, aligning with the right type of vendor to ensure longevity within the market, but also the best opportunities for sales is crucial.

Lumbering dinosaurs and extinction

These huge monolithic organisations have been partying for years at the expense of their customers, now they’re all waking up with hangovers, once again it’s their clients who are forced to suffer as these dinosaurs clamber to support their balance sheets with yet more professional services. Although professional services might be an aspect where the channel can make money, it is at the expensive of customers satisfaction and is actually dragging the industry to its knees as the major players attempt to stifle innovation which could give the customer exactly what they have been crying out for; a flexible, self-service approach. This is where the real opportunity for the channel lays.

Giving customers what they want, rather than what they’re told they want gives the channel a huge opportunity to grab market share before competitors catch up.

The lumbering dinosaurs are in fact, falling so far behind the ball in terms of where the market should, and will, be heading over the next few years that their extinction seems inevitable. For too long people have been tricking themselves into the perceived complexity of the market. It is remarkably simple, look at how we’ve done it in other sectors; give people what they want, when they want it and how they want it.

It has to be about a true SaaS offering, a flexible approach that allows technology of different types to talk to each other and give customers what they really want; a self-service model that allows them the freedom to utilise the solution as they see fit, without having to call in the technical people, waiting for weeks or months for them arrive and paying extortionate charges for the pleasure. We wouldn’t accept this in any other industry or sector; you wouldn’t call an electrician every time a bulb blows!

‘As a service’ solutions have undoubtedly forced many channel players to re-look at their own business models and adjust them to changes in the way that IT services are bought and managed. Those that have adjusted will see the opportunities that changes in a market like field service management software offers. Giving customers what they want, rather than what they’re told they want gives the channel a huge opportunity to grab market share before competitors catch up.  

Financial instability

Another factor that may send shivers down the channel’s spine is the state of many of the larger players financials. It should be no surprise that the very nature of the dinosaurs’ size and structure means turning their business models upside to reflect this customer demand is difficult enough. However, the financial instability of a great number of them just adds to the momentum of the meteorite that is speeding towards them. The turnover of many of those who describe themselves as market leaders in the field service management space is impressive, but a quick glance through their annual reports reveals, despite this, a disturbing trend of huge losses or concerningly small margins. This is very obviously an unsustainable model. The demands of multiple VC backers mean they’re now on a treadmill they cannot get off of and are having to pull in money whenever they can, which is why the professional services route is so crucial for them. Unless they are able to turn their entire business proposition upside down, which is virtually impossible with such huge losses and the demand of multiple VC backers, there is a real chance that they’ll be wiped off the face of the market.

Smoke and mirrors

As has been explained the world of field service management is, like most, changing positively and dramatically. The advances made in the technology can make a difference to the way that organisations are able to manage, monitor and analyse their field force. However, this is causing even more issues as many companies in the field service management sector are jumping on developments such as ‘Internet of Things’, without putting the basics right first. This smoke and mirror trick is intended to cover up their core failings, by deceiving the customer into thinking these new technologies need increasing amounts of professional service support. There are undoubtedly some important technological advances that will benefit the sector, but the core issues that customers are crying out for, such as self-service, are largely being ignored. Most customers we speak to want to buy a solution that actually works and run it themselves, not to be held to the whole swathe of professional services that too often accompanies any purchase in this sector.  Again although these innovations potentially offer new opportunities for the channel, the damage it can potentially do to customer relationships questions their value.

The result of the changes within the industry means that field service management can no longer be a rigid structured solution, it has to be a flexible one that embraces the many aspects of what a modern mobile workforce needs. The self-service approach is absolutely what customers want and need. They are no longer satisfied being tied to hugely expensive additional services, but instead want to buy the solution and grow and develop without ‘forced’ assistance.

The result of the changes within the industry means that field service management can no longer be a rigid structured solution

The world has changed and a new breed of faster, more agile and innovative companies are taking the places of the out-of-date lumbering dinosaurs that have dominated the sector for so many years. Aligning your business to these agile companies will be the key to the success of channel partners in this sector. Coming out of the substantial shadows cast by these dinosaurs will seem daunting to many, but even smoke casts a shadow, it’s time to face the sun and let these shadows fall behind us. This new world has the potential to offer huge reward for those that are ready to embrace it; now; tomorrow; and long into the future.

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