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Complexity and the need for Optimization

There are growing interests, needs, and demands for schedule optimization and mobile workforce management solutions from both prospective customers and other Independent Software Vendors – now with a momentum not seen in the past. Once seen as a non-essential investment – even a luxury a decade ago – schedule optimization software solutions were typically relegated to second, or third, place behind an organization’s investment in CRM, ERP, or EAM products. At the same time, after-sales service was at first regarded as being secondary to the design, production, distribution, and sale of a physical product. Who can dismiss the feel, touch, and aesthetics of something tangible, right?

The attention given towards customer experience however has since changed everyone’s focus. After-sales service might have even been considered an inconvenience or an annoyance at one point -- one of those obligations manufacturers had to fulfil should their products fail at any time during the warranty and extended warranty periods.

Times began to change with the smarter service businesses recognizing that good service is a true differentiator in their market and that customers may even be prepared to pay higher prices for a more reliable and professional level of service. Who’d have thought that would happen? The same applies within non product-intensive service organizations such as insurance – here the market is price sensitive and the ease of switching to alternative insurers is high with many policyholders basing their future decision on their experiences should they ever have to submit a claim.

The pace of change is now coming faster and faster. Schedule optimization isn’t simply a case of deciding who to send, where, when, and with the necessary parts and skills. Yes, those are factors in the decision-making process, but there’s much more complexity to consider: customer availability, service level agreements, parts availability and whereabouts, future planned maintenance schedules, data being sent from assets through M2M connected services, costs, crews, complex scheduling with dependent activities, and other factors all in a changing – dynamic – environment where rapid response is often the norm.

Get this right, then the service business not only becomes more efficient, but customer satisfaction and retention both rise, operating costs are lowered, and a competitive advantage is achieved. Sounds simple but it isn’t, as creating and maintaining optimized schedules – in real-time as the environment changes – is a considerable mathematical feat that only a few ISVs can really achieve. Today’s optimization products also need to be configurable to adapt to a specific business environment, however, they cannot be so configurable that they become difficult – or impossible – to correctly implement with the project instead running an endless implementation lifecycle.

Buyers of optimized scheduling solutions have a choice, but it’s a choice that is gradually diminishing. Over the past eight-or-so years, numerous specialist ISVs in this area have disappeared, typically after being acquired by an enterprise software giant. As this trend is still continuing in the second half of 2014 does this mean that the demand for optimized scheduling and mobile workforce management is dying? Absolutely not. There’s a strong reason for the acquisition of specialist vendors: domain expertise that the acquiring organization does not have, but it surely does need. Given the economic environment that has been outlined in this blog, suddenly it is clear that the need for optimized scheduling within enterprise businesses is fast becoming a mandatory investment rather than just an optional enhancement to a service business.

This need is evident across all ends of the industry, from the largest, multi-national conglomerate down to the smaller, local, field service businesses. With this is mind, it is clear therefore that this industry is not dying – far from it – in fact, it’s just really getting going and ServicePower’s connected field services solutions are uniquely positioned to addresses the market’s needs. The demand for field service management software is only getting stronger. For more information about our connected field services solutions, visit us today!

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