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Shared Services: A Winning Strategy for SMB Field Service

Field service agents by far bring the most significant voice of end users. A recent study by Aberdeen Research Group (2012) states that 65% of service requests require a field visit or dispatch. Often these field visits are conducted by small service businesses, typically with less than 5 employees, who provide superior service in a niche market. At that size, it is prohibitively complex for SMBs to own technology solutions to manage crucial lead management, opportunity management, order management and fulfillment business processes. With continuing cloud computing innovation, there is an increasing opportunity for Field Service Hubs to assist SMB service providers to manage these processes and enable them to focus on what they do best – delivering superior customer service. In fact, Gartner (2012) outlines their belief that cloud computing is one of the key factors that could allow field service organizations to enhance customer intimacy.

Typical Field Service SMB: In order to understand the ideal structure of a Field Service Hub, we need to understand the goals, core business processes and characteristics of field service SMBs they are supporting. The figure to the right captures the high level view of a typical field service SMB — its characteristics, business processes, capabilities and goals.

Foundational issues with meeting the sophisticated requirements of managing a world class field service organization include having deep territory understanding, knowledge management and competitive pricing. In order to overcome these challenges while delivering superior customer service on a national scale, the need for technology investments is evident. The question is, would total cost of ownership of end-to-end technology be justifiable for an SMB? If not, what are the alternatives? There seems to be an emerging solution. Let us call it a Field Service Hub. A proven test case for this opportunity to establish a field service hub is Uber. A recent Wired Magazine1 article provided an overview of Uber (www.uber. com) who recognized an opportunity to connect a geographically diverse customer base willing to pay premium prices for private limousine services with limousine owner operators in a growing list of cities around the world. At the time of the article (July 2012), Uber connected people with drivers in 9 cities. In less than one year that number has increased to almost 30 cities in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. In this case the client receives superior limousine service with the confidence and convenience of purchasing from an internationally recognized brand. At the same time the limousine operator benefits from increased utilization rates without the need to invest in lead generating activities or lead management processes. The following diagram shows the role a Field Service Hub plays in connecting clients with field service organizations.
Tsotsis, Alexia, “Calling all Cars.” Wired July 2012, page 82


An example of an existing vendor who could leverage a Field Service Hub to add complementary services is U-Haul. A field service hub could potentially enable U-Haul to leverage local moving services SMBs to provide packaging, loading and unpacking to complement its core truck rental business.
Field Service Hubs can be leveraged to create standalone businesses (like Uber), or they can provide an opportunity for existing vendors to expand service offerings or provide complementary services for core businesses.

Key Field Service Hubs Capabilities
While Uber and U-Haul are not typical field service organizations, their success as a hub depends on overcoming the key challenges of getting the right service agent to the right place at the right time. The table below briefly talks about some of the challenges and specific Field Service Hub capabilities required to overcome these challenges. Challenge Area Key Challenge
Large technology Field Service SMBs investments are focused solution providers in niche markets without the financial resources to undertake this level of investment Tribal partnerships Lack of knowledge of complementary local solutions Inability to forecast demand and hence lack of supply side controls

How Would a Field Service Hub Help?
Cloud based service solutions (e.g. ServiceMax,’s Service Cloud) eliminate the need to make large upfront technology investments.

A hub could provide a single repository of the capabilities of many field service organizations, enabling cross-selling services from complementary local solutions. The ability to leverage field service SMBs enables vendors to flex capacity to meet seasonal demand fluctuations or expand service territories without the heavy fixed cost of creating a local field service organization.

Demand and supply balance

Challenge Area Key Challenge
Identifying the right service provider Understanding a customer’s exact need is often a challenge, but it is critical for eliminating erroneous field service dispatches meant to solve the wrong problem Ability to identify the required solution and generate accurate order documentation

How Would a Field Service Hub Help?
Guided selling, included with many cloud based CPQ (Configure-Price-Quote) solutions lead individuals who lack skill in a particular solution through a discovery process to pinpoint customer issues before dispatch-eliminating unnecessary dispatches and speeding resolution while on site. In addition to guided selling solutions, cloud based CPQ (Configure-Price-Quote) solutions typically provide configuration capabilities to help select the correct solution for each client situation. Further, leading CPQ solutions have integrated document generation tools to create accurate quotes and orders at the push of a button. A centralized scheduling capability allows appointments to be scheduled while the customer is requesting service. Providing a centralized scheduling capability, to match available field service appointments with customer service requests at the time the need is reported reduces unproductive overhead and enhances customer satisfaction. Cloud based service solutions (e.g. ServiceMax,’s Service Cloud) maintain customer contact information, including details of their service entitlement.

While Uber and U-Haul are not typical field service organizations, their success as a hub depends on overcoming the key challenges of getting the right service agent to the right place at the right time.

Pricing and quoting

Appointment Booking

Creating appointments between field service representatives and the client can become a frustrating game of telephone tag

Knowing the customer

Managing a field service hub on a national basis can give the appearance of not having deep local knowledge

How Relevant Is Cloud Computing?
As cloud computing innovation continues, there are clearly certain solutions that have leading edge capabilities at reasonable prices. A quick comparison of capabilities in the configure–price–quote (“CPQ”) area is shown below: Big Machines
Product Catalogue Configuration Price & Quote Order Management Order Execution Order Documentation Approvals Guided Selling

WebSource CPQ
Product Modeling Product Catalogue Configuration Price & Quote Order Management Order Execution Approvals

CallidusCloud CPQ
Product Catalogue Configuration Price & Quote Order Management Order Documentation Approvals Guided Selling

Chameleon CPQ
Product Modeling Product Catalogue Configuration Price & Quote Order Documentation

Apttus CPQ
Product Catalogue Configuration Price & Quote Order Management Order Documentation Approvals Guided Selling e-Signature

Through structured Frameworks and specific domain knowledge, and with the innovation in mobility, big data and cloud computing, all the challenges mentioned above can be resolved with a pragmatic roadmap and thorough business architecture definition.

One such framework used by the authors to evaluate investment opportunities is the value and constraint index. An organization’s key business goals are weighted to show relative value. For example a field service organization’s key goals may focus on utilization, customer satisfaction or order errors. At the same time each organization has constraints limiting its ability to implement one or more investment opportunity (cost, expertise, organizational capacity to adopt change). Investment opportunities can be prioritized by value ratio, the weighted values of benefits divided by the weighted value of constraints for leading investment opportunities. A sample value ratio analysis is shown below. In this case the two most valuable investment opportunities available to the field service hub are managing its supply of field service SMBs (fleet / inventory) and providing a centralized repository of customer information.

Infogain has extensive experience helping clients implement cloud-based service solutions across a variety of industries and functional areas. A relative sample of case studies is outlined below.

Infogain has rich and relevant experience enabling businesses to create competitive advantage by offering superior field service processes through cloudbased solutions.

Leading home design solution

Business Issue
Ability to dispatch design consultants and installation professionals to client homes in more than 300 cities across North America Unacceptably slow order fulfillment

Salesforce Service Cloud based field service dispatch solution based

Enhanced lead processing efficiency / reduced paperwork

Large data storage solution provider

Salesforce Service Cloud middleware integration to corporate middleware. Partner Resource Management and lead to fulfillment workflow

Real time access to account, product and field service provider information Enhanced sales and business visibility / predictability and reduced inventory cost

Network access Lack of partner solutions for mobile management limenterprises ited sales visibility

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About the authors
Syam Kanduri, VP, Enterprise Solutions Design at Infogain
Business and solution architecture and deployment experience for fortune 500 companies. Client list includes NetApp, Cisco, Microsoft and a few west coast SMB field service enablers.

Jack McKeown, Senior CloudCRM Analyst, Infogain

Solution archiecture and business process expert for enterprise software products and implentations. Client list includes AT&T Wireless, Vodafone, Telstra, HP and Best Buy.

Reference material:
1. 2. 3. 4. Sumair Dutta and Aly Pinder Jr., “Field Service 2012”, Aberdeen Group, February 2012 William McNeill, Michael Maoz and Gordon Van Huizen, “Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management.” Gartner, Inc., October 17, 2012 Stephen Mann, Doug Washburn and Miroslaw Lisserman, “Market Overview: SaaS IT Service Management Tools.” Forrester Research, February 21, 2013 “Make Field Service Best Practices Even Better by Leveraging Mobile Technology.” FieldWorker, 2011
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