Buzzwords frequently insert into everyday business talk. “Paradigm shift” and “lean”—popularized in the 1990s. “Disruptive”—taking hold in the mid-2000s. “Mindset”—a staple of the 2010s. These days, as we move into the paradigm shift caused by COVID-19, resulting in a mindset of uncertainty, “agility” is rising to the forefront.
But what is agility and why does it matter in field service?
Enterprise agility is a competitive essential for field service
Agility is what gives field service organizations more operational speed and efficiency. It’s what leaders are focusing on. What customers expect. And ultimately, what gives an organization a distinct advantage over other less nimble competitors.
A recent McKinsey Quarterly survey of 2,500 business leaders found three-quarters of respondents rank organizational agility as a top or top-three priority, and nearly 40 percent are in the midst of an organizational-wide agility transformation. Yet many companies in the field service sector are lagging behind the enterprise agility transformation movement. Why is that?
Field service enterprises in pre-agility times
Not long ago, and still in many organizations today, field services relied heavily on manual processes: from taking customer calls, issuing work orders, and dispatching technicians, to field agents filling out reports often after hours from home, and then having to drop off details and pick up new assignments at the office the next day. Administrators were left to interpret and record information, leaving lots of room for human error. Information retrieval and reporting could be an onerous, time-consuming chore. Making changes to any of the paper forms used? That’s another issue altogether.
Transform operational performance
In maintenance organizations (an example cited in an article investigating lean and agile maintenance functions), the traditional hierarchical structure of strategic planning, operational support, and frontline teams “makes delays a chronic problem.” Additionally, the authors observed, “new ideas to meet customer needs may go through countless handovers between departments, resulting in more delays, and, consequently, low customer satisfaction.”
The digital tools and techniques built into an agility-driven platform like ProntoForms facilitate greater customer centricity and workplace innovation. Streamline service processes from end to end. Speed up efficiencies, and lower costs. All while empowering and engaging employees and the people and organizations they serve.
Characteristics of enterprise agility
So, what does agility look like at an enterprise-wide, business-unit or front-line field service organization? Typical attributes include:
- Continuously and quickly evolving operating processes by digitizing activities and delivery models that meet changing customer and competitive conditions.
- Mobilizing resources quickly.
- Leveraging real-time communication and workflow/management tools to guide fast, insightful decision-making.
- Making transparency of information key and extending access beyond traditional siloed parameters to include teams across the organization, as well as customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
- Capturing and sharing information so that people can easily find what they need and collaborate.
- Giving field service customers more control over asset service scheduling alongside the ability to track service progress as it’s happening in real-time.
- Shifting from reactive to proactive predictive maintenance interventions for reliable, prolonged asset performance.
- Thinking and acting quickly based on data analytics.
- Rapidly developing and deploying better or new solutions by recognizing that rapid testing and iterations are all part of the agile process.
As field service commentator Sarah Nicastro suggests, “Being more agile doesn’t just mean racing along – it means being nimble, not overthinking decisions or ignoring the need to change, and realizing that it’s okay to try things and fail then use those lessons to improve and forge ahead to success.”
According to McKinsey research, enterprise agility can be gauged in four key areas.
- Customer Satisfaction: When accountability, expertise, transparency, and collaboration move to the heart of agile transformation, customer satisfaction and engagement increases from 10 to 30 percent.
- Employee Engagement: Adopting agility encourages a sense of employee autonomy, purpose, and mastery leading to an improvement of 20 to 30 percent in workforce engagement. With more technicians aging out of the industry and the pool of potential candidates shrinking, this is a valuable outcome from an employer brand/recruitment perspective.
- Operational Performance: Although metrics vary by sector, common measurements include planning time, decision, and issue-resolution speeds, predictability, and service output. Agile organizations are shown to improve performance from 30 to 50 percent.
- Financial performance: While agile transformation seldom prioritizes cost savings as a key objective, the ability to provide the same or better outcomes due to improved operational efficiencies leads to savings ranging from 20 to 30 percent.
“In service operations, speed can drive significant gains in productivity and customer satisfaction, as we [McKinsey] have seen in many instances of agile transformations of customer-service and back-office activities.”
Wondering what field service leaders from Trane Technologies, Schneider Electric, and Cummins have to say about the connection between technician and customer satisfaction? Curious to discover what field techs love and hate the most about their jobs? Sign up for our upcoming Technician & Executive Sit-Down that will also feature surprising insights from Service Council’s recent research on technician satisfaction.