Digitization, Agility & Collaboration: Must Haves for the 2021 Field Service “New Normal”

It’s an age of transformation on more levels than we could have ever anticipated. We talk about the “new normal” as if it’s definitive. But is there really such a thing when change is the constant and what’s normal this month is likely to be different in the next? For those field service operations that jumped on the digital transformation train earlier than others, there’s a certain sense of preparedness for this ever-shifting environment.

How so? Well for starters, although no one could have predicted the kinds of decisions we’d be facing in these times.

“Through 2021, digital transformation initiatives will take large traditional enterprises, on average, twice as long and cost twice as much as anticipated. Large organizations will struggle with digital innovation as they recognize the challenges of technology modernization and the costs of simplifying operational interdependence. Smaller, more agile organizations, by contrast, will have an opportunity to be first to market as larger organizations exhibit lackluster immediate benefits.”

Top Predictions for 2020, Gartner

Gartner’s forecast may have been a tad off the mark given that companies both small and large have been forced to accelerate digital transformation timelines. It’s a monumental “must” in the face of COVID-19 rollercoaster peaks and valleys.

Digitization as an enabler

According to McKinsey & Company, there’s been more adoption of digital technology in the last eight months than over the past five years.

Digitization is a well-thought-out roadmap that uses sustainable, scalable technologies, like low-code apps, that makes a transformative difference. As companies like KONE and Phillips discovered, analysis of the large amounts of data collected in the field can help leaders gain insights to guide sound business decisions. Gaps and opportunities surface that maximize efficiencies and minimize risk.

Most importantly, as financial strains brought on by COVID cause some or many customers to operate with hyper-expenditure-vigilance and to shift from long-term service contracts to as-needed service models, the digital enabling of agility and collaboration becomes a key differentiator.

Agility as a differentiator

Disruptive technology automates field service operations from the front office staff answering and dispatching service calls to inventory management, service delivery, customer and regulatory agency interactions, and what-if contingency planning. This automation helps organizations spend less time reacting and performing day-to-day operations and become more adept at adapting instead. And in the field services sector where minimizing customer downtime is your reason for being, agility is king.

But, as Gartner cautions, success lies in applying agile methodology to every faucet of field service as well as all associated business touchpoints. This is because agile, interconnected digital tools give you the ability to identify patterns, to expedite faster decision-making with real-time data, and to respond quickly. It’s a collaboration of information between your frontline teams, the rest of your organization, and other stakeholders.

Collaboration as a “need to have”

Business futurist Gerd Leonhard emphasizes that collaboration is an absolute need-to-have in the new world of next norms and that it will shape new business models. Think of emerging customer demands. The immediate need for HVAC upgrades in commercial buildings, schools, and hospitals, for instance. Health and safety concerns. Regulatory requirements that change with the wind. Being agile and responsive to these needs is one part of the equation.

Fellow business futurist Dr. Angus Hervey goes a step further by suggesting that businesses will need to build these new mechanisms for collaboration themselves. This kind of collaboration involves the input of technicians out in the field. It involves software solutions (like low-code application platforms), that let those who know the work and processes best (known as citizen developers), easily create the mechanisms that will work best in the field and across all workflows from one touchpoint to another.

Features in digital tools that emphasize collaboration will be critical. Being able to share data and information between parties, triggering automatic notifications without having to meet someone in person. Sharing data between technicians, and increasing communication with no-touch real-time communications are no longer the future but the reality of today.

In this season of radical change to remain competitive, field service operations need to be able to anticipate, pivot and respond with speed. Adapt fast – whether you’re in catchup-mode or looking to enhance a legacy system – by putting solutions to work that address now and the next new circumstances and challenges. For a tool used by Fortune 500 companies for digital transformation both during COVID and beyond, check out ProntoForms’ custom low-code apps for the field. Get a demo!

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