By: Mark Wilding is Vice President of Global Customer Transformation at ServiceMax.
Lack of proficiency in asset data analytics is undermining field service sector progress
There have been some encouraging signs over the past two years that the field service sector has been increasingly embracing IoT and data collection. A report last year found that 76% of field service companies now had some connectivity with their install base, a clear indication that the value of IoT is being recognised more widely. But is it progress?
I’m still mindful of an IDC statistic I read a while back, the one that said by 2025 there will be 79.4ZB of data created by IoT devices. That’s a lot of data. Any business collecting that data and analysing it will surely be onto a winner. Imagine the insight, the ability to pre-empt, to optimise services, to upsell, manage contracts better and even redesign products mindful of common faults. With so many service firms deploying IoT, this must already be happening, right?
Yes, to a certain extent, it is but not enough businesses are really getting to grips with the data or doing anything with it at all. It seems to be a question of quantity over quality and a mixed bag of priorities, at least according to research ServiceMax recently conducted with over 230 field service leaders, “The Impact of Asset Data Flow Beyond The Silo of Field Service Operations”.
The research found that over three quarters (82%) of respondents are tracking asset data, so on the surface that’s a good sign. It’s slightly up on last year’s figure of 76%. However, receiving, tracking and monitoring data is only a first initial step.
The more important question is how many organisations can leverage that data effectively enough to impact their field service operations positively? So, we asked respondents to identify if they could utilise data effectively, shining a light on the quality and application of the data.
While over a third (38%) of companies claim they have access to enough asset data and state that they are utilising it effectively, that leaves a large majority of companies that are not. With 57% of respondents claiming they have data but are not using it effectively within the organisation, there is clearly a huge data problem that still needs addressing.
What’s Stopping Organisations Using Asset Data Effectively?
Of course, it’s easy to jump to conclusions, the first being the failure or delay of digital transformation projects skewed by the pandemic. Data is being collected but nothing is actually being done with it. It’s a bit like recycling, spending the time to sort plastics from paper only to see it all thrown into the same bin when it gets to the depot.
Interestingly, of those field service companies that state they are not utilising their data effectively, there is a common theme. The barriers that prevent them from doing so ultimately come down to a lack of proficiency.
As one respondent stated, “We are currently collecting data but are not proficient or aware enough of how to use that data to make or drive improvements.”
Furthermore, the lack of proficiency is not aligned to a lack of adequate systems. Just 12% cited inadequate systems and technology as the primary barrier to the effective use of asset data. One of the biggest barriers (25%) is inefficient existing processes but it is a mix of this and a lack of adequate technology that is cited by the majority (63%) as the primary barrier.
With complexity also a recurring theme, we are back to the need for effective digital transformations, focusing on asset data as a central fuel for business intelligence. Too many businesses appear to have their hands tied when it comes to using what data they do have, effectively.
This lack of proficiency, even at a basic level of asset data analytics, is undermining field service sector progress. All the talk of servitization, its benefits to business, products and customer satisfaction, is fruitless without addressing the key barriers to entry. It’s about asking the right questions, to ensure the whole organization is aware of and can benefit from, asset data. If it is relevant to field service, it should also be relevant to the whole structure.
There is a glimmer of light. The 38% of companies that have access to enough asset data and can state that they are utilising it effectively are leaders but is the industry prepared to follow? While the complexity of data does represent a significant challenge according to the study’s findings, the most common trend amongst respondents is to identify further investment in connected assets and IoT. By focusing on the benefits to the business as a whole and not just to service teams, there is hope that organisations will start to see increased investment in accessing and utilising asset data more effectively. Then we should see real progress in the industry.