Navy Collisions at Sea

Unfortunately, the errors uncovered, while inevitably “correct,” will inevitably be laid at the feet of a ship’s leadership. By tradition, it is always the case that the commanding officer (CO) failed in the execution of his or her responsibility. While that may be a satisfying conclusion, the truth is that these investigations are brittle and thin; they seldom reveal significant larger truths.

These investigations are conducted in something of a vacuum, and consequently, larger connections are seldom sought or considered. First, the mere question of those larger connections often is considered to be beyond the scope of a single investigation. Second, those connections might turn out to be “ugly,” which could take the Navy in directions leading to the most unwanted sort of questions and public curiosity.

The Root Causes

At this point, it is possible the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) and the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) collisions were coincidental accidents—i.e., lightning-bolts of disaster simply struck in rapid succession in Seventh Fleet. Having said that, the similarities between the Fitzgerald and John S. McCain collisions are suspicious and naturally beg questions that need to be asked.It is possible something bigger than simple miscalculation on the part of two destroyers’ watch teams may be afoot. There is a growing suspicion among a small circle of current and former COs that chickens may be coming home to roost.

To some extent, one can understand that the Navy may not want to turn over too many stones in these cases because it already is suffering a metaphysical and evidently incurable cancer named “Fat Leonard.” Seven full years into that investigation even more indictments are expected. Further, the Navy’s carefully described strategy of “distributed maritime operations” may be foundering on the rocks of fiscal reality. Understandably, Navy leaders must be asking themselves whether the Navy can endure the unearthing of yet another ugly issue.Still, if one were to consider that the John S. McCain and Fitzgerald (and USS Antietam [CG-54], which ran aground in March, resulting in another CO’s relief) were parts of a larger pattern, it would be understood that the problem could not easily be laid at the foot of a single root cause, like CO incompetence. Seasoned observers understand that, if these disasters are parts of a pattern, then the causes are multiple.

As it turns out, these possible issues should be well known by the Navy’s leadership. In 2010, then-retired Navy Vice Admiral Phil Balisle was asked to take a hard look at the state of the surface community. Admiral Balisle was uniquely qualified for this task. Not only had he succeeded brilliantly in multiple at-sea commands—including in a guided-missile destroyer, a cruiser, and a carrier strike group—but he also possessed expertise in combat management systems, ballistic missile defense, and shipboard engineering. In fact, he served as the Navy’s chief engineer when he assumed command of Naval Seas Systems Command. Not only did Admiral Balisle know what he was looking at, but he also had the independence to speak truthfully and without fear of repercussions. Specifically, he was charged by then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughhead to constitute a “Fleet Review Panel to assess surface force readiness across the man, train, equip domain areas, and provide recommended corrective actions.”

The report was an eye-opening dose of the unvarnished truth. The report was as celebrated as it was ultimately ignored. Nevertheless, Admiral Balisle’s conclusions should give a healthy clue as to what might still be troubling the Navy’s ships: training was drastically insufficient; ship maintenance had no constituency and was therefore persistently given the shortest of shrift; and the operational tempo for ships was crushing.

The Training Element

The history of training in the Navy is long and complex. Starting with World War II and continuing at an accelerating rate thereafter, technological advancements have exceeded the ability of commissioning programs to provide officers up to the task of operating upon arrival at their respective commands. The submarine and aviation communities, which since their respective inceptions had been confronted by advanced technologies beyond the scope of accession training, instituted professional courses of instruction to train and qualify their officers. This, however, was not the case for those officers serving in surface ships, who were increasingly challenged by the advent of advancing radar, sonar, gun, missile, and data link systems.

Eventually, it became apparent that additional professional training would be required by surface officers to maximize the operational capabilities of these new systems. In 1961, the Naval Destroyer Officers School, the forefather of the present Surface Warfare Officers School Command, was established. This was followed in 1970 by the first Surface Warfare Division Officer School (SWOSDOC) class. For the next 30 years, this was how division officers were trained for their first tours at sea.

In 2003, SWOSDOC was shuttered, largely for financial reasons, but also in a mistaken attempt to create efficiencies. SWOSDOC was replaced by computer-based training (CBT). Instead of attending SWOS and associated billet specialty programs for upward of 12-14 months of rigorous training prior to reporting on board their first ships, new officers went directly from commissioning sources to their ships with only a packet of computer disks. Now it was incumbent on the ship’s CO to replace a year’s worth of intensive dawn-to-dusk training, in addition to his or her other considerable responsibilities.

Vice Admiral Timothy LaFleur, who as Commander, Naval Surface Force Pacific Fleet, was the author of this decision described the change as one that would “result in higher professional satisfaction, increase the return on investment during the first division officer tour, and free up more career time downstream.” First-tour division officers would still go to Surface Warfare Officers School Command, but only after six months into their first assignment and then for only four to six weeks (later reduced to three) as a kind of “finishing school.” Mostly CBT saved money, and it was estimated that $15 million would be saved by shutting down SWOSDOC and shifting responsibility to the ships’ COs.   Soon officers who opposed this change were excoriated for not “getting it.” A decision had been made, and it was not to be questioned by the rank and file. Silence and obedience were enforced.

Then, CBT failed and failed badly. Commanding officers simply did not have the capability, capacity, or time to replace basic surface warfare officer training in their respective commands. But the Djini was out of the bottle, and the costs to reestablish SWODOC, both in terms of money and embarrassment, were simply too great to bear. Band-aid solutions were found. Eventually, an element of classroom training was reinstituted with the establishment of a four-week course established to provide “3M, division officer fundamentals, basic watchstanding and leadership” to ensigns en route to their first ships.

This training still was not enough. In 2010, Admiral John Harvey, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, publically condemned the CBT program as a “flat-out failure” during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on fleet readiness. Admiral Harvey went on to say that the Navy had failed by sending unprepared ensigns to ships, placing the burden of their training on commanding officers. Things were bad in the surface force, and it was at this point that Admiral Balisle was invited to examine the problem.

By 2012, the current approach to surface warfare officer training was set in place. The CBT method was terminated and replaced by more traditional Basic and Advanced Division Officer Courses (BDOC and ADOC), which are held in two segments before and after the prospective SWO’s first division officer tour.

This training is still not nearly enough. The results are plain to those commanding officers who have the experience of a more robust training process. For example, there is an almost inexplicable overreliance on electronic aids, including automated radar systems and the automatic identification system (AIS) on the part of these new-school officers. Proven techniques, including the use of maneuvering boards, lookouts, adherence to the “Rules of the Road,” and, most important, watch-standers actually looking out the bridge window, are mysteriously archaic to officers who have become convinced that technology cannot fail them. Commanding officers can no longer serve as safety back-stops. Instead, they must be the “super OODs” in any risky evolution, lest disaster befall their ships.

This shedding of methods that kept mariners safe for years, for the lure of easy technology, is dramatically complicated by the fact that these officers are on a qualification time-clock from the moment they arrive in their first ships. The either qualify quickly or their COs are forced to qualify them. Consequently, much of these officers’ first tours are spent checking what can only be dimly understood blocks, without developing a deeper understanding of what they’re doing, and why.

Then, when next at sea as department heads, these officers spend their time largely standing watch as tactical action officers, learning how to “fight the ship.” After this, they are selected for command. The days of an executive officer tour, which could serve as the last fire-break of judgment prior to an officer attaining command, are over. These officers, who came to ships without the benefit of the deep and challenging training provided to their predecessors, are soon to arrive in their own commands. Collectively, they have spent little time as an officer of the deck. Collectively, they don’t understand concepts such as relative motion. It is entirely possible that few of them have ever conducted a “Med Moor” or moored to a buoy or even executed a Form Foxtrot. In short, these undertrained officers never had the opportunity to become real, serious, expert OODs, absorbing the lessons that will keep his or her ship out of harm’s way when disaster looms.

Whose Fault Is This?

While the commanding officers of ships such as the John S. McCain and Fitzgerald may themselves have had the full benefit of the old system of training—of SWOSDOC—they preside over wardrooms of officers who have no such training. In short, when the crunch came, they were supported by officers who did not possess the wherewithal—sufficient real experience to assess problem situations and act promptly on them to avoid catastrophe—to truly support the COs.

As an aside, there is chatter regarding a steering casualty that may have occurred in John S. McCain just prior to the collision. Whether this is true or not matters little. These ships have several modes of steering—computer-assisted automatic, controlled by computers; computer assisted manual, also controlled by computers. Then there is backup manual, which takes the computer out of the loop and controls steering through old-fashioned synchros. In addition, there are redundant channels in all bridge steering modes. Finally, there are two steering modes where control is taken from the bridge and is held locally in after steering. Both of these modes are also manual, and one actually takes all electronics out of the loop and is hydraulic.

One of the most basic skills that traditionally has been exercised in every ship, during every underway operation, and daily thereafter is the drill known as “loss of steering control.” In that drill, every steering mode is sequentially tested. It takes no more than a minute or two for a well-trained crew to regain steering control, even if it means going all the way to the last possible local mode.

It is also worth mentioning that even if all steering was lost, which is highly unlikely, a trained crew would simply stop engines and turn on signal lights indicating the ship was “not under command.” All other traffic would then steer clear of her.

In short, and barring some unexpected aspect uncovered during the John S. McCain investigation, it is possible that two guided-missile destroyers’ collisions are harbingers. It is possible that we have arrived at a place where our COs are poor and inexperienced mariners, and that this situation was authored by none other than their own, the surface community’s leadership.


Captain Eyer served in seven cruisers, commanding three Aegis cruisers: the USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-51), Shiloh (CG-67), and Chancellorsville (CG-62).

 

 

Templar’s Oath

Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong. That is your oath.”
— Kingdom of Heaven

I wrote a column here at Clash a few weeks ago about why I am disgusted with my generation. I still stand by what I said but I realized that there is a group of people I left out. These are the Conservatives and Christians who don’t know how to become the hard charging political warriors that most of us are. Many of them are afraid. I mean what will people think of them when they say, “No, I don’t agree with gay marriage” or when they say “Look, man abortion is wrong”?

The quote at the top of this article is from a stellar movie and I would encourage all of you to check out Kingdom of Heaven. Ladies, it features Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson, so I shouldn’t have to say much more.

Back on topic. There is a scene in this movie where Orlando Bloom is receiving his knighthood in the Holy Land of Jerusalem during the crusades. The quote is the oath that he must take. I have always enjoyed reading and learning about the brave Crusader Knights of the Catholic Church and the Templar Knights. These guys were the first special forces after all. I liken myself and all other Conservatives who risk reputation and public ridicule everyday to tell the truth to Templars. Yes I said it: vocal unafraid Conservatives are Templars.

Part 1: Be Without Fear

Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee.” Be without fear. Do not fear these people who will tell you that your views are backward or antiquated. These are the last arguments of a movement who has run out of ideas. If you believe something, never let it go. There is nothing more pathetic than a warrior who has lost his or her convictions.

Do your research and educate yourself on the issues you feel passionately about and be ready to tango at all times. The Templars we experts with the sword. Our swords are facts and history, they are on our side, but just like a sword, it is useless in unskilled hands. So be brave.  Especially college students. Don’t be afraid to question your professors during discussions. When I was in an intro political science class I had a teacher who was a socialist. He was a great guy and we still talk to this day, but he would fill these young kid’s heads full of garbage about socialism and it’s superiority. He and I would argue every class. I always heard nothing but silence for the first couple of weeks of class. No one would agree with me or speak up. But then about four weeks into class several students began to come up to me and ask me about my opinions and before the end of the class I had ignited an army of Conservatives.

You can do it to. Be a leader not a follower. Point man is always the scariest position but it is only the point man that can lead the platoon.  Finally be upright. What does that mean? Always respect your debating opponents even though sometimes they will not respect you.  If you do these things always remember that when it seems everyone else is looking at you funny and talking about you, God will love you.

Part 2: Speak the Truth, ALWAYS

Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death.” My first writing gig was at a place called the College Conservative. I was friends with the guy who started the site. I met him in the class with the Socialist professor. My first article there was Speaking Truth to Power. I believe it is still there. We must speak truth in order to do battle.

As I said before the facts are on our side. The Templars believed that the truth was worth dying for and in fact many of them did when they spoke out about corruption in the Vatican. Now, luckily, we aren’t even risking our lives.  Doesn’t sound so bad now huh? But you must be ready to lose friends and maybe even a few close friends for what you believe. Being a warrior requires sacrifice. I promise you though, your true friends will respect you for sticking to your beliefs and knowing how to argue for them in a respectful fashion. One of my best friends, Derrick, is totally opposite from me on a lot of issues and we fight continuously but he will tell you he respects me as a fellow thinker and that he counts me as one of his close friends. So speak the truth, ALWAYS.

Part 3: Safe Guard the Helpless

Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.“ Finally, always look out for one another and those you sense have something to say and are afraid to say it. Encourage them and inspire them with your boldness. A true Templar always protected those who needed protection sometimes even putting themselves in harms way in order to protect them. Don’t be afraid to back a person up in a debate even if that person is being sneered at by an entire group of people. Two committed minds are more powerful than a mob of those simply repeating what they have been told.

So, Conservatives young and old, this is your oath. Are you prepared to follow it? I know I try to each and everyday. I argue with a lot of people especially now that my morality and “backward” way of thinking has become so unpopular. But in the end would you rather have popularity or honor?  I encourage you to be a Templar and fight with me. If we are going to go down then we will go down fighting. I just don’t want to be the one standing around in twenty years saying, “I wonder if I did all that I could while there was still time left.” Do you?

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

(Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give glory)

About the author, Mark Mayberry: Mark Mayberry lives in Tennessee and is pursuing a Law Degree. He hopes to work in politics and law after graduating. He is also a staff writer at TruthAboutBills.org and is the operator of http://www.guerrilla-politics.com. Mark is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys spending time hunting and fishing as well as with his family. You can reach Mark on Facebook and Twitter as well as his website http://www.guerrilla-politics.comView all articles by Mark Mayberry

It’s Time to Move Your Focus to the Field

ron palinkas national field service ron palinkas national field serviceWe’re all customers and have increasing expectations around the service we expect, both in our personal and work lives. For service organisations these expectations bring increased pressure to get it right.  Field service management software is part of the answer and has been around since the late 1970s.  Highly complex, it was originally designed as on premise, server-based scheduling solutions and was very much focused on enabling the work of the back office. Work orders were dispatched, but technicians had only limited access to job and customer information due to the cost and performance limitations of the devices and networks.

“With the advancements in field service management software going hand-in-hand with the mobile evolution, the focus in service operations is now firmly on the field worker themselves…”

With the advancements in field service management software going hand-in-hand with the mobile evolution, the focus in service operations is now firmly on the field worker themselves.  And this is quite right – the technician has long been the company face and often the only direct contact a customer will have. The customer experience they are able to deliver counts for a great deal. Complete knowledge of the job is often fundamental in the delivery of this service excellence and turning up to site with this information at hand or having access to it, delivers an improved customer experience.

The technician needs a mobile solution which helps them to do their job in the best possible way.  The workflow to and from the back office has to be seamless as this quick and easy access to information enables better decision-making and ultimately improved resolution.  So how can an organisation manage this shift to focus on the field without losing sight of the importance of back office operations?

Taking the back office into the field

While back office processes remain essential components of any service operation, we’re seeing far more return from putting the focus on the field where greater value can be derived. The right mobility solution gives the whole organisation the ability to manage the workflow seamlessly and keeps all operational elements connected.  The right mobility solution gives the whole organisation the ability to manage the workflow seamlessly and keeps all operational elements connected.  There is visibility of the work and the day’s performance and the mobile piece allows decisions to be based on real-time activity and updates. For the back office, a mobile solution which easily integrates into existing systems is critical, as often a mix of best of breed solutions are used due to the niche nature of the work.

This can mean that systems are used in isolation and data from one system doesn’t always assimilate with another. Integrated mobility means that the two-way flow of data is captured, just once, and in a consistent and efficient way. It means that no data is left unused or delayed while waiting on paperwork or downloads and an audit trail is in place reducing the chance of any missing information.  The result of the right mobility solution is extending the work of the back office out into the field in a robust and reliable way, connecting the operational workflow and ultimately ensuring service objectives are met.

Focus on the right mobility solution

So, whether you are looking at developing your mobility strategy or introducing mobility for the first time, how do you choose the right software for your business with the many solutions on offer today?  From working with a range of companies, we’ve found that there are some common principals.  Ease of integration is key. You don’t need to have to think about changing your whole field service solution. Extending the life of your current systems is important, so look at mobile solutions which will leverage and expand their use.

“Implementation needs to be as quick and straightforward as possible. A lengthy implementation process will defeat its objective…”

Implementation needs to be as quick and straightforward as possible. A lengthy implementation process will defeat its objective. So being up and running in days, not months, should be the realistic goal – delivering a much faster ROI.  Any mobility solution should be easy to use. Overly-complicated systems will be bypassed and worked around or ignored all together.The easier to use, the quicker the adoption and the better the ROI.

All mobility software needs to be agile and able to move with the next generation of mobility.  Developments are moving fast so it is important that your provider is keeping up to speed.  It is crucial for any mobility solution to work across mixed digital devices, especially with the growth of BYOD and the rise in the use of contractor workforces. The apps will need to work across different operating systems too.

Essentially, mobility is about the anytime, anywhere access to and sharing of information that makes it the vital, valuable next step a service organisation can take.

 

Originally posted at http://fieldaware.com

Zendesk and Reviews

 

ron palinkas zendesk ron palinkas zendeskCustomer service software company Zendesk today announced that companies using its platform can now reach more customers on what it calls “nontraditional platforms.” The new function automatically generates Zendesk customer service tickets when a company receives a message or is mentioned in a review or comment online.  Zendesk believes collecting tickets from multiple channels into a single place creates an opportunity to turn reviews into a conversation.  The latest integrations in this effort come from messaging platform WeChat and online review website Trustpilot. There are more than 360 companies in the Zendesk Apps Marketplace, according to the senior vice president of product development at Zendesk, Adrian McDermott.

“We no longer have to be the means of production for every integration that we want in Zendesk,” McDermott said. “By building this as a channel we’re going to learn from that as much as we did from our APIs or our apps.”  The new integration gives companies the ability to gather all online conversations or comments about their company, open a dialogue with customers, and learn from the wisdom of the crowd.  “What we see is our customers and our market building ticket channels and adding channels in Zendesk to create tickets for almost anything,” said McDermott.

The company worked with partners ahead of the launch of this effort, such as a Zendesk customer in Kenya who built the WeChat integration, and Danish review site Trustpilot, which created the Trustpilot integration.  “Anywhere you’re trying to engage in a two-way dialogue with your customers, you can put [that] into Zendesk,” McDermott said. “We don’t have to be the creators and validators for every integration. More than 40 percent of our business is outside the U.S., and there are these incredible use cases out there in pockets and in languages we do not read or understand.”

Original post: http://www.venturebeat.com

Field Service Management Software

ron palinkas field service managementWhat is Field Service Management Software?

Field service management software (FSM software, service software) is a system that helps companies deliver effective onsite service by tracking requests, managing personnel, and maintaining visibility into operations. Common features include work order management, inventory, fleet tracking, and reporting.

Successful field service management operations play a critical role in customer satisfaction and loyalty. Fifty-seven percent of organizations indicate that poor first-time resolution or a total inability to resolve issues is the top reason for customer complaints regarding field service work.1

Three main pain points exist for field service management companies: disjointed communications, over-scheduled resources, and under-skilled technicians. The technology covered in this guide, when utilized properly, can address all of these issues. This guide provides a full field service management software comparison, including a close look at the overall market, benefits and functionality every FSM solution should offer, and leading FSM software case studies for organizations of any type.

Vendor Analysis

Field Service Management Software Comparison

Enterprise SMB Fleet Management
ServiceNow Jobber Fleetmatics
ClickSoftware ServiceFusion Synchroteam
ServicePower mHelpDesk Fleetio
FieldOne RazorSync ServiceBridge
ServiceMax Kickserv Collective Data

The FSM Market

The global FSM market is forecast to grow from approximately $1.58 billion in 2014 to $3.52 billion by 2019, or a compound annual growth rate of 17.3 percent.2 However, since many privately-held software vendors do not disclose sales of dispatch and workforce management software applications or modules, market penetration can only be estimated. North America is expected to comprise the largest market segment, while the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions are also expected to grow, albeit somewhat more slowly.

The FSM software market is highly fragmented.3 Sometimes referred to as field service automation (FSA), the vendor landscape for these systems includes:

  • Best-of-breed vendors that offer standalone field service management solutions for field workforce optimization, dispatch, or fleet management processes.
  • Vendors that provide most of an end-to-end FSM suite (although all components are not necessarily best-in-class).
  • Niche vendors offering add-on field mobility solutions to enterprises, or platforms focused primarily on a single industry, or on small-to-medium businesses (SMBs).

The cause of this fragmentation is twofold. Historically, CRM and ERP solutions have failed to address the explicit needs of the field service industry:

  • Complex scheduling and dispatch
  • Remote inventory management
  • Customer and work order management
  • Tracking and performance

Out of necessity, FSM technology was created to help automate field service operations to improve both efficiency and visibility. Rapid adoption from businesses of every type and size is fueling FSM software market growth.

Despite, or perhaps because of, this rapid growth, FSM software vendors have struggled to keep pace with consumer mobility trends and customer expectations— until recently. Now, rapid business technology advancements and economical Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployment options are fueling FSM software market growth. Companies now demand real-time tracking, strong collaboration between office and field workers, and other tools and enhancements that allow technicians to accomplish their tasks without any delay or interruption— all at an affordable price.

The Best Field Service Management Software

FSM systems aren’t limited to companies who need to manage installations, services, or repairs of systems and equipment. Though telecommunications and cable service providers, utility engineers and inspectors, and HVAC workers are most commonly associated with field service work, the industry is much broader. Healthcare companies that provide mobile nurses, or any other business with field workers — plumbers, maid services, pest control, window cleaners — all need tools tailored to the unique challenges field work presents.

Field service management requires continuously balancing critical tickets, upset customers, and dynamic service routes and schedules. Furthermore, the addition of vehicles brings safety and driver concerns, as well as fuel and maintenance costs. Specialized software that automates and streamlines tasks enables executives to focus on growing the business, not managing minutiae.

Simply put, FSM software combines many functions into one unified solution that helps schedule and track field operations. At minimum, a field service management system must be able to receive service requests, schedule and assign a skilled technician, enable technician mobility, and provide real-time visibility into job status. A good FSM system provides tools for:

  • customer appointments, trouble ticketing, order management
  • complex scheduling and routing optimization
  • managing worker activity (driver logs, time tracking, job status updates)
  • automatically locating vehicles and ensuring driver safety
  • integrating with inventory, accounting, and other back-office systems

Advanced programs will offer complex document management, automated customer appointment reminders, and project management or CRM tools. Some solutions may focus more heavily on one function— like dispatch — while other systems will offer customer portals, fleet management, or call center management. A company’s goals and needs will ultimately determine which features are essential and what type of solution is best.

How to Compare Field Service Management Software

Since systems vary significantly from vendor to vendor, it’s important to understand your needs before you conduct a** field service management software comparison**. By identifying pain points at the outset, you can decide which features are non-negotiable for your FSM system. Vetting vendors is a difficult process, and many solutions begin to blur together when evaluating options. After you’ve identified your features requirements, it’s important to examine the following key factors when selecting FSM software:

Price

In order to determine your budget for FSM, it’s important to understand the possible pricing models. Cost can depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • Number of users, admins, or “seats”
  • Company size (multiple locations or franchises)
  • Pay-per-employee / field worker
  • Business needs
  • Training, setup fees, data storage needs, technical support
  • System customizations
  • Deployment type

It’s best to estimate costs a few different ways so you’re prepared to compare pricing and avoid surprises. Depending on pricing structure, costs can range between $75-$2,000 per month. However, pricing could be higher for enterprises or businesses with complex processes that require customized systems, or in some cases lower for a business simply looking to automate dispatch. When determining a budget, it’s helpful to have a range in mind, rather than a firm number.

Deployment

Software can be deployed on-premise, hosted through a web browser as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or a hybrid of the two. The proliferation of mobile technology and demand for affordable solutions for small businesses has fueled SaaS adoption. SaaS solutions are not only attractive to SMBs looking for their first system, but also enterprises ready to upgrade their existing methods. Data access, customizations, long term total cost of ownership, and the need to integrate with existing software— like CRM or HR systems — can help determine which solution is best for your business.

Mobility

Mobility is a critical requirement for the field service management industry. In a 2014 Gartner FSM survey, 85 percent of businesses surveyed are already using mobile field service apps or plan to use them within 24 months.4 Additionally, mobility was a top-three feature criteria for more than 60 percent of respondents. Companies have started using mobility to:

  • Improve communication and provide real-time analysis of mobile work status
  • Analyze technician skillset and location to send the closest capable worker and increase first-time-fix rate and enhance customer service and loyalty
  • Reduce overhead or administration costs associated with paper-based process and data entry
  • Increase productivity, streamline workflow, and shorten billing cycles

Though most FSM vendors offer some degree of mobile access, more advanced systems that offer offline access, geolocation, etc., are becoming commonplace.

3 Tiers of FSM Software

I. Enterprise

For large organizations, increasing visibility between the field and office is paramount. A field service management system that integrates with existing CRM or ERP systems is critical, as information that is captured in the field often needs to be available across several departments. Enterprises, especially those with multiple fleets, should focus on integrating information across all business units.

Mobile field workers should be able to access back-office systems or information outside the office. Technicians with mobile devices can easily view jobs, service history, and customer information. Additionally, workers in the field should be able to request additional time on a jobsite, record asset details and parts usage, view manuals, and instantly chat or collaborate with dispatchers, managers, and nearby colleagues.

In the office, FSM software allows dispatchers to automatically build service schedules based on technician skillsets, location, and historical job duration data. It should also include travel optimization that factors in traffic to find the shortest route. Customers should be able to choose a service time that is convenient to them, as well as receive notifications on their technicians’ scheduled time to reduce no-shows.

Case Study: Electrolux5

With 56,000 employees and over $13 billion in revenue, Electrolux is one of the world’s largest appliance companies. Headquartered in Sweden, Electrolux is a leading manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, washing machines, stoves, refrigerators, and freezers under the names of AEG, Electrolux, Eureka, Frigidaire, and Zanussi.

Electrolux Brazil was managing 900 service partners and 1,800 technicians through multiple systems, using phone calls, emails, and sticky notes. These fragmented organizational methods resulted in challenges such as:

  • Information that was lost or never captured.
  • No visibility into partner performance against SLAs
  • Customer satisfaction rates for service were lower than desired
  • Cost was impacted due to inaccurate warranty information

Electrolux Brazil looked at ServiceMax as a complete field service management solution because of its relationship with salesforce.com. Electrolux needed integration with their existing on-premise ERP solution, financials, inventory, and production planning systems, as well as internationalization into Brazilian Portuguese. Along with a rich database containing technician territory coverage, product expertise, and work schedules, they also required a partner portal to provide visibility into inventory and manage performance against SLAs.

ServiceMax met all of Electrolux’s requirements, and the results after implementation included:

  • Streamlined service processes and increased service partner efficiency.
  • Technicians scheduled based on skills needed to complete service request thanks to
  • SLAs consistently met for higher customer satisfaction
  • Increased revenue due to accurate warranty renewal information and alerts.
  • Increased volume of service request closed per week to over 15,000

II. Third-Party Field Services

Businesses that rely on outside contractors or third-party service providers for field work require the same functionality as enterprise businesses, but client details and visibility are even more important. Outsourcing field services, whether partially or in full, can help companies reduce labor costs and expand operations. However, these benefits often come at the risk of customer service.

After a job is assigned to a contractor, many companies have no way to know when a service is delivered, how long it took, or even if the issue was resolved— until complaints from customers are received. FSM software for outsourced services provides visibility into contractor service delivery and makes third-party technicians indistinguishable from an organization’s internal workforce.

This is done through third-party vendor portals used to manage contracted work and related administrative tasks. Just like with traditional field workers, contractors need the same real-time access to work order information and parts availability, as well as the ability to report back quickly on service delivery and submit claims. Customer calls that require a technician on site can be dispatched by a company to its own technicians or to a local service partner.

Providing two-way interaction with outside employees allows service companies to issue last-minute schedule changes to the contractors, provide updates to customers about technician arrival times, monitor work orders to ensure SLA compliance, and even create opportunities for optimized scheduling and planning.

Case Study: Gaz Metro Plus6

Gaz Metro serves approximately 150,000 customers in Quebec and has a presence in the northwestern United States. Their subsidiary, Gaz Metro Plus, provides maintenance and repair services on gas appliances such as furnaces, hot water heaters, and fireplaces. Gaz Metro Plus answers 75,000 calls annually and provides on-site services to 45,000 customers per year.

When Gaz Metro Plus took over field service dispatching, they had to build a workforce model from scratch. The company required an efficient way to improve customer service while keeping operational costs in check. They required “a system that automatically selects the right technician for each service incident, not just a Gantt chart that instructs a dispatcher on how to make the decision.6” They also required integration with their existing CRM software.

After implementing ClickSoftware, the company experienced:

  • Increased Productivity: Gaz Metro Plus increased the average number of preventative maintenance visits nearly 50 percent— from approximately 4.5 to 6.5 per day.
  • Cost Savings: The simple and efficient solution helped Gaz Metro Plus proceed on a strategic plan to outsource its entire dispatch function. The new dispatch model will save the company close to $1 million annually.
  • Improved Mobility: Seamlessly integration with mobile devices provides field technicians tools to access schedules directly, improving efficiency.

III. Small Business

Growing small-to-medium businesses with mobile employees need automated processes and tools to efficiently manage field workers, increase productivity, and increase visibility. Though smaller companies may only require dispatch software or fleet management at first, cloud-based solutions offer scalability and can bring robust functionality to SMBs at an affordable price. For SMBs, ease of use and scalability are important factors.

SMBs have no shortage of vendors from which they can choose. Many niche companies offer solutions specifically designed for non-enterprise businesses, and many enterprise FSM software vendors have launched their own FSM product lines tailored to SMBs.

Functionality for SMB field service management software is very similar to enterprise software, though advanced scheduling, analytics, and technical support may be limited or only offered as add-ons. SMBs can still find great systems that automate processes, let customers book appointments, schedule and dispatch workers, and track time and location.

Case Study: AVID Ink7

AVID Ink is one of the world’s leading sublimation printing companies. When the company’s drivers started making up to 60 deliveries a day, managing and coordinating the mobile workforce became a challenge. The breaking point came when the company reached 1,500 pickups a month. Drivers would make notes and then email or call in to communicate their status. Sixty percent of the deliveries were unscheduled, and drivers were using Excel spreadsheets to coordinate more than 60 stops each day. Additionally, drivers had to rely

on memory to meet their delivery deadlines.

AVID Ink chose to implement Trimble as their fleet and work management solution to ensure deliveries were more efficient and on time. Now, a central dashboard helps with scheduling and monitors activities throughout the day, optimizing routing and sequencing deliveries according to geography, driver locations, and other business’ operating hours. In addition to not missing a delivery or pickup since implementation, AVID has experienced:

  • 30 percent increase in overall company efficiency
  • 99 percent on-time delivery record
  • 98 percent job completion rate
  • Reduced fuel costs and overtime, as well as improved vehicle maintenance

Originally Posted: http://technologyadvice.com

Beyond Break-and-Fix

ron palinkas ronpalinkasWhile the core function of field service management will always be about helping customers solve problems, we’ve gone far beyond the idea of “fix and repair.” It’s no longer enough to send technicians into the field with one responsibility.It’s time to shift your Field Service Organization (FSO) and its people to think more strategically about how you serve customers in order to continually add value and stay competitive. Getting everyone at your organization to move toward the same big picture goals requires defined processes and clear expectations.

But where to begin?

Going beyond the day-to-day

As your FSO grows and customer expectations continue to evolve, it’s easy to rush into billable client work without further defining rules and processes. When this happens, everyone is playing by a different set of rules, and efficiency tanks.  Likely, you’re already aware that having too many cooks in the kitchen causes problems, and you’ve made efforts to create processes to keep everyone in your organization on the same page. How much is too much, though?

ron palinkasA study by Kathleen Eisenhardt, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Engineering, looked at how simplicity makes people and companies more effective. [1] She found that companies with complicated product development processes were really good at delivering products no one wanted, while companies with no rules or defined processes got little to nothing done.  However, those companies with a handful of simple rules to define processes (things like who’s in charge of what, analyzing customer feedback, etc.) were most effective.

Her research team found it only took four or five rules to constrain what people did, while allowing enough flexibility to innovate within their roles. According to Eisenhardt, this sweet spot of four to five rules is the key to growth.

She suggests a three-step process for defining processes:

  1. Clearly identify business objectives/goals
  2. Identify where current bottlenecks exist
  3. Look at past successes and failures to help define steps

As you and your employees begin to evaluate existing processes (or the lack thereof), it will be essential to do so for each function outside of simple fix and repair. If you’re like most FSOs, there will be a number of functions to consider:

Having a handful of defined rules to guide how employees function within each of these areas will not only streamline your FSO, but will result in faster growth, happier customers, and increased revenue.

The way to implement

Once you and your team have identified the essential processes expected for each role beyond fix and repair, it’s time to integrate them into daily practice. There’s no better way to do this than to use field service management software, like Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service.

Field service software tools are the best way to make sure everyone is focused and executing core business functions. Integrating a single system for scheduling, dispatching, inventory, and communication with technicians will be the best way to track how well processes are followed and identify areas for continuous improvement.

Not only will your FSO have clarity about processes and expectations, but they’ll have software to help them integrate key processes into their daily workflows for more consistent and measurable results.

 

Original Post: http://microsoftdynamics.com

Teamwork Makes You Stronger

ron palinkas ron palinkas national service manager

 

I have been thinking about teamwork quite a bit lately.  A few months ago i was asked to join an inter-disciplinary team.  The team is made up of members from a wide variety of areas–Technical Services, Research and Development, Manufacturing, Quality, and many others.  The team size fluctuated throughout the project as areas of expertise were added and subtracted as needed.

 

 

ron palinkas ron palinkas national service manager

 

It was a very professionally satisfying experience.  The knowledge I gained, the relationships I built with other members of the team, helped minimize the challenge in our area of focus, but have also opened me up to a greater understanding of our company’s capabilities and expertise.  Along the way I learned quite a bit myself and am reminded of the tremendous value and potential value that exists in a collaborative team.

 

 

ron palinkas ron palinkas national service manager

 

On a recent family trip to St. Louis, I came across a sculpture that I felt highlighted the value of teamwork.  Small figurines support a plexiglass piece that can support the weight of five adults.  I thought the theme for the figurines was an excellent choice by the artist, and make the piece present very powerfully.

 

 

 

ron palinkas ron palinkas national service manager

 

 

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” –Andrew Carnegie

Why CFOs Should Care About Field Service

Alexis Della Costa stands Friday in front of the 18-ton housing for a giant wind turbine inside the Wind Turbine Technician Academy training lab at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. The lab is inside KVCCs Michigan Technical Education Center in Texas Township.

Field service can be a strong and modern revenue generator for companies of all sizes.  In fact, an efficient, outcomes-focused and technology-driven field service department can differentiate your company from the competition.  It can also open the door to new sales opportunities, boost positive customer feedback and help build global networks.  Industry CFOs should take note and consider tapping into the latest technologies to streamline and build out field service operations with benefits that reach across the entire company.

Field Service as a differentiator

Customer requests need to be answered with efficiency and quality in order to establish the value of your service in a crowded field. The industry is no longer limited to legacy manufacturing and emergency-driven maintenance. For CFOs, this means finding the right formula for a budget and financial strategy that mixes a team of experienced field technicians, streamlined operational processes and technology that improves the measurable quality of customer service. A strong field service strategy matched with the latest operational technology can set a company apart from others in the market, especially those offering a similar services and resources to their customers.

Field service as a customer success machine

Field service can play a significant role in building customer trust and a company’s reputation. Customer trust can lead to referrals and real business growth. Tapping into technology that offers proactive reporting of operational, incident and maintenance data can present technicians with the information they need to meet and exceed customer needs. This expanded and elevated level of service can translate directly into new sales opportunities and more chances to deliver quality service to existing customers.  The success of any consumer-facing company relies on interaction between employees and customers. Being able to quantify customer success can boost business visibility and enables CFOs to make the case to higher-ups for the modernization of operations across the company. The main benefactor in this equation is the customer, but the right approach can be a serious driver of broader company growth.

Field service as a CFO priority

Companies looking for strategic corporate partnerships often point to reputation as a key component of their vetting process. A well-run field service department offers tangible and clear evidence of a company’s operational efficiency and focus on customer success.CFOs looking to build the case for mutually beneficial corporate partnerships should turn to amplifying field service operations and technology that reflects commitment to the speed and quality of delivery.

As Mike Vaughan, CFO of Liftech Equipment Companies, puts it:

There is tangible value in streamlining and innovating our service organization. By leveraging technology to meet our customers’ needs and retain our workforce, we can be seen as a preferred service company to work for.

The ability to keep highly-skilled talent is where our competitive advantage comes in and, with our average revenue per technician up by 5%, what serves as the connection to our company’s broader commercial success.

Tactically, [field service] gives us the capability to leverage more revenue through our existing structure by giving the technician the ability to access relevant and important installed product repair history data. This access enables the field service technician to be more self sufficient and less reliant on branch support personnel.

The transformation from cost center to revenue generator requires strategic financial leadership. It also calls for scaling the company’s operations in line with business and customer goals.  A well-built field service department can provide the foundation for increasing sales operations that support growing revenue streams and attract new customers. It can also prove instrumental in building global partnerships with leading companies that complement or enhance customer programs.

If you’re the CFO of a customer-facing company with installation, maintenance and upgrade operations, look to technology-driven field service for results and real business growth opportunities.

Original Post: http://diginomica.com