This is part of an ongoing series on the state and standards of service management software in 2020. Here are the previous articles in the series:

Last we spoke, we were discussing what happens when a brand new piece of service software gets slotted into an organization’s workflow, either replacing a few small pieces of software, or nothing at all. While that particular scenario is a rare one for large organizations to find themselves in, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. This time, we’re going to approach the much more common scenario of switching from one service management software provider to another.

So why make the switch? One might assume—wrongly—that you make a trade when you’ve been scorned in some meaningful way by your software partner. If things are honkey-dory then why change your systems and processes? Of course, you make a trade in software for the same reason you make a trade in baseball: Because you need a mixture of elements that support your business. Let’s unpack some of what might cause that to happen.

You grew out of your software
There are an inordinate number of dollar-store service management software providers out there. More today than last year at this time, as more companies realize the incredible growth potential of service. This has led to a cottage industry of limited-function home and commercial service platforms. Any one of these may be perfectly fine as digital schedulers, or very basic invoicing tools. Why would I ever need anything more?

I also don’t want to imply that outgrowing software doesn’t happen with top-tier service management software, either. At that level, what most businesses find is that they start to conform their service delivery around the limitations of their software, rather than how they want to deliver service. For instance, if your scheduling tool is dumping out useless schedules that need to manually cleaned, you are likely at a point where you’ve outstripped your service platform.

Forced upgrades to inferior products

Allow me to editorialize for a moment. The current service landscape is littered with mergers and acquisitions. There are ways to do this effectively, then there’s the common scenario where a non-service brand acquires a service platform, stripmines it, and forces its users to upgrade to a half-cooked frankenplatform that they’ve created with some of the old company’s capabilities shoved into a home-grown utility.

Service companies are then faced with a choice: Embrace a new frankenplatform, or test their fortunes elsewhere. Either way, we’re dealing with a brand new implementation, which takes away some of the incumbency bias that companies naturally feel when evaluating new software. Unsurprisingly, when companies are presented with this option, a great many of them discover that a more viable solution exists elsewhere.

Implementation problems

This is a little bit more of an abstraction, but as I have often said, your field service management platform needs to be the Grand Central Station through which your company’s aftermarket activities are executed, logged, followed up upon, and preempted. So when a new piece, usually an emerging technology, does not play reasonably well with your service platform, then it’s time to start looking elsewhere.

Does this mean that you immediately start shopping around the moment a single bauble doesn’t work with your FSM solution? Probably not, but if, let’s say your IoT system, doesn’t integrate with your solution, then that is certainly a failing of one or both system (moreover it’s a failing of your team for not identifying that at the RFP phase). As noted earlier, your software and technology needs to work for you, conforming to the way you deliver service. If that software has failed you, it’s time to look elsewhere.

Obviously there are other reasons why people choose to switch service providers, but these are a few that we see all the time. If you happen to have an interesting story about what compelling your service software change, please reach out! We would love to hear from you.

Once the decision to employ new software has been made, there are naturally a multitude of stakes, elements, and decisions that need to be made. Many of these, in one fashion or another, can be seen in previous entries in this series. Before the choice is made, though, we need to start by evaluating the unique set of challenges that businesses find themselves in when switching from one service provider to another.

How do you unplug one system and prepare your business to onboard another? Let’s look at it through three different lenses:

The software

The main consideration here is integration. Do all of your legacy systems that are not being replaced work with the current software? If not, what is the best means to proceed? How easily or directly can historical documentation, parts and employee lists, and contracts, be ported from one system to another? The best way to absolve your firm of the crushing weight of these tasks is to employ an integration partner alongside your software partner. You’ll be working with seasoned professionals who have gone through this process before many times, and can help guide you through the crossover. With the appropriate guidance in place, getting this part right is not guaranteed to be frictionless, but will at least offer a more robust system of validation.

The employees

Employee buy-in is the key to any service strategy. We’ve all been in a position where a dramatic change in the way we do business disrupts life, and sometimes adaptation to the new status quo is not something that comes naturally. This is why it’s important to engage player-coaches early in the process. You’ll need advocates to make sure that technicians are actually pressing the service buttons—especially if their new service software will automate more than it did previously (which it should). By using in-role advocates and making implementation a big deal for the company, you’ll position yourself to hit the ROI that you expect to receive from a new service platform.

The customers

This one is a bit more squishy. Does your customer care about your shiny new service platform? The answer is a resounding and unequivocal no—BUT—your customer will care if your service platform now offers new ways to go to market. If you’re now tracking more elements of your business in your service solution, then you can offer solutions around that trackability. This is the core of outcomes-based service—build your contracts around uptime and output, not break-fix. Offering customer value like that means a lot to the average customer, who prefers guarantees to warrantees. Taking this seriously can extend the ROI of a new service platform out of the obvious, and help you build business and customer loyalty. A true win-win.

Tom Paquin

Contributor, Future of Field Service