Like many industry peers, the challenges of 2020 forced growth on service organizations. We saw new open mindedness, increased flexibility and innovative strides in digital solutions and workforce management.
Here are three predictions for the year ahead.
The concept of servitization — that product manufacturers compete on service offerings instead of commoditized products — seems simple on paper. In reality however, it requires a fundamental shift in the way businesses think, sell, perform and deliver. Such shifts take time, as shown by IFS customer Munters that is on its own journey toward servitization, and has reported on both the complexities but also the business potential.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought several other forces together which will collectively help organizations make strides toward servitization. It has fostered the creation of greater customer intimacy — companies have been able to learn more about not only their customers wants and needs, but also how they operate. A greater understanding like this inevitably will lead a business to discover additional opportunities to provide greater value. Many of the manufacturing companies that I have spoken to have seen increased interest from customers in terms of service offerings, as they seek to maximize the lifespan of their currently available equipment to avoid potentially large replacement costs. As a result, there is now increased openness toward premier service offerings and subscription models, opening the door for servitization progress.
An interesting Forbes article explores additional reasons behind the step toward anything-as-a-service (XaaS) business models, such as employee safety and revenue resiliency, for manufacturing in a world after COVID-19. So, while I do not expect to see the full potential of servitization become realized in 2021, I do believe we’ll see a much more fervent pace than has been present during the last few years, as these factors continue to influence change.
Fast-Track to Digital
As the coronavirus spread, the service world had to swiftly turn virtual, and of the leaders I have spoken to, two camps emerged. Those who had already made significant headway in digital transformation and were relieved that they had done so, and those who had fallen behind and then were experiencing the issue of lacking the tools which would have helped in decision making and business continuity.
The capacity for expansion and evolution of service offerings and the ability to nimbly react to fast changing business criteria both rely heavily on a strong, cohesive digital infrastructure. In 2021, we will see digital investment and innovation spike among service organizations. Those organizations who have already taken steps to progress their digital transformation journeys will be looking to build on their strong existing foundation, while those who haven’t will have to work hard to catch up. An IFS study — featuring more than 3,000 executives across six global regions, who weighed in on their organization’s digital transformation technology plans to invest in automation, IoT and artificial intelligence (A.I.) among others — found 50% intend to escalate their spend on digital transformation initiatives.
“Top performing enterprises are accelerating their digital innovation and leveraging emerging technologies to come out stronger on the other side of the pandemic, which has arguably been the most significant ‘turn’ in 2020," according to a survey of CIOs by Gartner Inc. "2021 will be a race to digital, with the spoils going to those organizations that can maintain the momentum built up during their response to the pandemic."
From the findings of a survey carried out online from June through July of 2020, which polled 402 respondents across the U.S, U.K., Germany, Singapore, Australia and India, Gartner points to an increase in IoT investment, stating: “Despite the disruptive impacts of COVID-19, 47% of organizations plan to increase their investments in the Internet of Things (IoT).” Another Gartner poll of around 200 IT and business professionals in September showed 24% of respondents have increased their A.I. investment while 42% kept theirs unchanged since COVID-19 began.
A leading global IT research and advice provider, IDC, explores how laggards, or ‘digital resistors’ as IDC refers to them, are starting to catch up, saying, “The pandemic was a wake-up call for the digital resisters.” The firm’s study “shows 64% of organizations will either be early adopters of new technology or aggressively seek out emerging technology, a departure from past recessionary behavior. It is the digital laggards who are expected to make the boldest moves as they play catch up. In all, 53% of digital resisters, the least digitally mature organizations, are planning to seek out emerging technology compared to the average of 29%.”
One effect of the pandemic is that remote service capabilities have been heavily sought after to provide business continuity, as a result of travel bans, quarantine restrictions and the need for social distancing. However, the value of remote service capabilities extends beyond enduring COVID-19. In 2021, our concept of field service will be replaced with one we’re hearing more and more about: “anywhere service.” As the process of remote service takes a firm grasp on the sector and becomes the standard first line of defense for organizations, we will all begin to realize the initial service can be performed anywhere.
Organizations will recognize the benefits of leading with a remote-first approach which improves first time fix rates, increases the odds of remote resolution and provides much faster response times when the need for field service occurs as a result of enhanced insights learned in advance. Remote service gives customers power by involving them in the service process — the result being much swifter resolution and the empowerment of technicians through the elimination of unnecessary traveling and improved leverage of their expertise.
Rather than believe field service will vanish, I believe the growing use of “anywhere” remote service as a way to diagnose and resolve problems that do not require the deployment of a technician onsite, will add to the progress toward more strategic service and result in the more optimized deployment of available resources. By eliminating unnecessary onsite visits with remote models, technicians will have the opportunity to spend time on adding value to their work and sharpen their skills as trusted advisors — the end result being the propulsion of the company forward in terms of its service objectives and customer experience.
Sarah Nicastro is a blogger and field service evangelist at IFS.
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