It is almost impossible to hold any business conversation for too long before the words digitalisation, or digital transformation are uttered. There is much that such projects bring forward to a company; however, as service organisations, do we fully understand where the value of our digital transformation truly lies?
“What we are seeing is that the data being produced by the system initially is being used or requested to make service delivery more efficient." explained Coen Jeukens, VP Global Customer Transformation, ServiceMax
"However, during the conversation today I am hearing many of you saying that in doing the operations and in mining the data we create during service delivery, we can feed that data so much more into other areas of the organization. Engineering and R&D is prominently being mentioned as one of these areas."
This is a absolutely true and something that has been noted by most members of this particular Think Tank session around the table. The transparency that data brings can be a hugely powerful tool in allowing different divisions of a business to communicate more effectively.
Of course, data is also at the heart of many modern revenue strategies as Jeukens continued to outline; “Another business function within this mix that is very interesting is the sales department. This is because they do not only want to know am I going to replace or try to do a cross or up-sell when the economic life-cycle of the equipment is over, but also because we now have the data points we know how the customer is sweating the equipment.
“This can be especially important because if equipment is sweated then you might want to come to the customer with a commercial offering before the economic life-cycle of the equipment is over. Whereas if the equipment is hardly being used at all, as we have seen in some of the examples in today’s discussion, it might have a completely different profile to it- both from a service perspective but also from the commercial perspective when it comes to such activities such as up-selling or cross selling."
But how deep does the value of data truly go within a business?
“I often hear the words ‘data is the new oil’," Jeukens comments "and some analysts are already putting forward figures that indicate that the ‘economy of data’ is now surpassing the regular economy. While I do not know if this is 100% true, I think we do all understand that the data itself has potential in creating the new offerings and also more usage for the voice of the customer.”
However, while it is a commonly repeated mantra, others in the group questioned the value of data as a stand-alone resource. “For me, I push back a little bit at the phrase data is the new oil," said Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief, Field Service News
“I’ve come to the conclusion that data is essentially valueless unless there is insight behind it. if we were to continue the metaphor data is merely the mechanism; it’s the drill that allows us to get to the insight - which is where the true value lies.”
It is a fine distinction but an important one that Oldland makes. However, Jan van Veen, Founder, moreMomentum digs even outline where the true value of digital transformation lies within a service-centric business.
“Data is absolutely important; there is no doubt about that. But the value is not in the data; neither is it essentially in the insight," Van Veen states.
"What we are seeing is a number of different mechanisms kicking in that are all related to digitalisation. There are several of these. There is the disruptive element in how we are working, but also in the markets we serve at large.
“Some companies will follow the curve, others will be entrants into the market that drive us as a sector to work in a better way, and others will be unable to keep up and will fall away. Also, at some point we begin to see a type of de-materialisation. So we get less products being involved as some are taken out of the equation. For example, we don’t have generally have a need for a camera or a calculator anymore as our phones can handle both those functions," he added.
“Another phase we will see is demonetisation, where digital products become so prevalent that they become much cheaper and then finally alongside this we also see democratisation where digital services become available for everybody at an affordable price point.
“We are in the early phase today as we talk about data coming from equipment and what we can do with that. But I think the real challenge is how are we going to turn it into value. Not insight, but services and value propositions using the data."
Whether the true value of digitalisation is indeed the data itself, the insight within that data or the services we are able to build around that insight the fact remains that modern field service delivery and service management has to leverage in someway the data that is at our disposal. And this needs to be a cohesive effort across the business.
“Everything has to be about data, so we need the best data coming off the machine through the customer to get the right diagnostic in place. Industry 4.0 and connectivity is really helping with that.," commented Jason Smith, Director of Field Service, EMEA, 3D Systems Corporation
“However, we still have a culture amongst engineers where they need to recognise that they are also responsible for the solution.
“What they have found and how they build up their experience is empirical - they’ve been able to build on that knowledge and telling others, that knowledge capture is key to the whole thing. It’s not just what is wrong with the machine its what did you do to fix it and how can we put that back into a closed-loop cycle so we are constantly improving and evolving the solution.
“We’ve touched on some of the tools to do that and Artificial Intelligence is of course one such tool but making sure that you have that closed-loop in place and its not just one-way traffic is the key to that culture change and so making sure engineers are part of it and recognise it I think is going to be key to improvement,” Smith adds.
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