Conference season is heating up. On the heels of a very successful 2017 Smarter Services Symposium, I had the opportunity to attend Maximize 2017 in Las Vegas (Note: If interested, you can donate to support the victims of the recent tragedy via the following page). Maximize is the annual user, customer, and prospect conference held by ServiceMax, from GE Digital, and the Las Vegas event was the first of three global Maximize events. Its also worth noting that GE Digital’s Mind & Machines event is scheduled for a few weeks from now and we wonder how long Maximize will continue in its current form. I hope it stays.
My summary notes and takeaways from Maximize are split into two sections.
Section 1: Future direction and plans from ServiceMax, from GE Digital
Section 2: Learnings and Takeaways from customer presentations and sessions.
Section 1: Company and Product Direction
Getting Tighter with GE Digital
Dave Yarnold, CEO of ServiceMax, highlighted that the vision for ServiceMax was to enable their customers to deliver “Zero Unplanned Downtime’.
In the realm of vision-related statements, Bill Ruh, CEO of GE Digital, echoed that the intent and plan was to enable customers to use GE Digital’s capabilities in Asset Performance Management (APM) to optimize and make the machine more efficient, and to use the capabilities of ServiceMax to make people (field service engineers) more efficient. Both leaders laid out the Predix + APM + FSM vision for GE Digital, one that aligns to our commentary around the acquisition earlier in the year. The combined offering is essential to increasing solution appeal to industrial manufacturing and other heavy verticals where GE Digital has a bigger footprint. We were made privy to the fact that the GE business units have experienced nearly $100M of enhanced productivity because of their usage of ServiceMax and that it was now time for these enhancements to be extended to GE Digital customers. It was also noted that none of ServiceMax’s 107% year-over-year revenue growth included customers acquired via the GE Digital customer list or funnel. The company is currently investing heavily in the sales, marketing, and its R&D infrastructure, to target customers in Industrial manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Energy, Mining, and more.
Vision Drives Product Strategy
Rei Kesai, ServiceMax’s SVP of product, keynoted Day 2 of Maximize and shared how the strategic vision was being translated into product roadmap and release cycles. In Winter 17 (press), the major push was on Optimization in real-time, an area where ServiceMax had originally chosen to partner with ServicePower. In Summer 17 (press), the focus was on the integration between APM and FSM for condition-based maintenance. In Fall 17, the focus will be on Machine Learning and some initial use cases for AI in field service. In my opinion, there was a concerted effort made to show off the enhancements made to dispatch and scheduling, areas that have traditionally been the talk of field service software companies but have recently been pushed into the background while more interesting topics like IoT, AI, or AR get all the attention. To dig deeper into this requires a little review of ServiceMax’s overall journey. When ServiceMax was originally introduced, one of the biggest strengths of the solution was that it was a simple solution built on the force.com platform. In time, the solution built on its initial traction with a great deal of focus on the mobile front-end and the mobile user in terms of UI, experience, and workflow. This was a great way for the organization to attract a growing list of organizations interested in automating field service workflows while allowing for a link with back-end CRM. As the customer base grew, and so did the solution needs, ServiceMax invested heavily in strengthening the back-end of its solution offering tied to scheduling, dispatch, parts, and installed base management. The attempt, echoed in messaging and marketing, was to exhibit that the solution was enterprise-ready for the likes of organizations such as Pitney Bowes, Becton Dickinson, and Johnson Controls.
Now, the desire is to show an industrial-ready solution, which takes us back to the need for scheduling, planning, and work optimization. There is still a great deal of inefficiency built into traditional work triage, scheduling, and dispatch operations. While investments in the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI can assist in the reduction of these inefficiencies, maturity in business readiness is needed to accelerate these results. In parallel, organizations need to continue to shore up their processes which can then be augmented with the aid of various forms of machine, data, and business intelligence.
(Note: We did see a demo of a dispatch console and an updated mobile application. It was also mentioned that mobile updates would be made more frequently as a result of a more rapid innovation cycle. These updates would be decoupled from the back-end force.com updates. In speaking of the mobile front-end, Athani Krishnaprasad, ServiceMax’s Chief Strategy Officer, also spoke of the desire to fine tune ServiceMax’s capabilities to accelerate the productivity benefits to the field. This aligns with our vision of mobile maturity in field service, something that we have written about quite extensively. I can’t agree with this vision enough.)
What About the Customer?
We heard about the optimization of machines with APM, and the optimization of field service resources with FSM, but what happens to the end customer? As the chart below signifies, service leaders are greatly concerned with the end customer experience regardless of the channel of contact (phone, chat, remote, field).
This requires some back-end knowledge of the customer and not just the asset being serviced. Customer data and interactions are typically a forte of CRM. Both Bill Ruh and Dave Yarnold claimed that CRM-related functionality will continue to be the realm of partners, with the biggest being Salesforce. The relationship with Salesforce will continue to be a major talking point since ServiceMax is built on the force.com platform and that Salesforce has its competing Field Service Lightning product. Yet, there is complete commitment from ServiceMax and GE towards the force.com platform and there are no secret projects towards rewriting the architecture of the solution on a different platform.
Artificial Intelligence in Field Service
As is the case with Augmented Reality, everyone must throw their hat into the AI game. ServiceMax’s approach is to look at specific use cases in which machine learning, a component of AI, can be relevant to solving major field service problems. From a product point of view, the initial push from ServiceMax is in the field of dispatch to provide dispatchers with predictive service completion windows. I’ll have more to say on AI in field service and support, but the biggest issue I see is that buying organizations see AI as a net new technology purchase that requires a separate bucket of funds and evaluation criteria. For that, an attempt to introduce AI into an organization, especially one that has just been beaten over the head with mobile and IoT, is met with a “we’ll get to that later” approach. If I have it right, AI is more of an infrastructure play for the digital service organization and requires a long-term vision that is supported with short-term incremental investments. These incremental investments focus the removal of challenges in getting work done at the triage, dispatch, or field level. Once these investments have been accepted and become a part of the day-to-day, deeper learning and perception tools will garner interest from participating service organizations.(If interested, do participate in our AI for Service survey here)
Section 2:Session Takeaways
What Happens when All Else Fails?
It was a special treat to hear Gene Kranz and Jim Lovell speak about their time in the space program and during Apollo 13. In the context of Apollo 13, It is commendable to think about all the things that these two individuals and their teams did right when everything else went wrong. It raises an interesting question about the future of field service where field service labor will become increasingly reliant on automation for diagnosis, support, and resolution. Will our field technicians have enough product knowledge (mechanical, electrical, digital) to solve service issues when everything else fails?
Gary Johnson from Pitney Bowes shared the increasing role that service plays in an overall customer engagement strategy, especially in an organization that is transforming. He also introduced the customer lifecycle approach of LASER – Land, Adopt, Service, Engage, and Renew, that serves as the basis for Pitney Bowes’s investments and decision-making.
Man and Machine
Mark Drummond, President of LiftOne LLC, highlighted the steps that his organization is taking to address the existing (and future) technician shortage in several industries. The average age of his field service workforce is 56 years old and he must ensure that his hiring, training, planning, resource allocation, and automation strategies are aligned to meet the service needs of tomorrow. For his organization, field service automation investments can’t only be made with short-term productivity goals in mind, but they need to account for the longer-term workforce, customer, and organizational needs.
That’s a lot for a short update. If you were at Maximize, feel free to reach out and share what you saw/heard. We look forward to continuing to track the progress of ServiceMax as part of the overall GE Digital family.