How to Improve Facilities Management Operations with Field Service Software
The best facilities run like a finely tuned machine. A great maintenance team keeps an office building, industrial site, or any other commercial location in perfect running order so facilities never impede operations. Of course, that is — at times — easier said than done.
Managing any size facility depends on coordinating many variables: staff, parts, equipment, priorities, and schedules, among others. Unfortunately, these details are complicated, rapidly changing, and interconnected. For facilities managers, figuring out what and who to send where and when is a constant battle. The answers are rarely obvious, especially as facilities become bigger and more complex, and small mistakes can have big consequences.
For all these reasons, facilities management is something most companies do well but very few do perfectly. So, what differentiates the great practitioners from the good? Contrary to popular opinion, it is not the size of their staff or budget nor does it take visionary leadership. The key feature of finely tuned facilities is this: the ability to manage complexity at scale.
How, you ask? With field service software.
What is Field Service Software?
Field service software is designed for any operation that sends technicians into the field (or into a facility) to perform installations, maintenance, or repairs. It offers a platform for everything from scheduling and dispatching to parts inventory management and technician tracking: all the key functions of field service, digitized and integrated under a common umbrella.
Companies ranging from pool cleaners to plumbers to equipment installers rely on field service software to keep their technicians running on schedule and their customers happy. But it is less common among facilities managers despite the large overlap between on-site maintenance and off-site field service. Instead, many facilities run on some combination of manual processes, spreadsheets, and a piecemeal collection of tech tools. While these methods work to an extent, they are not comprehensive. Even their biggest advocates would admit they are not efficient or infallible. There is plenty of room for improvement.
Field service software delivers that improvement and so much more. Once managers have a clear overview of all things relevant to facility performance – both the resources available and the jobs required – they can make smarter decisions about how to schedule projects, where to send technicians, how many parts to order, and countless other important considerations.
Good field service management (FSM) software also provides a shared platform for communication and collaboration between technicians, managers, and other stakeholders. Having one place to go for all data, work assignments, special instructions, and contacts ensures that everyone has the information they need in whatever form they need it, which is essential for operational efficiency.
Another pillar of FSM software is the ability to collect and track data to report on performance. Rich reporting capabilities allow managers to gather (not assume) key insights such as where time and money are going or what the strengths and weaknesses of the facilities team are.
Why Facilities Management Needs to Change
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the relationship between companies and real estate. With the rise of remote work, some companies have decided to downsize their space. Others have come to the opposite conclusion, gaining a new appreciation for having everyone on-site. And no matter how much space a company uses, the people managing that space must sanitize it like never before while making it more resilient to the next disaster, whether pandemic-related or otherwise.
Every facility is in a state of flux right now. Few will look the same next year as they did last year. Regardless of whether that means facilities management needs will grow or shrink, it means they will change, probably significantly. It only makes sense that the processes around facilities management change as well.
First, the most successful facilities management operations have streamlined workflows. Any manual or paper-based field service systems and processes have been digitized and previously disconnected systems have been integrated. Digital transformation is already well underway in most other aspects of the enterprise, and facilities management has not been excluded. Using technology to organize and optimize maintenance activities is a requirement for success in the facilities management industry.
Staying ahead of the curve with proper planning – and business intelligence to guide this planning — is especially important in our post-pandemic world because the coming months and years remain filled with uncertainty. The pandemic accelerated many existing trends while causing others to drastically shift course, forcing companies to rewrite their plans and expect the unexpected.
In such an uncertain climate, agility is essential for all industries, including facilities management. As companies pivot, reconfigure their footprint, or institute cost cutting measures, their teams must be able to adapt accordingly and deliver the expected outcomes. The tools and techniques of the past may not be up to that challenge. Companies undergoing evolution and weathering disruption need a facilities management operation that can do the same.
Change is not optional – but it does not have to be painful. The key, once again, is field service software.
Field Service Software in Action
To appreciate how field service software transforms facilities management, consider a constant responsibility at any facility: changing light bulbs. Previously, completing this service request from end to end involved a chain of forms, phone calls, and data entry. There could be unexpected delays, too, like not having replacement bulbs in stock or discovering a broken light fixture. Every facility devised methods to keep the lights on. But a process that works is not the same as a perfect process.
Field service software was designed to make any process perfect. When a service request comes in, the software identifies which technician to send based on who has the necessary skills and availability. Technicians know in advance which replacement bulb to bring. They also have all the information and instructions they may require on their smartphone. Anything the technician needs to record or report, they can do on their phone so the information goes directly into the system for immediate reference.
This hypothetical barely scratches the surface of what field service software can do either in the office or in a technician’s pocket. From safety and security compliance to scheduling, dispatching, reporting, and analytics, field service software puts a better process in place while integrating all the people and data involved. The results: quality, consistency, efficiency, and flexibility in facilities management improve quickly and dramatically – exactly when those qualities matter more than ever.
Real-World Benefits of Field Service Software
It is important to emphasize that field service software is not simply a collection of tools that digitize previously analog processes. Rather, it is a means to transform how companies manage facilities – and get the most from every square foot in the process. Companies can set higher standards for everything they do. They can also build a strategy around flexible real estate requirements. Here are some of the ways that field service software improves facilities management.
- Accelerate service times – Working on a single integrated platform expedites scheduling facility work orders and getting the right technician on site. Completing jobs also goes faster when technicians have field service software on their phones.
- Keep customers happy – Technicians complete more jobs accurately in one visit when they can plan in advance and access information on site. Software gives managers the means to increase customers satisfaction by helping technicians fix issues faster, improve first time fix rates (FTFR), and even prevent issues in advance.
- Minimize inventory leakage – Keep track of parts and equipment by having technicians consume inventory through an app instead of a clipboard. The information goes directly into the field service software for seamless inventory tracking. Managers can even see stock levels change in real time.
- Stay fully compliant – Customizing workflows inside the field service software makes complying with health, safety, and sustainability regulations simpler and more consistent. The technology forces users to follow prescribed processes or record mandated data to lower the risk of non-compliance.
- Generate in-depth analytics – Field service software collects data from points throughout the maintenance process that managers can then analyze to understand where and how to improve efficiency. Deep visibility into the entire process clarifies what is and is not working.
- Optimize human resources – It takes fewer technicians to complete more work with software that can keep operations running efficiently. Managers get more value from each technician and help keep their labor costs in check.
3 Key Features to Have in Field Service Software
Field service software comes in many shapes and sizes, but not all products are created equal. The best choices share these key features:
- Full feature set – Some software addresses just one problem –inventory management or scheduling, for example. Rather than relying on multiple products that may not work well together, choose one product that offers all the relevant features. These products are a better value and easier to manage. They also bring all data and workflows onto the same platform so nothing gets overlooked or excluded.
- Mobile capabilities – Field service software becomes truly transformational once technicians can access it in the field through their phones. Mobile capabilities establish an unbroken link between managers handling oversight and technicians performing repairs, thereby breaking down information barriers while automatically integrating all data collected.
- ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) compatibility – When the field service software is not compatible with the ERP, it means someone must manually transfer data from one system to another, unless an automated integration is in place. But system integrations can also be problematic, especially if the API (Application Program Interface) breaks down. Read our article on avoiding the risks of an off-platform tech solution. The ideal solution is an FSM built directly on the ERP platform, such as NextService, which enables facilities management to operate within the same system used to manage accounting and resource planning company wide. This eliminates tedious duplicate data entry while increasing visibility into facilities management as a subset of the company’s overall performance.
NextService – For the Future of Facilities Management
NextService is raising the bar for field service software by building a solution for the future. Facilities management will never be the same once it runs on a mobile platform rich with features, data, and customization options. Nor will companies be the same once their facilities management software syncs directly with their ERP to enable seamless management and oversight. More than just a field service software, NextService helps companies optimize their facilities management operations and re-imagine their footprint for whatever the future holds.
To schedule a demo, contact us.