Upgrading Field Service Software? Don’t Forget Change Management
In an industry defined by trucks and tool belts, it comes as no surprise that field service companies have been slow to adopt technology. But that is changing – and fast. From plumbers to pool cleaners, companies that send techs into the field are adopting digital tools at increasingly high rates. This is a smart (and necessary) move in response to forces like the pandemic and accelerating industry consolidation. But for service providers who are early in their adoption of field service technology, it is not enough to simply add or upgrade software. They must also manage the change – or else the whole effort could go off the rails.
Deciding to do things differently never comes easily. Change comes with growing pains and learning curves. Providers who have decided to implement field service management (FSM) or enterprise resources planning (ERP) software have already cleared a major hurdle. But the truly challenging work comes next. The implementation phase determines whether new software delivers on its promise or falls short of expectations. A company ends up transformed either way. Whether it ends up improved, however, depends on the implementation going smoothly.
So how do you ensure a successful implementation? By thinking bigger than technology.
Field Service Technology – A Means to an End
Field service providers now have the tools to digitize, integrate, scale, and streamline everything they do while becoming tech-driven organizations. Technology makes incredible things possible. A decade from now, the industry will look nothing like it did a decade ago.
However, certain similarities will remain. Techs will still venture into the field in trucks full of parts and tools. Customers will still be looking for convenience, skill, and value. The balance sheet will look the same as well, reflecting whether revenues exceed costs or not. So, while technology may transform how providers conduct business – improving processes, priorities, and procedures at all levels – it will not change the fundamentals of field service. When done well, old and new combine into something objectively better.
This is an important insight, yet one that is easy to overlook by providers who have not been through a major software implementation before. The goal of the implementation process is to emerge from it a stronger, smarter, and more streamlined company – and technology is just one part of that. Other factors include the technicians, managers, workflows, and business plans, all of which will need to evolve during the implementation without compromising what makes them work in the first place.
It is no small feat, which explains why many software implementations go sideways. Avoiding this too-common outcome takes one thing above all: change management.
A Quick Primer on Change Management
We often see change as a force that is too big or unpredictable to control. Change management suggests otherwise. Organizations undergoing big shifts – like software implementation – can (and should) take measures to guide change along a prescribed pathway and towards the intended outcome. Otherwise, it can go off course in dozens of different ways.
In practice, change management is about planning and preparing for impending change, then supporting individuals and units once it arrives. If point A represents a company now and point B represents that company, much improved, after the implementation, change management addresses everything necessary to get from A to B.
More than just a plan for how to implement the software, whether that be FSM, ERP, or both, change management plans for how the whole company will be affected by that implementation. The goal is that once the software is up and running, everyone wants and knows how to use it to the fullest in the service of ambitious new targets and initiatives. The details always look different, but the objective stays the same: to keep all aspects of the company aligned throughout the process of change.
Common Software Adoption Challenges
A big part of change management is anticipating problems and friction points that lie ahead and finding resolutions in advance. With that in mind, be ready for these common software adoption challenges:
- Employee Push Back – People are resistant to change, especially in a work context where they are comfortable doing things a certain way and convinced their approach needs no improvement. Unless employees feel excited to use the software and confident their jobs are not in jeopardy, they will never use those tools to the fullest, leading to a smaller (sometimes much smaller) impact than expected.
- Lack of Training – Even when employees are on board with new software, they need comprehensive training to use it effectively. Lack of training makes people feel frustrated using the software, killing the initial enthusiasm. It also causes valuable features to go unused.
- Poor Business Case – When there is not a business case for a piece of technology, it amounts to so many bells and whistles. Employees have more tools at their disposal. What they do not have is a reason to use them or an obvious way to do things better with the aid of technology.
- Delayed Data Migration – Getting data into a new piece of software from all the physical and digital sources it currently lives in takes a time-consuming effort vulnerable to errors and setbacks. In addition to extending the implementation timeline and cost, data migration issues can fail to import valuable data into a new software platform and negatively impact data accuracy.
Complicating everything outlined above is the fact that field service providers must continue serving customers while also implementing software. That puts a serious strain on resources and risks problems on either front. When so much depends on the new software yet so much stands in the way of the implementation, change management becomes imperative.
Change Management Best Practices for Field Service
As previously mentioned, every change management process will be unique based on the company doing it and the software being implemented. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work. What will work in all cases are best practices, informed by countless past implementations, that have been shown to increase the odds of a successful implementation:
- Define Success – For change to be manageable it must be measurable. That starts by defining what metrics and thresholds define success. In the context of a software implementation, success metrics might include getting 100% of the workforce trained or completing the implementation in X number of days. Establishing change targets gives everyone involved something to “aim” for along with the means to track progress at any point.
- Consider Every Contingency – Change management hinges on foresight: the ability to mitigate issues by anticipating them early. Take some time before the implementation to think through everything that could go right and wrong during and after the implementation. Bring multiple perspectives into this process, and be willing to entertain any idea, even if it sounds remote. Thorough contingency planning keeps the implementation on track in the face of the unexpected.
- Designate Change Champions – Countering employee pushback takes a clear communication strategy to explain the purpose and benefits of the software in ways that get people eager to become users. Change champions can impart this message more effectively and authentically than announcements from the company leaders. Appoint change champions across the company, from the ranks of all different departments, who can answer questions about the software and provide support/guidance to anyone who needs it. They are the human face of the change afoot, as well as the first contact for anyone who feels uncertain about that change.
- Support the Ongoing Effort – Change management takes time, money, staff, and other resources for everything from training to data migration. Support for change management comes from the top down. It should be early, ample, and enthusiastic because investments in change management result in larger and faster returns from the new software.
Selecting Field Service Software with Change Management in Mind
How easy a piece of software will be to implement and adapt to is one of many factors to consider when selecting new tools, but an important factor nonetheless. Some choices make change harder; others make it easier.
To simplify the transformation into a tech-driven field service company, look for a few characteristics in the software under consideration. First, a growing and enthusiastic user base suggests that people like what the software offers and find it simple enough to get on board. Second, software that works seamlessly with other key business tools offers more to take advantage of and less to learn/implement. Finally, software that helps the technician in the field as much as the executive in the C-suite will have the full support of the organization and a much easier implementation as a result.
NextService checks all those boxes. Our FSM software handles all facets of service delivery in a way that providers and technicians both appreciate. Plus, it does something highly unique: runs on-platform with NetSuite, one of the world’s top ERPs, so that field service data flows directly into the business management system. Having these two powerful tools working in sync brings massive changes to a field service company, but those changes are easy to manage because they are overwhelmingly positive.
What would these changes look like in your organization? Speak to an expert to explore the answer.