It used to be that CRM Field Service Management (FSM) meant managing the entire service process, from taking a service request/work order, asking diagnostic questions, scheduling an engineer – hopefully via an optimized process, to dispatching to the customer. The tech appeared on site with phone, laptop or mobile device on hand – online, hybrid or store-forward offline. However, this is not necessarily the definition today, and that has impacted the choice of FSM automation solutions.

The Perfect Field Service Solution?

So why can’t you find the perfect FSM solution? One reason is that the term Field Service Management has morphed.  It means something different to each company and each FSM vendor.

Even if you look at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management (Gartner ID: 2012 Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management) you’ll see ERP vendors, optimized scheduling vendors, mobile solution providers and then those that offer core FSM, plus scheduling and mobile. (You’ll also see vendors that offer social techniques, BPM and what Gartner calls the “Nexus of Forces”, as adjuncts to these.) Each may offer a component of the other, but their true bread and butter is in one of these three.

To many, field service has come to mean mobility. To others, it’s the combination of scheduling and mobility. To fewer, it means the entire FSM process as described. (As a side note, another term organizations use to describe the entire FSM process is “post-sales service delivery”. It’s not a new term, but we like it because it actually says what it is.)

Either way the term FSM has changed, and as mobility has increased exponentially, no wonder the term “field” has begun to mean different things to different people. We held to the belief that our esoteric term would remain safe not understanding that it was slowly eroding as we know it.

What’s Up With ERP Field Service Solutions?
During this time, a host of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions focused on offering more and more customer service and FSM functionality. ERP solutions have encompassed customer service and field service for years; it’s just not their core competency. As many of you know, ERP often falls short when it comes to FSM functionality because it isn’t necessarily focused on areas like service and warranty contracts, optimized scheduling and mobile solutions. Post-sales support is an afterthought for ERP, and the underpinnings for a one-stop, single-screen view of the entire service process simply isn’t there.

Even for ERP solutions that cover service, these are often still lacking this single screen view that streamlines processes and saves time. To compound this, when 38% of ERP projects exceed their budgets for total cost of ownership (“Twenty Years of ERP Lessons Learned“, Frank Scavo), and “most ERP implementations fail” (“Why Do ERP Implementations So Often Hurt Bottom Line Financial Results?“, Eric Kimberling), does it make sense to adopt call center and field service modules that are not the ERP’s core competency? It’s certainly the easiest path for executive approval, but will it impact the bottom line positively or negatively?

Time and again you’ll hear something like this:  Three years into the implementation and millions of dollars later plus seven screen swaps per transaction, and the new ERP CRM customer and field service modules are limping along. Executives aren’t happy, but it’s done. It’s integrated and it’s running. And yes, they still have their job. One Google search later, and you’ll find that some stats show it’s not just cost overruns that are the issue with these implementations but benefits are not recognized, the organization is simply not using the functionality or the system doesn’t satisfy key requirements regardless of it being within budget.

So, if you need ammunition to invest in your top choice of FSM solution (depending on your definition, of course), consider reviewing your return in an area that is often overlooked or at a minimum, downplayed.

The Field Service Secret Weapon
There are nuances that directly impact the bottom line but are often overlooked except by those closest to the problem – Field Service Directors and Managers. What do they see when looking for an FSM solution that perhaps executives might not? They realize the significance of FSM-specific entitlements.

  • Executives may not notice that entitlements are geared more for support desks than service desks. These may include simple draw-down contracts but omit the more advanced needs in tracking combinations of service, vendor warranties and customer contracts.
  • Often the mistake of checking off the box of “entitlements” on your requirement’s document may seem sufficient– but beware, you may only be able to have full coverage on a service request or nothing at all. Periodic billing and incident-driven / remedial billing with special terms may be extremely limited or unavailable.
  • And remember, we’re talking about service in the field. This means asset-specific entitlement definition will be key. You are, after all, servicing equipment.

Couple this functionality with that of Business Process Management (BPM) and applied social collaboration techniques, and it’s difficult to imagine the amount of automation that can occur these days under the hood of many service solutions.

When Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) in many ERP implementations compromises your ability to show a valid return on your investment, it might be time to look elsewhere. Perhaps I’m biased, but in the past two decades I’ve rarely heard a prospect or client say their ERP customer and field service implementation achieved the anticipated return on investment.

What I do know are two things. First, (and I’m almost embarrassed because it’s so obvious) whether it’s an ERP solution or an adjunct FSM solution, it must be integrated with the ERP’s inventory, financials, etc. Second, there’s one simple, tangible way to calculate ROI if you don’t have the functionality today—do a deep dive into entitlements. This is your secret weapon. I know of one customer that began to recoup dollars and increase revenues to take a $9 million contract management group to $20 million in 18 months.

How did they do it? They had their secret weapon.

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