We have been calling our software “field service management software” (FSM software) for a while, because that’s technically what it is, with “field” meaning that the engineer would be away from the office for most of the day, potentially completely offline, so the system needed to synchronise data from disconnected sources, and needs to have all the information it needs so the engineer doesn’t need to call the office to ask questions.
The word “field” differentiates what we do from the “traditional” way to do service management, which is to do it through pen and pencil, or from software where the engineer needs to have a full-time connection in order to fill in data.
Anyone that is still doing it the pencil and paper way is wasting time and money. There really is no excuse – why are you wasting time filling in data two or more times, travelling back and forth to the office, wasting the time of other people that need to fill in your data?
And anyone that uses a non-field service management software is wasting money, is losing out on the flexibility that a modern FSM system brings, and may be stuck in a dead-end dinosaur of a system that will be difficult to migrate from.
Up until smart-phones were ubiquitous, it was common to either have physical paper forms, or to use clunky PDAs that you then had to synchronise manually with the office database each day.
But these days, everyone has a smart-phone. Along with the power that this brings, it allows us, as developers, to have a common base to work on. We can trust that almost everyone out there in engineer-land has a phone with either Android or iOS on it, and we can write software that we know will work everywhere. If your job management system doesn’t work when you get to where you need to do the job, then you need to talk to us so we can hook you up with our own!
Before, we would need to find out what PDA the client intended to use, then write software specifically for that PDA. As someone that has had to do that well before field service management systems were a thing, let me tell you that this made every single new job a nightmare. Not only would every system cost a fortune because of the learning curve we had to go through to learn each PDA’s quirks and languages, but we then needed to support every single system we had ever written.
With the ubiquity of iOS and Android, and especially Cordova, which lets us write one single software that works on everything, that nightmare is gone. We write our systems now safe in the knowledge that what works in the office will work in the field, and if there are any devices out there that don’t work, they’re so rare that we mostly don’t need to worry about them. We still get them every now and then, but they’re actually more an interesting puzzle now than nightmare-inducing. We solve the differences, and that’s yet another class of devices that we won’t need to worry about anymore.
A company that is buying their first software these days will go immediately for field service software instead of just service management software solutions. The main difference is that field service is designed to work everywhere, not just within a specific building or location, but that’s how most people work – it’s rare to find a service team that is located just in one small isolated area.
Even in isolated locations such as factories or ships, there is still enough movement involved that the engineers need to be able to receive and send data from disconnected points. There is no guarantee that they will be working in a desktop- or laptop- friendly environment, so it makes sense even in the most confined working environments that the service management software should work on a mobile device such as a phone or tablet.
Another difference is scale – field service management software tends to be written for large numbers of clients and users. This means that the systems can be flexible and relatively cheap to deploy. The flip side is that when service management software is written specifically for a customer, it tends to be inflexible and very expensive. Because our system is designed to be used by literally thousands of customers, we always take care when adding features that those features are either configurable, optional, or that they work in a broad enough way that they work for everyone.
All of the best field service software is designed such that it can be easily upgraded, and all the best field service management software companies will be constantly pushing out new upgrades. We release a new version almost every 6 months or so, and there are always enough new things in there that every year we are actually amazed ourselves at how different this year’s system is from last year’s.