The term itself is enough to stop some field service managers and executives in their tracks. Big Data! We visualize a torrent of information – the electronic equivalent of tens of thousands of pages of spreadsheets, drilling down to what might seem the minutest details of a company’s activities and customer relationships.
Indeed, today in field service big data provides access to enormous amounts of information. Experts estimate that the volume of business data worldwide doubles every 1.2 years, and by 2020 the world will generate 50 times the amount of information now on hand.
But we also have the power to slice and dice that data in ways that make it manageable, understandable, and most importantly, a pathway to success when used strategically. The collection of Big Data and its effective analysis and use at every level of a field service organization depends, in part, on an intelligent, well-designed, and tailored field service management system. New data must be gathered while field personnel use critical pieces of existing information to enhance their performance. And that field management system must be anchored in the cloud where there is enough computing power to properly manage the mass of data.
Particularly when applying lessons from Big Data to specific needs in the field, an organization must understand which of the thousands (or even millions) of information nuggets are key performance indicators (KPIs) – data that says the most about how you are doing business now and how you can be more efficient and profitable in the future.
You also have to determine which information slices need to be routed to specific segments of your field team to make them more effective. Service managers need to know which field workers have the best first-call resolution rates. Finance may need to know average revenue per customer. And, of course, senior management needs to see bits and pieces of everything so they can get the big picture and plan for the future.
Large enterprises are accustomed to doing this, although the available information admittedly is exponentially larger than in times past. Smaller organizations may be accustomed to more rudimentary tracking such as spreadsheets or white boards, but they should not assume that access to Big Data is beyond their reach. There will always be data that, properly identified and analyzed, is the key to making a smaller operation more profitable (and perhaps allow it to graduate to bigger and better things).
From the outset, an individual or small team must be assigned to oversee the management and distribution of the KPIs, making sure the right information reaches the right people and that data is shared across functions when appropriate. Within a medium-sized organization that might be the general manager or chief operating officer; in a larger setting, it could be a committee across multiple departments.
Remember, too, that even the information you don’t use today from Big Data will always be filed away. When your needs change, you can circle back to mine it and apply its lessons. In the meantime, if there’s a specific problem to be solved, stick to the most relevant data, analyze it to the greatest extent you can, and get it into the hands of field personnel who can use it to grow your business!