6 Technology Trends Field Service Leaders Must Plan for in the Coming Year

Unnamed Author – Vyn Advisors

How will the biggest trends in technology and automation affect industries that are in a race to deliver new infrastructure & field services such as utilities, green energy and telecom? What do Field Service & Operational leaders need to be ready for in 2023?

Energy transition & skills shortage is accelerating digital transformation in Utilities

The last 12 months have been a roller coaster ride for most of us. Faced with an energy crisis, a geo-political and a macroeconomic shock, business and political leaders have had to respond.

We spoke to industry leaders, Vyn advisors and customers to help you get ahead in 2023.

1. The skills shortage will heighten the pressure to deliver on Net Zero goals

With the growing need to deliver critical infrastructure at pace, network owners and operators are facing a huge time and cost pressure. And, with 75% of contractors  in the UK facing issues to recruit skilled operatives, lack of experts is creating further time delays and revenue blockage for many businesses.

Firms that need to deliver renewable energy capacity, utility and energy networks extensions, optical fiber and high speed connectivity as well as field services need to urgently reduce costs while accelerating project & service delivery.

Additionally, Net Zero is creating a push from governments and customers alike, all of whom are expecting greener ways of working and greener choices.

There is a compelling need to rethink operating models so that fewer experts can remotely assure quality and safety to get more jobs done faster, safer and greener. Digital technologies such as video and AI will play a critical role here.

2. Sustainability impact of technology will rise in importance

Gartner predicts that by 2025, over 75% of executives will be responsible for sustainable technology outcomes and 25% will have compensation linked to sustainable technology impact. This means leaders will need to ensure the technology they use is linked to help the organization and its customers be more sustainable. Leaders must support greener ways of working and offer customers’ greener choices for interacting with them.

“Digitalization of multiple processes, the supply chain and workforce as part of a firm’s sustainability strategy will be paramount for businesses to stay relevant for the next 10 – 20 years”

Arun Bansal, CEO, Adani Airports.

Embracing the vision that ESG and business outcomes go hand in hand  and re-imagining people’s impact for a better planet and profit will be essential.

3. Measuring the impact of digital on specific benefits will rise

“Digital in its broader sense, will become more deeply ‘seated’ within Enterprises and transformation will pick up speed, mainly to drive efficiencies”

Mike Young, Vyn Advisor

80% of global CEOs are increasing digital technology investment in 2023 according to Gartner. But data on the impact of digital is often a big hurdle for leaders to take bold decisions to set the transformation direction for their business.

In the absence of company-wide data — both qualitative measures such as increased employee engagement, better collaboration, improved customer perceptions etc. or quantitative measures like faster delivery, revenue growth, cost savings etc,  — leaders must measure the business impact on specific benefits in the value chain.

Measuring the ROI and impact of digital initiatives for individual use cases generates pride and ownership and increase the chances of creating wider business impact. There are many ROI calculators and customer success stories available that illustrate the benefits of a digital customer self-serve model for new utility connections with video site-surveys.

4. Rapid Automation will become mainstream for Field Service

Transforming Customer Experience is an imperative for utilities as today’s customers are more open to digital interactions and expect consumer-style experiences from their service providers.

The multigenerational workforce, with rising expectations from technology, is also looking for smarter digital interactions in the workplace leading to a cultural shift and a mindset where workers and customers expect technology to ‘do it for me’, ‘don’t just give me the data’.

We see the rise of the no-code /low-code platform  as a means to quickly build, deploy and automate complex, multi-system, multi-person frontline workflows picking up pace in 2023. This, along with increased adoption of machine learning and AI, is creating the right environment for rapid automation of multiple business processes.

Automation of cognitive parts of organizations such as people behavior is more complex unlike the automation of factory floor processes. Lots of data is not necessarily the solution, but it is about high quality contextual data that give people (employees) the decision aids to exercise their free will to take smarter actions.

For example, systems based triage to mitigate unnecessary visits when a water leak has been reported, or have automation and AI provide decision aids on whether a leak is inside or outside the house, or an auto recommendation on the complexity of a job are just some of the decision aids that increase the business value and ROI of digital investment.

5. Scalability of short video will drive widespread adoption in Field Service

Video in the enterprise has grown exponentially, particularly for the use of marketing, sales and customer conversations. There is also an increasing trend to work with different types of video, both synchronous and asynchronous short video, which contributed to 90% of internet traffic in 2022 .

Synchronous or live video and the use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technologies in the field service industry gathered momentum during the pandemic. Initially focused on technician training and learning, the use cases expanded to remote support by connecting the customer with a technical expert in real time.

Asynchronous short video offers more flexibility and scalability.

Asynchronous video can be used to capture visual data anytime, and is not constrained by preset schedules. In addition, the visual and searchable data from guided asynchronous video can be consumed by multiple parties creating better situational awareness and data-driven decision making.

As more businesses focus on technology-led optimization of operations to reduce field service costs and improve Customer Experience, we see the importance of scalability rise for widespread adoption of video and other visual technologies.

A complete video solution, one that combines live and asynchronous video, and can be scaled rapidly across multiple platforms and use cases will pick up pace in 2023.

6. AI-powered decision aids to assist workers will make AI more mainstream

“2023 is the year when AI hits the tipping point between incredible potential and reality”

Tony Saldanha, Vyn Advisor

AI has progressed from an academic curiosity to a form of technology that businesses are using to augment workers in the field and elsewhere. However, business challenges are complex and multi-dimensional, and in this context, multimodal AI  powered by feedback loops & self-regulating mechanisms that can respond to events will make the impact of AI real. The use of contextual data, images, speech and text will make this process richer.

We expect to see more transparency emerge as AI models become more complex, and explainability of AI systems, or the ability of a model to give an explicit justification for a decision or recommendation, become a norm. In addition, data provenance  for AI models will rise in importance.

In one example, Vyn’s AI models, built on computer vision and speech processing, auto-identified 5x the number of potential defects in less than 6 weeks. AI-powered decision aids improved workers’ safety awareness as a result.

Reaching the tipping point between AI’s potential and reality will be that much closer in 2023.

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About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.

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