Changing field service management (FSM) software is one of the more challenging tasks a contractor will take. Done right, it can lead to better performance and fewer management headaches. Done wrong, it’s a train wreck. Here is the way to do it right.
Make a Checklist of Needs
When changing from one package to a new one, it is tempting to just look for software that overcomes the most irritating shortfalls of the current package. Unless you identify everything that’s important to you, you might end up trading one set of irritants for another. Make a list of the must-haves and nice-to-haves.
Review the Software Processes
You must adjust your internal processes to match the software’s processes. Otherwise, the implementation will fail because you will spend your time fighting the software. Be very clear on how the software handles job flow and other tasks. The FSM provider should be able to present you with the process documentation. If the processes differ from your own, can you adjust to do things the way the software requires?
Look Beyond the Eye Candy
FSM packages have a lot of graphical razzle dazzle these days. No matter how slick the demos look, find out how easy it is to get to the information you want and need. Does the software make it easy to get your key performance indicators?
Will the Software Scale?
What is adequate for a 5-truck company may not be sufficient for a 10-truck business. Can the software support your future growth? Artificial intelligence is the new buzz word in the FSM world. Does the FSM incorporate AI or are the plans to incorporate AI in the future? What third party software solutions does the FSM integrate with? For example, if the FSM lacks a chatbot for your website, will it work with others on the market? If the program lacks an accounting package, what third party packages are compatible with it?
Focus on Total Cost of Ownership
As you scale, an affordable software package can quickly escalate in price. Make sure you know the licensing cost per seat, per truck, etc. Make sure you know what hardware is required, including tablets, mobile service, etc. Determine the cost of maintenance. How long the current version will be supported? Will new releases be required or optional? How much will the releases cost? Will you need additional, third-party software to cover any gaps or deficiencies in the FSM package?
Does the FSM provider offer training? How much does it cost and where does it take place? Factor in the cost of sending people to training, including travel. Does the software provider send people to you for training or implementation? How much will that cost? Are there outside consultants who help get you up and running?
Many FSM providers will cut deals. Good negotiators have been known to pay half the price of similar companies who never thought to ask for a discount. Like car dealers, the willingness of the FSM sales team to deal might increase at the end of a month or quarter.
Consider the Provider's Financial Strength
You do not want to make the investment in a new FSM package only to have them go out of business or see a change in ownership. It is hard to assess a software company’s financial strength, but it is worth asking about it. If it appears shaky, it is a huge red flag.
Software companies will provide references. Typically, they will only provide you with people who will be cheerleaders. Still, they are worth checking. It is also worth identifying users on your own through online forums. See if you can find a company that’s similar in size to yours and that is willing to let you visit for half a day. Ask about pricing, support, problems, and responsiveness.
Implementing a new FSM system is a huge undertaking. Time spent upfront to understand exactly what you are buying and how the software operates will reduce your costs, implementation time, and frustration.
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