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September 8, 2016

Internet of Things (IoT) in field service management (FSM)

In today's competitive world, real-time data and innovative service methods are vital for field service enterprises to ensure customer delight, increase revenues, and expand profit margins.

The IoT explained

The Internet of Things (IoT) allows machines to communicate with each other (M2M communication). It is built using a combination of networks that comprise of data-gathering sensors, devices, big data, analytics, and cloud computing, which communicate via secured and encrypted channels. Connected devices enable efficient predictive maintenance by constantly providing information on a machine's performance, environmental conditions, and the possibility of failures. IoT can connect machines on the field in order to record incidents in real-time into a semi-intelligent 'Gen-X' FSM system.

Integrating IoT with FSM software applications

Field service organizations always strive to consistently provide the best service experience to their customers, by ensuring immediate repair and maintenance of their equipment and machinery. By collecting data about the machine's health and performance from IoT sensors, organizations can leverage predictive and preventive field service to minimize device downtime.


Three primary traditional FSM challenges

Here are three primary issues that challenge the current reactive scenarios:

    Field technicians execute the job and fix the equipment after the issue is reported. However, the delay can impact business continuity, which in turn affects the operating profit margins


    Adding more field technicians and service trucks to the field comes at a cost and sometimes the increased capacity remains under-used


    Assigning more work to existing field teams can have a negative impact on SLAs and first-time fix rates. Even worse, it can increase the cost of travel and overtime

Essentials of a new-age FSM solution

A field service management system that integrates device sensor data, technicians, customers, and technology is the key to address these issues. It should function in a predictive and preventive mode with the following features:

    The FSM process, which includes issue identification, communication, incident creation, scheduling, and assignment can be automated, thereby ensuring zero disruption in machinery operations and no or negligible downtime. This not only increases productivity, but also expands operating profit margins

 

    Most FSM products can also automate incident creation, scheduling, assignment, and invoicing processes. Using IoT, we can predict upcoming issues based on sensors data analysis and auto-creation of incidents based on preset threshold rules

The workflow of a FSM system with IoT integration

Here is an outline of the flow of incidents in a typical IoT-enabled FSM system:

1.   Data from the equipment's sensors is collected and transmitted, using secured and encrypted channels, to a big data storage


2.   Big data management and analytics is used to parse and analyze for refined sensors data


3.   The IoT command console is configured with predefined threshold rules to identify errors and monitor the device's health and performance


4.   Incidents are auto-created in the FSM system whenever errors are detected


5.   Auto-scheduling, routing, and dispatching of field service technicians against the incidents is done based on customer entitlements, location, product, skills required for the job, technician's availability, parts availability, etc. via the FSM system


6.   A field technician performs the job at the customer's site; records the effort, parts used, travel time, and any expenses incurred; and then bills the customer


Workflow of Field Service Management application using IoT.

Six Solution benefits



Wind turbines: A case in point of how IoT integrates with FS systems

Failures in wind turbines interrupt power generation leading to lower productivity and higher system downtime, which result in varying energy production and higher operating costs. To maintain profit margins, higher efficiency and uptime are required.

Near-real-time analytics provides data so that FS teams can react faster and address the issues before they become mission critical, thus reducing impact and avoiding downtime.

The wind turbine's sensors collect real-time data that is analyzed and through which, auto incidents are created, service scheduled, and an agent assigned to fix the issues. Wind turbine sensors are also used to continuously collect operating temperature, rotor acceleration, wind speed and direction, and blade vibrations - all of which can be used to optimize the turbine's performance, increase its productivity, and execute predictive maintenance to ensure reduced downtime.


*** Authors: R.N.Sarath Babu and Haresh Sreenivasa ***


Continue reading " Internet of Things (IoT) in field service management (FSM) " »

January 13, 2016

Next Generation Telecom Billing - SIs role

Till recently Telecom Billing Implementations, Transformations have had a decent share of the pie with SIs. However technological advancements like LTE advanced/direct, NFV & SDN, Cloud enablement to service the current (digitization, omni channel, content sharing) and new wave of services (mobile broadband, internet of everything, contextual services, mission critical services) are witnessing changes in the Telecom Billing applications to cater to the growing stakeholders and evolving business, charging models. Cloud and Convergence has never been so much in focus as now. Market is huge for billing. Evolution of Billing applications to cater to these changes has necessitated not only Billing Product Vendors but also Network Vendors to plunge and have a pie of the share.   

Network Vendors have evolved themselves to provide E2E B/OSS Solutions in addendum to the latest network deployments. The B/OSS Solution offering being pre-integrated with their network has made the whole proposition for a CSP highly cost effective with single accountability. With next generation necessitating the new network rollouts, B/OSS solutions is primarily now being delivered by Network vendors globally. Key Tier 1 Billing Product vendors in the recent past have spread their wings globally by acquiring other product vendors e.g. a product vendor dominating in the North America market after acquiring an another product vendor dominating in LATAM, APAC have now presence in the markets that they earlier did not reach out. There has been a growth in billing product vendors serving Tier 1 and Tier 2 recently, which rests the market more in hands of the product vendors. Together network and product vendors have had and are positioned for a huge pie of the market share. This complemented by solutions being cloud enabled, professional services units being set up to roll out and implement product solutions is narrowing down the scope of SIs.

So do SIs like Infosys have a role to play in enabling billing for the next generation services and getting ourselves associated in the value chain? Is there anything that we bring in this value chain? Let's first take a look at the growing value chain of telecom billing. The key stakeholders for billing would extend from current Service Providers, OTT Players, 3rd Party Content Providers, wholesale providers to the world of everyone in Internet of Everything like Autonomous Vehicles, M-health, Devices giving Contextual Services, Virtual Networks being billed for services aligned to the devices and the list is pretty long. This throws open a new set of user community to be billed, a high potential for SIs. Secondly, what we bring as a value to the table? We bring Strong knowledge of Processes, Domain and Delivery. We carry with us rich transformational experience, experience of having worked in multiple geographies, knowing pitfalls to avoid. We bring with us the thought leadership served in one market to be cross leveraged in another geographies. We put on table the rich cloud, integration and Big Data experience. More importantly, for Stakeholders the key advisory role to help them get where they want to, suggesting what would work best for them both in terms of Strategy and Technology.

However, in all of the above, what we need to be abreast is Technology, advancements being made in their billing apps. This would necessitate both with Network Vendors and Product Vendors
- Partnering, Investing and cross-skilling
- Build and Sustain excellent partner relationship. Sustenance is key
- Co-develop. We can augment their billing apps by helping them develop their functionalities, API gateways for customer empowerment, partnership enablement.
- Complement billing implementation on cloud, offering Billing as a Service
- Complement on the surround applications like Big Data and its integration

There is a potential for symbiotic relationship to be built and leveraged. All it needs is the first step, which SIs will need to take this time. SIs would need to identify the target markets and the vendors they want to partner with, build specific go-to-market solutions in a short time frame and reach out to the market aggressively. SIs are bound to stay and have the potential to earn a big pie of the market, provided they take the first step.

Billing - Embracing Next Generation Telecom Services

Telecommunication as a technology has never been so close to us than it is now. Every enhancement, innovation across any industry vertical leverages the power of telecommunication and this is just the beginning. Advancements in telecommunication and human desire to have control, have first-hand information on services and spend real time has moved the power in hands of end customers. More than ever, everyone involved in the value chain is now and will be willing to pay for the services and the benefits that they derive from it. This is making the industry invest in innovative solutions with user centricity, low cost and faster delivery as the main themes necessitating changes in the Telecom billing space.

Telecommunication is already witnessing change in form of Digitization, omni-channel experience, rich content being provided by various partners in form of various applications over the cloud. This is evident from the fact that we already have approximately 7 billion mobile connections, more than 100 billion app downloaded and 270 billion app downloads expected by 2017. This has enabled Telecom billing to be now realized sitting close the customers and is no longer viewed as a mere Back end system. The value chain of billing has expanded from End Customers, CSPs to include OTT players, 3rd Party partners providing innovative solutions and content.

Telecom billing applications traditionally have been focused on billing end customers i.e. retail or enterprises mostly in postpaid mode. However, aligning to the current trend there is a need for these applications to bill real time, provide real time alerts to end customers monitoring their spend, provide proactive recommendations to end customers by analyzing their usage and spend. The same billing applications now need to be extended to integrate on real time basis with OTT Players and 3rd Party providers for faster revenue settlements, reconciliations, settling any dispute and concerns to keep all the stakeholders happy. This along with the omni channel digitization that the end customers are looking for have necessitated billing applications to develop rich, reusable APIs, which had never been the focus of billing applications. These reusable APIs in time to come would be backbone of the billing applications when it comes to cloud.

In addendum to the ongoing wave are the next generation technological advancements enabling new services. Some of the technological advancements being LTE advanced/direct, VoLTE, NFV, SDN and convergence, both services and spectrum. Next Generation would be an era of new services (enabling direct device to device discovery and communication without latching to central network, enabling context specific dynamic network resource allocation), connecting new industries, and empowering new experience for everyone in the value chain. New services in the form of smarter cities; proximal and aware services for e.g. letting user know of the nearest healthcare; mission critical applications for e.g. monitoring power grid; autonomous vehicles; mobile broadband providing enhanced speed, security. All this is getting complemented with the advent of new devices, sensors, robotics etc.

Above would necessitate 2 big changes. First movement from "customer" to "user" centric approach. User would not only be end customers, but devices, sensors, networks, robots etc. Second, customer sitting at the edge of the value chain/network today would soon be seen as under the gamut of users and these users being an integral part of the value chain/network. Not only connectivity but content and computing is expected moving closer to this new user. We are soon to witness the true world of "Internet of Everything". Approx 25 billion devices are assumed to be interconnected by 2020. The services being rendered by and to this new user community is soon to fall under the umbrella of being billed/to bill. This would require telecom billing applications to be architected afresh, configurable as much as possible supporting new charging models real time supporting growing "user" community.  Telecom Billing applications would need to stretch to provide multi industry support, industry specific policy management, service specific and agnostic charging, OTA (over the air) and NFC (Near Field Communication) payments. Some of the new charging models serving new users could be: Dynamic intelligent pricing based on the time and load, context and priority based, content and priority based, value based etc. This new user community creating volumes, charging models, partner trust as never seen before would stretch Telecom billing applications envelop on lines of Scalability, reliability, security and performance. 

Cost has been and will always be one of the major driving factors or should we say "low cost". All services, innovations, automations being done on one hand is to provide a fresh set of services would need to ensure that the cost remains low and affordable. The new user value chain would soon be on the two sides of the same coin i.e. being billed and capable of billing. This is driving and would drive telecom billing applications to be made available as a Service, enabled on cloud/premise, shall we say: "Billing as a Service" necessitating the telecom billing applications to evolve themselves on security, access management and stringent KPIs. In addendum to cloud, to keep costs low, Users are looking at convergence, adopting different strategies i.e. convergence of billing applications across countries, service lines (triple, quad play), and customer segments (retail, enterprise). Telecom Billing Applications would need to be enhanced to handle such varying convergence strategies providing agility, flexibility and scalability.

Telecom billing applications would need to be enhanced, architected to handle the next generations and changing market dynamics especially in light of LTE Advanced, Internet of Everything and Cloud.

September 16, 2013

Cloud Vs On Premise - Where do you go?

One of the most frequently asked questions by Enterprises all over the world today is - Should their Applications be on the Cloud or On-Premise?
My 3 part Blog series tries to answer this question by looking at various aspects of Cloud and On Premise solutions and then coming up with the best suited model as per Customer Business requirements.

In the first part of this blog series, we will be taking a deeper look into the features of both the Solutions.

Continue reading " Cloud Vs On Premise - Where do you go? " »

July 3, 2012

CRM to CXM to C3E - Innovation or Evolution?

While CXM (Customer Experience Management) was floated as a concept almost a couple of years ago, it seems quite recent in wake of the fact that CRM (Customer Relationship Management) has been the mainstay of enterprises worldwide for almost 2 decades now. Despite the fact that most of the organizations are yet to latch on to this, and the fact that the ones who have latched on are yet to mature the concept when implemented on ground, the industry is looking for something newer already. The new acronym on the block is C3E (Cross-Channel Customer Experience), and at least for now it seems to satisfy everyone's appetite for innovation.

Continue reading " CRM to CXM to C3E - Innovation or Evolution? " »

May 22, 2010

Go Lean: Minimize customizations and reduce overall TCO in Oracle ERP implementation (Part 3)

There are many ways to achieve Leaner ERP implementation, and I have discussed some of the strategic levers for it in my previous blogs Go Lean (Part 2) and Go Lean (Part 1) like senior management and executive sponsorship, robust decision making framework, effective change management approach, upfront planning for middleware and reporting platforms, solution design workshops, selection of appropriate edge products and leveraging localizations. However, there are many tactical and operational levers also available for enterprises to adopt, which are primarily part of implementation execution cycle. I am discussing here some of these levers and best practices to minimize customizations:

  • Boot Camp Trainings - Before initiating the solution design phase, organizations must seriously consider to conduct the boot camp trainings on chosen ERP to their key super users, business analysts and implementation core team, facilitated by System Integrator (SI). The intent for boot camps must be training to the team for vanilla features and functionalities of ERP relevant to their industry processes. This will enable them to bridge many gaps and requirements through seeded ERP functionality, and increase the overall fitment of the package application, leading towards reduced customizations.

Continue reading " Go Lean: Minimize customizations and reduce overall TCO in Oracle ERP implementation (Part 3) " »

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