5 Ways Dynamics ERP Users Can Simplify Field Service (Video)

Does your organization need to schedule service technicians in the field? Do your service technicians need to track time and materials consumed? Learn how ExpandIT connects to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, NAV and Finance & Supply Chain Management to ensure information flows automatically between your field service software and ERP system, enabling you to improve the speed of processes such as invoicing.

In this recorded session ExpandIT shows you how to simplify your business in 5 key areas:

  • Manual processes
  • Scheduling
  • Resource utilization
  • First time fix rates
  • Invoicing

Transcript below:

Sherry: Good afternoon. My name is Sherry Bettencourt and I am a customer service associate here at Encore Business Solutions. And I’d like to start by thanking you for joining today’s “5 Ways Dynamics ERP Users Can Simplify Field Service” webinar. Today all attendees will be in listen-only mode. So if you have any questions as we go through today’s presentation, please feel free to type them into the Q&A or chat box in the GoToMeeting webinar control panel and we’ll try to leave some time at the end of today’s presentation to respond to any of your questions. If we happen to run out of time, don’t worry, we will follow up with you via email to any of your inquiries. Today’s webinar is also being recorded. So you can expect to receive a link to the recording in the coming days so that you can either review or share today’s presentation with your colleagues. At this point, I’m going to turn today’s presentation over to John MacDonald at ExpandIT and he’ll walk you through their solution.

John: Thank you, Sherry. Hello, and good morning or good afternoon, depending on where you are. My name is John MacDonald, as Sherry said and I work with ExpandIT. Thank you for the opportunity to present to you today. I’m glad to be here with the team from Encore Business Solutions. The topic today as we said is “How ERP Users Can Simplify Your Field Operations.” So if you’re an ERP user on say a Microsoft Dynamics ERP product, or even on a non-Microsoft solution, and you have a field operation, this presentation is for you.

So the agenda is as follows after some brief comments on the stakeholders and field service operations and quick discussion of some of the common pain points that service organizations face, we’re really going to delve into the five ways that organizations can simplify field operations.

So we’ve seen that companies with field operations there’s typically four crucial stakeholders. The first and most important stakeholder is you, that’s the operator of the business or the business manager at the company with field operations. You want to have happy customers, productive employees, and profitable operations. You need to know when you’re making or losing money on installation projects or services work. Next, we have a field service technician. So those are the folks out in the field every day doing the work, they need real-time information. They need information that allows them to complete their job and get the work done.

Then we have the planners sometimes called dispatchers who generally work in the office, they do the detailed planning and scheduling, they need to communicate with the field technicians and with customers. Finally, there’s the end customer. That’s the organization or individual that needs fast and easy installation of a product or service. They want good efficient communications and timely service. To net it out they want the job done right the first time.

In today’s presentation, we’re going to focus on how we can simplify the experience for all of these stakeholders. Let me share a quick story. A few months ago I took an urgent call from the president of a customer that manufactures cranes and hoists. The CEO was really frustrated when they reached me, they took telling me that even after implementing their brand new Microsoft ERP she was losing sleep at night because she still was unable to understand whether the business was making or losing money on their installation projects and the follow-up services.

On the screen in front of you can see some of the common pain points that she shared with me. And we’ve observed that many of these pain points are common for organizations that do field-based work. For the sake of time, I’m not going to go through them all. However, these pain points make it especially hard to scale a services-based organization. As the CEO on that call told me that day, it is challenging to add field staff to support growth without adding expensive support workers back in the office. She expressed how time-consuming and expensive it is to attract, train and retain the field technicians without having the requisite systems tools and methodologies that support field worker onboarding and best practice. If any of this sounds familiar, then again, I think this presentation is good for you. And with these pain points in mind, we’re going to share some of the ways that you might be able to simplify field operations.

The first way companies can simplify operations is by eliminating manual processes with digital and connected systems wherever and whenever they can. This is the core idea behind a digital transformation for a field-based organization. We all know that running a services business or really any business means juggling a lot of tasks and ensuring that you stay on top of them. Research has found that 52% of field services organizations are still using manual methods for field service. Some of the most common manual processes that we see in the field are use of paper reports and paper documents well in the field for tracking time and materials consumed. We see the use of standalone tools for scheduling and planning, and the dreaded email and phone that’s still used for capturing service requests and for technician communication.

Let’s take a look at a few ways to eliminate these manual processes and improve communication. Paper documents, as we all know, are prevalent in most services businesses. The problem is these paper reports are prone to error as they can be misplaced, lost, or made illegible. When documentation is lost or misplaced, retrieving the original document can be a real hassle, time-consuming, and in many cases, it’s impossible to replace them requiring rework or additional visits. Replacing paper documents with digital on-site forms that are completed on a mobile device resolves many of these issues. Digital forms, onsite reports, and checklists connect your field technicians back to your office staff and also connect the data that your field staff is collecting to your ERP system.

Additional information that might not be commonly shared with your ERP is also easily shared and connected and updated in real-time so that they can be used for future reporting and key performance indicators. Not only does this optimize business processes, but digital reporting can improve compliance requirements, as specific forms and data can be made mandatory prior to completion of a work order.

Technicians may forget to track their time, they may underestimate or even overestimate the number of materials that are used. And all of this leads to inaccurate data and delays in billing cycles and invoice inaccuracies. The best way to resolve this is to arm your field service technicians with a mobile device that allows the technicians to track time and the materials used once they’re on the job and the service order has started. This ensures technicians’ work time and materials are always accounted for. Timers can also be used to automatically track time, materials, and resources or machine usage can also be captured on the mobile device as it’s consumed, and the materials that are consumed on the job get recorded and pushed back to the ERP system for invoicing and costing.

Most of us have become familiar and even expect in our own lives to have the ability to communicate with our service providers on our own timeline, for instance, after work hours, and in the fashion that’s most convenient to us. For me, it’s frustrating that I have to call a phone hotline, wait on hold, and often leave a message when I have an urgent service issue. I’d much prefer to submit an online service request through a portal. A customer service portal gives customers the ability to request service calls, report incidents, or even see where a particular visit stands. Maybe they’ll realize that the technicians have already been dispatched to the site. The customer then knows that the service technician is on the way.

The third way to optimize field service is by enhancing resource optimization and improving scheduling. To better explain this, I’ll paint a picture. Let’s say you have 10 or 30 or even 100 service technicians in the field covering a huge geographic territory. Well, you know, different people have different skills. It’s really important to realize that not all service technicians are equipped for all service calls. As a service organization, not only do you have to juggle the skills of your technicians, but also you need to know the geographical locations when trying to respond to service requests. Getting this right has a huge impact on customer satisfaction.

A digital schedule simplifies the planning process for the people in the office doing the detailed planning. The planning board eliminates the need for standalone whiteboards or paper or Excel-based planning. The digital planning board communicates the planning entries to the field technician’s mobile device, eliminating the need for paper work tickets. This can also make life a lot easier for the field technicians by eliminating unnecessary trips to the office by making their schedules easily accessible from a smartphone or tablet.

With a digital planning tool, planners and dispatchers back in the office also get a quick view of the job status of the work being done in the field by the field techs. From the planning board, the dispatcher is able to see the status of the planned visits that have been scheduled. And as work is actually being completed in the field and entered on the mobile client, the work statuses are updated back to the planning board. This gives the dispatcher a simple way to view their team’s schedule and the status of the work that’s going on in the field. By visually seeing this status, the dispatcher in the office is better equipped to address customer questions as they come in, reduce double bookings of resources, and really know what each resource is working on.

The planning board gives a summary of what’s happening for the day, what’s happened in past days, and also what’s happening in the future. This helps the planner know if something needs to be rescheduled if something was not started, or hasn’t been completed for the day and needs to be rescheduled. A digital scheduling tool can also simplify the process by providing built-in mapping capabilities, showing the location of the service technicians as well as the location of the jobs and estimated travel time. This enables dispatchers to make more informed decisions about the right person for the job when geography is a factor. The map is useful for a dispatcher who’s perhaps planning across multiple jurisdictions or across city lines. A system like this can help optimize routes and resources and leads to a reduction in travel time, improved response time and lower costs.

Another way to simplify the process is to make it easier for the planner in the office to create or modify a work order without having to access the back-end ERP system. The planning tool provides a simple user interface for the planner, allowing them to create a new work order or job or a service order within ExpandIT instead of using the ERP system. This simplification provides the planner in the office one tool and one place where they can do all of their detailed planning work.

The third way to simplify Field Services is to leverage industry best practices. ExpandIT supports this in the following ways. With over 20 years of experience expanded has observed consistent best practices for the installation and services workflow that supports business scale and future growth. Best of Class services companies leverage a consistent data structure that is typically maintained in the ERP. They also leverage the strengths and capabilities of the ERP to support structured data such as items, resources, and customer-specific pricing, and the creation of maintenance contracts and jobs.

What ERP systems struggle to do well is providing a graphical schedule, and maintaining the less structured data that might be unique to your business such as meter readings, pictures, signatures, attachments, and checklists, and also supporting an easy-to-use mobile experience for your field workers. Based on customer feedback, we’ve been able to build these best practices and workflow into the standard ExpandIT workflow. We also understand that you might have some unique requirements for your business and generally, we find that this can be accommodated through the configuration ability in our system.

Another way to simplify the experience for ERP users is to ensure that your back-end ERP and accounting systems integrated the tools that are used for scheduling. This reduces the need for manual re-entry of service order time cards and other data that’s collected in the field. We found that an integrated offering can dramatically reduce administrative costs. Systems such as ExpandIT field service management integrate seamlessly with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. The ExpandIT solution has standard integration to both the jobs module and the service management module. The system leverages the core ERP database for common data with a workflow that ends in the ERP for invoicing and costing. It’s important to stress that ExpandIT does not replace or duplicate functionality and service order projects or jobs. Instead, we expand the standard functionality to provide a simple, easy-to-use interface.

Finally, ExpandIT like Microsoft Business Central is a cloud-based software service and is integrated seamlessly to Microsoft Dynamics Business Central. It is also supported in the cloud by ExpandIT so you do not need to worry about complex or costly upgrades and updates.

Another way to support simplification is through a fixed outcome, fixed price setup, and configuration. Based on our standard integration to Microsoft Dynamics Business Central, we’ve developed a three-step process to connect to the Microsoft ERP, configure the system to meet your requirements, and confirm your use of the system with testing and training before you turn the system over to your users. This process allows ExpandIT to provide a guaranteed six-week setup configuration eliminating project and business risk by ensuring that your system will be ready for you when you need it.

The fourth way to simplify is by removing complexity and robots for your field service technicians. You really want to make it easy for your field techs to get the work done in the field when they’re on site. The first and most important simple phase of simplification is providing your workers with a mobile device of their choice that puts the information they need in their fingertips. The expanded mobile client supports all mobile platforms and works offline should the mobility network be down. Accessing historical work for a given customer, service item, or job is important for the fieldworker. You can make their life a lot easier by providing them access to previous work orders, materials, and time that’s consumed, forms filled out, messages, pictures, and more.

The mobile device also provides the field techs with a digital schedule so they can see their planned visits for the day, week, and month. From the schedule, they’re able to drill into their job details before they depart for the site. We’ve also been able to streamline communication from the back office to the field worker through integrated messaging. The dispatcher’s planners can communicate with the technicians in the field through the mobile client. This is important when a company needs to get a message out quickly to the field. This has been especially useful as customers have dealt with COVID safety requirements and area shutdowns. Messaging meant that planners could get their message out quickly both to teams and individuals so they knew what was going on. These messages can save time by communicating to all field resources and staff rather than needing to phone or email them individually. Messages can even be sent from the scheduling board or the mobile client to the end user, letting them know that a technician is on their way.

Finally, another way to simplify the process is by speeding up invoicing field approvals with the ultimate goal of getting paid faster. Approving consumed time and materials can really simplify the approval process for your field service managers, improving invoicing accuracy for end customers. Rather than approving and reviewing paper approvals or having to access an ERP system for approvals, field managers can access a web portal for operational approvals. In this example, on the screen, you’ll see a service order that needs to be reviewed and approved before the date is finalized. The time and materials can be modified, added, or deleted before it’s sent to the ERP. And even the digital reports that were created in the field by the technicians can be reviewed and modified.

How often have you been told by your customers that they cannot locate an invoice or financial statement or you need to send them a crucial services document or field checklist? If you’re like many businesses, this happens more than you’d like. A customer self-service portal can simplify this process. Instead of emailing invoices or needing to reissue past statements, end customers can view and pay invoices, view credit memos and payments, and other financial statements through a secure online portal. This can significantly reduce work for your admin group, reduce costs, while improving customer satisfaction at the same time.

So to summarize, these are five important ways that ERP users can simplify their field operation. I understand that operating a services organization is challenging and rewarding work and I sincerely hope that some of these ideas might help your organization. For more information, please feel free to visit our website, feel free to contact me directly. My email’s on the screen in front of you. If you’re interested in a live product demo, please contact us or your sales or solution consultant contact at Encore Business Solutions. If we have some time now I’ll pause for the moderator to take questions. Thank you very much, and have a great day.

Sherry: Thank you, John. That was great. It doesn’t look like we have any questions at this point. If anybody had anything, you can just raise your hand and then type it into the question or the chat pane within the GoToWebinar or maybe wait a minute here before we closed just to give people a chance to ask their questions. Okay, it doesn’t look like we have anything coming in. So we’ll conclude today’s webinar. And again, you can expect to receive a recording of today’s session for your review at another time. So thank you, John, and I really enjoyed your presentation today.

John: My pleasure.

Sherry: Thank you, everyone. Bye-bye.

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