Is it too early to start recaps for 2013? With the end of the year barely over a month away, I’ve been thinking about what I heard this year that was new and interesting, and trying to put these trends/innovations into useful categories. Based on my member inquiries and partner briefings, here’s a stab at the hottest topics to emerge in service technology over the last year:
Large enterprises embrace cloud applications. Small and medium-sized businesses were early adopters of cloud applications, and as many OnDemand suites are much less sophisticated than their OnPremise counterparts, the lighter-weight tools met the needs of SMBs just fine. But this year I’ve talked to service executives of some the largest tech companies in North America and Europe who were in the midst of a migration from a legacy CRM system to a lower cost cloud suite. As I’ve written about before, large companies moving to cloud tools have to streamline and consolidate processes as the applications don’t support heavy customization. Unfortunately, about 3 months after the move to the cloud, I start getting calls asking about functional gaps they did not anticipate. Your cloud CRM tools probably do not include support for complex entitlement, automating renewals, or knowledge management beyond a list of solutions. With the move to the cloud all but inevitable, there is some heavy lifting that must be done to achieve extreme efficiency with the new technologies.
Knowledge management evolves beyond support. I first published a report back in 2009 about knowledge management being a cross-discipline (support services, field service, education services, professional services, managed services) subject, with convergence needed to leverage existing tools and processes across the enterprise. But it wasn’t until this year that I started receiving numerous KM inquiries outside of support. PS asking for best practices to capture and share lessons learned across project teams. Field service wanting to know how to best leverage mobile tools to access corporate knowledge from the field. Education services interested in how to define KM roles, as demand shifts from teacher to librarian. And, as I heard at our recent Las Vegas conference, support may have their KM practices well-defined, but other groups see support’s approach too slow, too complicated and too focused on experts instead of collaboration. I think what we consider “KM best practices” is going to radically shift, and I also expect to see more Knowledge as a Service (which I’m going to call KaaS) providers entering the market. Too many companies have re-implemented KM tools and jump-started KM practices every 3-4 years for the last 12 years, maybe it is time to try a new approach?
Professional Services Automation (PSA) is the new MUST HAVE application category. I’ve always joked that professional services teams were too busy implementing technology for their customers to ever use any for themselves. PSA, which includes modules for resource management, project management and project accounting, is still not that highly adopted (according to my 2013 Member Technology Survey, 58% of PS members are using PSA). But, spending is on the rise, with over half of PS members (54%) having budget for new or additional PSA in 2013-2014. And as a proof point, my inquiries on PSA have risen to become my third hottest topic, after CRM and KM. I just published a new report, Five Key Criteria in Making a PSA Decision, based on dozens of these conversations over the last year. If you are still managing your PS operation using spreadsheets, now’s the time to make a change.
Video in Service: Here to stay. A couple of years ago I gave a conference presentation about the future of video in service, and received more than a few snarky comments saying it would never happen. Never mind that even then, Salesforce.com was using video chat tools with premiere customers, and the use cases for incorporating video into trouble shooting were many and varied. But video in service suddenly became a very hot topic recently when Amazon released the Kindle Fire HDX, and featured a video chat option, called the “Mayday button“, in print and TV advertising. The ads show a customer linking to a live video chat agent for help, with the agent able to take control of your device and even write on the tablet to illustrate how to do something. Remote control of mobile devices isn’t new (checkout LogMeIn and Bomgar), but seeing it used along with video chat introduced a whole new user experience. That one commercial is going to convince consumers this is an option they need, so get ready for your closeup, Mr. DeMille.
“Core” is shrinking fast. I’ve written before about how service is constantly re-evaluating core verses context, realizing that less and less of corporate operations really are key to their success. Even outsourcing technical support was a bitter bill for many B2B companies to swallow, though I’ve talked to many who now realize they should have looked to partners for assistance a decade ago. But over the last year, with more companies trying to boost revenues and cut costs in the face of all the realities described in B4B, I’m seeing more and more options on the table for outsourcing. First it was technical support level 1, then level 2/3, field service, and now maintenance renewals, managed services, social media, online community management–there are no more sacred cows. As I alluded to earlier, I’m predicting 2014 is the year Knowledge as a Service emerges as a viable approach for more companies.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be thinking about how these hot topics will drive trends for 2014, and you can expect to see some of these ideas again when I publish my “state of the industry” reports in Q1. Stay tuned. And as always, thanks for reading!