Is the future of Field Service DIY?
According to a report today by TechCrunch, Microsoft is integrating its mixed reality product, the HoloLens, with its enterprise CRM and ERP software, Microsoft Dynamics. This is significant; while mixed reality is a well-known technology, it has yet to become a pervasive element of either organizational or home technologies. The company is connecting an unproven technology to a neglected user group, field service workers; which could mean an untapped and easy-to-capture market.
Microsoft’s use cases focus on field workers, those with expertise in a trade. Tradespeople are one of the last segments of the workforce to use technology in their daily tasks, given much of their work is hands-on. ERP and CRM systems are great for documenting and implementing business processes, but can these systems benefit a repair-person whose brain may cycle through a list of ten malfunction checks in a matter of seconds? Microsoft is proceeding with caution- the HoloLens use cases revolve around more unusual or difficult repairs. For such cases, HoloLens provides a real-time view to a remote expert who can assist an onsite employee through the repair.
Microsoft is starting with an exciting set of use cases for the HoloLens, but I don’t see the connection to ERP and CRM systems yet. The company could combine this technology with the Business Process Flow (BPF) functionality currently available in Dynamics CRM. Business Process Flows walk an employee through a set of steps in a process, diverging down new paths as the customer scenario plays out. This technology could be useful for everyday repairs, as well as unusual cases. For example, a plumber could visualize and verbally check off the repairs completed from a list in the system as he is completing them. The repairs could be tallied up into a virtual bill on the spot. He could also document what the completed job looked like for warranty records and perform any quality assurance checks required by the system. Finally, he could document a visual confirmation from the customer that they are satisfied with the job. Using BPF would automate the data points moving into the CRM and ERP systems, reduce field repair errors, and speed up the interaction between client and employee.
I’m really excited about this technology and think the use cases will expand as users become comfortable with it. I could see the HoloLens becoming a household product with consumers performing their own repairs with the help of an expert or business process flow!