ISV Field Service Trends: 2017 Recap/2018 Predictions

Two industry experts share the defining field service and mobility trends of this year as well as predictions for the threats and opportunities in 2018.

What was 2017 the year of in field service?

Robert Cortopassi, President, OpenEdge: “2017 was the year of payments mobility. Arguably, industries involved with Field Services have seen the greatest operational benefits from payments mobility. ‘Field Services,’ of course, is a catch-all term; it can include businesses ranging from pest control to HVAC repair to towing. The commonality is that employees are out in the community and performing work. Secure, device-centric consumer payments are now the norm. The rise in mobility has removed an entire layer of back-office operations. Real-time payments have greatly reduced the need for invoicing and decreased the backlog of collections.

“With device payments (either the consumer’s device or those kept with the on-site employee), payments are immediate and highly personal. The completed service is fresh in the consumer’s mind. The technician or agent is right there, presenting a pad to accept the credit card payment. Or, in some cases, the service order can trigger an email or text to prompt immediate payment via a portal.

“Even in the towing industry, mobile payments add convenience to an inherently inconvenient situation. Imagine you’re returning to your parked vehicle only to find it being hooked up. Rather than following your car to the office to pay the fine, you can pay on the operator’s device so he’ll take it off the hitch.”

Jim Hilton, Senior Director, Manufacturing & Field Mobility, Zebra Technologies: “2017 was the year of confirming the dominant Operating System and its development path. Android use in enterprise is rapidly growing and retailers recognize they must use technology that provides a seamless shopping experience. Android will continue to grow its capabilities and presence and will lead and drive the IT ecosystem in years to come. New ROI has also contributed to the change. ISV’s must adopt and adapt. Legacy applications need to be rewritten.”

What is the most significant technology trend in this market that ISVs should be aware of heading into 2018?

Robert Cortopassi: “Secure mobile payments are affecting how consumers pay for field services. In the case of card-present payments (in which a credit card is presented to the field agent), this means Mobile EMV functionality – hardware and software that can accept EMV chip cards with the same security as when presented at the traditional point of purchase.

When the option is to pay via a portal or digital wallet, biometric security comes into play. Biometrics are ways to confirm you are who your credit card says based on things you are (fingerprints, facial recognition) versus things you know (2-step verification, mother’s maiden name). Some of the latest biometrics rely on facial recognition algorithms requiring payers to turn their heads until the app recognizes the user.

While payment method and security are strongly tied to the type of business, ISVs working with Field Service solutions will need to be cognizant of how payments can be accepted securely in the field.”

Jim Hilton: “For field mobility, the ending of 3G communication will certainly cause refresh acceleration. The business has come to rely on connectivity and developers that want to align with trends will ensure customers plan for this.”

What is the biggest threat to retail and to the technology providers within it in 2018?

Robert Cortopassi: “Because Field Services are not all one thing, technology providers will find it daunting to develop “one size fits all” solutions for the industry. After all, a real estate appraiser conducts business differently than a mobile dog groomer or a landscaper. Technology providers will be challenged to create specific versions or modules based on the business types to which they cater.”

Jim Hilton: “In North America, strong economies will result in automation before it results in job expansion, but only for advanced applications. Going forward, a truly viable application will require visibility platforms that offer an actionable alert for ‘best next action.'”

What is the biggest opportunity in this market that ISVs should capitalize on in 2018?

Robert Cortopassi: “As mentioned earlier, Field Services do not comprise a unified industry. The opportunity for ISVs to specialize and “own” subsets of the Field Service industry are strong. The sheer number of business types implies that there is ample market opportunity for developers to hone in on providing payment solutions for niche industries. 2018, for some, could be the year to specialize and develop for specific target markets.”

What can ISVs expect to see from your company in 2018?

Robert Cortopassi: “Mobility, security and payments flexibility are all incorporated into OpenEdge’s near-term strategy. We’re actively monitoring and driving where the payments industry (and your customers’ industries) are heading. 2018’s payment technologies from OpenEdge will create opportunities for our partners’ to go to market more successfully, leveraging payments to meet and exceed consumer expectations.”

Jim Hilton: “Zebra’s mission is to provide customers with the right technology to gain actionable visibility across their operations. This involves a continued focus on purpose-built devices in plant floor, warehouse, and across the supply chain. For field service after the sale, asset and work order management, and ISV’s can count on Zebra’s products.” 

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The former owner of a software development company and having more than a decade of experience writing for B2B IT solution providers, Mike is co-founder of DevPro Journal.