Making M2M technology work

Paul Boughton

Greg Ford gives his top tips to help businesses assess whether they are ready to embrace machine-to-machine technologies

As service management organisations face greater demands to improve customer service, increase first-time fix rates and cut costs, many are evaluating evolving machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies to help them meet these challenges.

M2M offers the ability to remotely connect devices, machines and equipment to the cloud, transforming them into business intelligence solutions to collect valuable data on field-based assets.

Although adopting M2M solutions has proven to increase efficiencies and boost new revenue streams, there are potential pitfalls that organisations should carefully consider.

If implemented correctly M2M can deliver a rapid return on investment, by cutting travel costs, reducing downtime and improving the management of stock and inventory.

Here are my top tips to help businesses assess whether they are ready to embrace M2M.

1. Agree key requirements – Businesses should develop a list of priorities, for themselves and their clients, and consider how M2M will integrate with existing business processes. Wherever possible, data should feed into back-office systems and alert relevant organisations in the supply chain at the right time.

2. Assess manufacturer reliance – Some service organisations will need to wait for manufacturers to introduce the capabilities of M2M before they can take full advantage of it. For those who serve multiple manufacturer products, this can make planning and gaining access to data more difficult and it might be wiser to delay adoption.

3. Review key functionality – Make sure the chosen technology has the necessary levels of automation to fulfil all the tasks expected of it. Check which types of data can be collected from remote sensors to determine whether mobile workers can diagnose issues as well as fix them while out in the field.

4. Understand the business culture – Confusion can detrimentally affect the adoption of new technology. Businesses should clearly explain to their staff and customers the rationale for change and how it will benefit them. Consideration should also be given to whether introducing M2M will create any skills gaps and how these can be bridged with resistant employees.

5. Allocate time and resources – Finding the right people and the time to implement M2M solutions can be prohibitive given the operational challenges facing many organisations. Establishing a product steering group which includes employees from across the business will help to gain internal buy-in and drive forward the deployment.

6. Address security concerns – There will naturally be some concerns over the safety and integrity of an organisation’s data. Creating a well-defined security policy should help to address any doubts from customers and staff about data theft whilst ensuring compliance with industry standards.

7. Ensure network resiliency – Networks must be sufficiently resilient to handle larger volumes of data alongside existing systems and processes. As technological advancements continue to accelerate, organisations will need higher speed networks with increased capacity to leverage M2M or risk compromising their business operations.

8. Work with a trusted supplier – Select a trusted supplier who has relevant industry experience to minimise the risk of encountering technical issues later in the implementation project. They will possess the necessary expertise to help navigate the M2M minefield and ensure the technology adds real value to both businesses and their customers.

As well as improving efficiencies, businesses can also benefit from a wealth of business intelligence tools and analytical dashboards to gain crucial insight into how their clients’ equipment is running to offer a superior service to their customers.

Greg Ford is Managing Director of Advanced Field Service, a provider of integrated service management solutions.