Post By Charlie Heywood on July 11, 2016

The difference between ERP and FSM software


We recently blogged about how the world of field services is nearing its Uber moment. Thanks to advances in technology like mobility and the IoT, as well as the trend towards an on-demand economy, companies are rapidly making strides in turning service into a key profit centre and differentiator.

As such, the market for field service management (FSM) solutions is also on the rise. According to research from MarketsandMarkets, the industry will be worth an impressive $3.5 billion by 2019 – up from $1.58 billion today. It’s evident that a lot of companies are investing in best-in-class software and hardware to really make their field services shine.

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However, they have at least one important decision to make along the way: whether to use dedicated FSM software, or a fully-fledged ERP solution with FSM functionality built-in.

How to tell ERP and FSM apart

To explain the difference between these two options, an ERP solution like SAP Business One is designed to provide a single platform for all of a business’ accounting, CRM, inventory management, purchasing and reporting requirements. (It may use third-party extensions for specialist functionality like FSM, but this would still be part of the core SAP Business One stack.)

Dedicated FSM software, on the other hand, covers FSM functionality alone, and needs to be integrated with any pre-existing systems used by the business for processes like accounting and stock control.

At first glance, dedicated FSM software is the cheaper option. On closer inspection, however, there are differences and hidden costs that often give ERP the upper hand in terms of ROI.

The integration issue

Firstly, it’s important to be aware that integrating two systems is never as simple as using a single solution, and getting FSM software and other business tools to work together can be a recurring struggle.

Stock control is a good example of this. In the world of FSM, there are a lot of unique parameters and variables around the availability of stock – issues like whether item A is in engineer B’s van, and the quickest way of getting item X to customer Y. Most off-the-shelf inventory management software won’t account for this, so companies are faced with the question of whether their FSM or stock control package has ownership of the master stock file – something there’s no simple answer to.

Another example is scheduling. A fully-fledged ERP solution will provide visibility into engineers’ availability, skillset and location, but also their holiday time and any changes to customer contracts that may affect regular services. Without this holistic view, companies need to be careful not to allocate work to engineers on leave, or schedule it when a customer cancels.

Ease of access to support

Another factor that gives ERP the upper hand is ease of access to support. Simply put, having several software suppliers means having several phone numbers to ring if something goes wrong – and there’s no guarantee their SLAs will work together to the benefit of your business.

You might also run into problems around version control and future-proofing. Your FSM software may be compatible with your accounting tools today, but a big software update could change that. And, if an older solution reaches end-of-life, there’s no quick fix – you’ll need to find something new and reintegrate it with your FSM software as soon as possible.

With a best-of-class ERP solution, there’s usually more peace of mind that your software partner will still be around for years to come.

Look and feel

Finally, remember that having multiple systems can slow productivity and increase training requirements due to differences in look and feel between one tool and the next. We’re talking about complex software here, and switching between user interfaces can be a significant stumbling block for some workers.

In order for companies to turn service into a profit centre, things like efficiency, ease-of-use of technology, and access to information in the field are key. The look and feel of your software can be a big part of that.



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