As I revise for the MB2-718 exam (Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service) I’m creating blog posts detailing all aspects of my revision. I hope these posts will aid anyone who is also revising for this exam. In this post I will begin to review Field Service.
The skills measured statement for the Field Service section of the Mb2-718 exam is shown below. As you can see up to 20% of the exam could be focused on this topic, so we have plenty to learn / revise!
Field Service is an important component of Dynamics 365. But what is it and who would use it? Before we dive deeper into some of the specific capabilities of Field Service an overview of its features may be useful.
The diagram below illustrates that Field Service is one of several applications that make up Dynamics 365. The Customer Service application is obviously the focus of the MB2-718 exam but I hope you will be able to appreciate that Field Service is an important additional / complimentary application.
Field Service provides extensions to Dynamics 365 which allow for the creation and scheduling of work orders. In this context a work order is simply a piece of work that will be completed by Field Service agents out on the road. A work order can be schedules and activities recorded against it to reflect the tasks completed.
This concept could be used in many business scenarios. Including mobile repair engineers, installation work and so on. For example, an air conditioning repair company may use Field Service to support the work its engineers need to complete on customer sites. That work may include the installation of new units, repair of existing ones or regular preventative maintenance.
Additionally advanced options using Internet of Things and machine learning can be used to support connected field service and to automatically optimize how service is delivered. Options like these are designed to transform field service work from being a reactive break/fix operation into a pro-active service that adds greater value.
Overview of Field Service
I guess we can break down Field Service into four main sets of processes. Those being; work order creation, scheduling, execution and billing
Work Order Creation
I have already mentioned that a work order is a definition of the work that needs to be completed on site. These can be created in multiple different ways. Including;
- A contact center agent may convert a case into a work order. (Maybe they’d been trying to resolve an issue and realised that onsite repair was the only option.)
- A sales admin person may create a work order as result of winning an opportunity. (Maybe you have won a deal and now need to go onsite to install a new piece of equipment.)
- A customer may log a request for service via your portal.
- You may have an ongoing agreement to service some equipment at regular intervals. (Maybe a monthly inspection needs to be completed in line with your contract with the customer.)
Each work order can comprise of many parts that collectively will drive the required work. A work order can contain;
- A description of issue to be fixed or work to be completed
- Customer details include service and billing accounts
- Equipment affected
- Parts, products and services needed
- Tasks to follow
- Priority and estimated duration
- Characteristics (skills) required to complete the work order
Once we have a work order defining what needs to be done it will need to be scheduled and an engineer (or engineers) dispatched. Field Service contains many options to enable us to optimize scheduling. Including;
- Manual Scheduling – dragging work orders directly onto an engineers schedule within the schedule board.
- Semi-Automatic Scheduling – using the scheduling assistant to help filter available resources based on parameter like location, skills set etc.
- Automatic Scheduling – Resource Schedule Optimisation (RSO) to ensure the most efficient use of engineers is made.
The schedule board is used to provide a drag & drop interface for scheduling and rescheduling. It supports filtering by characteristics, roles, territories, organizational units, resource types, teams and business units. The schedule board includes many configurable options, including the ability to define the time zone of the dispatcher.
Using maps, RSO and other features Field Service helps to reduce travel times and ensure the right engineers are sent to the right jobs. (For example if you sent someone to repair a heating boiler you might need to know they have the correct qualifications to complete the task.)
Obviously once a “job” has been scheduled the field engineer will need to complete it. For this they will need to know when and where to attend. Plus they’d need to know what is expected of them.
As the engineer travels to the job the office may need to know they are on the way. And maybe even get real-time updates of their current location.
Then during and after the work is completed the engineer will need to update the work order to show services completed, parts consumed etc. Plus on job closure they will need to close the job and do other things like capturing the customer’s signature.
Consuming parts hints at another set of processes that need to be considered! As within Field Service we may need to maintain an inventory of parts. Plus purchase orders may be needed if stock runs low or maybe because the parts need to be bought for a specific job.
After the field engineer has completed the work someone will need to review and approve their work. And that approval may need to generate invoices.
It may be beneficial to consider some typical personas / roles within a field service scenario. As understanding the needs of each person may help us appreciate the details for each of the business processes mentioned above. The use of Field Service can be thought of best by considering three types of operators …… dispatchers, field agents and managers.
Within Field Service, “dispatchers” create works orders, schedule them and notify the field agents that the order has been scheduled. Think of a work order as being a definition of the “essence” of the service / task to be performed. It defines the location of the work and any details required to carry out the service.
Each work order has an incident type which includes a definition of the service tasks to be performed, skills required, required parts and duration of the job.
Dispatchers can receive service requests from a number of channels, including phone, email, customer portals or even fax. These maybe entered directly as work orders or alternatively they may be created as cases and only converted to a work order once it is clear a field engineer is required.
Note: It is also possible to generate work orders from cases, opportunities or from agreements. (Think of agreements as contracts to conduct regular ongoing maintenance.) In these cases it is possible that other people generate an initial work order which is passed to the dispatcher.
Having created work orders the dispatcher schedules them on the scheduling board. This gives a graphical representation of the status for scheduled work orders and resource availability, enabling informed decisions on when the work can be completed. Options exist for manual and automatic scheduling. The scheduling board can display work orders and resources in grids or in a map view.
It is also now possible to book a resource without needing to create a work order. This is useful if you want to allocate someone’s time to show they aren’t available. Maybe because they are at lunch or have a meeting etc. These booking show as grey bars on the schedule bar and help you avoid allocating unavailable staff to work orders.
Alternatively, you can use the scheduling assistant which will make suggestions based on resource availability, travel time and resource characteristics. Again the scheduling assistant can show available resources as a grid or map.
The characteristics of a resource might include their skills, education or certifications. It is also now possible to rate someone proficiency for a particular characteristic. Having define the skills of your resources each work order (or its incident type) can be linked to a characteristic. The scheduling assistant will then only suggest resources with the characteristic.
Whilst considering booking resources it is worth knowing that bookable resources are shared between Field Service and Project Service within Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Field agents deliver services in the field making use of a mobile application. Which can be run from iphone, ipad, android devices or Windows phone / tablets. (So pretty much any mobile device.)
They receive notifications of work to be completed by either text, email or phone. Within the application they can see their scheduled of work orders, inspect the work order details, get driving directions, manage parts, take notes and pictures etc etc.
The field agent can control the status on work orders to show that they have accepted the order, are on route, have started work or have completed the job.
Other functionality within the application allows the field agent to reflect what parts have been used, record photographs and take notes about the work completed and even capture a signature from the customer. They can also schedule follow-up work orders directly from the mobile application.
As the field agent changes their status or updates the job in the mobile application this is reflected on the dispatchers’ schedule board. Enabling the dispatchers to have a real-time image of current progress.
Managers use Field Service data to create “reports” to help analyze service data with the aim of improving customer service and reducing costs.
Dashboards can be created to help managers focus of their specific KPIs to manage work orders. Plus they have the rich reporting capabilities standard in Dynamics 365 available to them, including the ability to export data to excel, create views using advanced find etc.
In future posts I will expand on the theory’s raised here. Collectively I hope the posts will help you prepare for the MB2-718 exam.