Ebook: Buyers Guide to IoT for the Salesforce Platform
Scaling a business and streamlining processes requires a company’s leaders to make strategic investments. And though it can feel like an overwhelming task, successful investments are fundamentally simple, centered on the “what” and “why.”
“What does the right product look like for my company? Why should I invest in it?”
These questions initiate the process of due diligence, preventing wasteful spending. For businesses involved in manufacturing, distribution, or asset sales, a worthwhile investment lies in a field service management solution on the Salesforce platform.
Consider this: connecting assets in the field can reduce service delivery costs by 30% or more. Think about how these savings could be channeled into creating value-added services, distinguishing your products, and forging new revenue streams.
Connected IoT asset data not only cuts costs but also becomes a catalyst for identifying new ways to enhance product quality, reliability, and uptime. Furthermore, it allows for new marketing opportunities and streamlines sales processes.
Whether you’re well-versed in field service or not, several factors must be considered when selecting a product or service. This buyer’s guide is designed to assist you in identifying the best IoT solution, ensuring it delivers the desired outcomes and the necessary return on investment.
To help you gain a better understanding, we’ve organized the questions to consider into categories:
- Ease of integration to existing systems and assets
- Ease of setup and configuration
- Scalability to your business use cases
- Operational efficiency with your existing service solution
- Achieving ROI in the shortest time frame
Types of Field Service Solutions
Connecting assets to your service solution can yield significant cost savings, increases in revenue, and improved margins.
However, hardware and software integration challenges can also put these rewards in jeopardy.
Given the hardware and software crossover, we’ve broken down solution vendors into three main categories:
Each of these respective approaches comes with its strengths and weaknesses.
Device-focused solutions provide expertise in device management including provisioning, monitoring, and maintenance.
The initial wave of IoT saw device focus with increased availability of sensors and the ability to connect that data and store it.
The problem that was being solved was data capture.
Companies such as OSISoft (now part of Schneider AVEVA) captured data for historians.
The leap forward of this technology was being able to monitor multiple assets in a control room scenario rather than engineers walking the floors on their “rounds” and reading local dials and gauges.
This led to an explosion of data, but also raised the question of “What do we do now?”
Device-focused IoT companies often specialize in hardware development and may have limited expertise or resources in data analysis and execution.
Their primary focus is on creating and manufacturing devices that connect to the internet and collect data.
Implementing complex data analytics and executing strategies requires a different skill set and may not align with their core competencies.
Providers commonly have a hardware background and might look like a good fit for your needs if you’re interested in a quite narrow, single-location implementation such as a smart factory.
However, they typically can’t offer the depth of analytics and data power that other solutions can.
These solutions have proven functionality in data ingestion, processing, and aggregation, and typically come from long-established legacy solution providers.
They’re often feature-rich and support a number of solution stacks. However, the price you pay for this is in complexity, usability, and cost.
They also either tie you into specific hardware or attempt to be agnostic. You’re either locked in or you’re paying to manage complexity.
There are a surprisingly limited number of providers that are balanced across devices and data.
Execution-focused providers are concerned with specific use cases or platforms, are open in their ability to consume data, and focus on use cases and extracting value quickly.
They typically have lower costs of entry, and quicker returns on investment, but are commonly constrained by the technology stack you have today.
If your business fits within the pre-conceived box they’ve developed, your business needs will likely be met.
But, if you’re a business that grows with the market which means your product does too and it moves beyond the confines of its limitations, you’ll be met with resistance and a wave of frustration because you’ll likely have to start over on the search for the right solution.
Wondering how much you could save on service delivery costs with IoT? Use our calculator to estimate potential savings in just 60 seconds!
Build or Buy an IoT Solution?
Whenever a company feels like they either have to compromise or constrain to accommodate a solution, they likely entertain the idea of building it themselves.
This thought is supported by the belief that by building it themselves, they can control how the solution functions.
They’re in the driver’s seat – or so they think.
Building a custom solution oftentimes sounds great on paper.
But, when it comes time to turn the idea into reality, companies see how quickly things change, how costs begin to mount, and how being short-staffed with technicians in the field to handle any disruptions in service can back your company into a corner.
If you’ve entertained the idea of building your own solution it’s important to ask yourself the following:
- Is my IT staff experienced and do they have the proper domain expertise?
- Will we be able to integrate our systems and scale properly?
- Will I meet security requirements and adapt to future IoT sensors and networking complexities?
As with any build-it-yourself decision, there are associated implications that include:
If this isn’t your core business, interest in continued development and funding will decline, and hiring and retaining the right resources will be a constant challenge.
Not to mention, business moves fast which means the use cases, users, and assets change.
When building your own solution you have to keep these changes at the forefront to accommodate them.
And, if you don’t, your product’s value will diminish quickly.
That’s why you should consider an off-the-shelf solution to lower your total cost of ownership (TCO), which includes the cost of buying and maintaining an asset for its lifecycle.
Testing and Quality
If you weren’t a fan of taking tests in school, a homegrown solution might bring back some not-so-good memories as they typically require over 10 times more testing than commercial solutions.
This volume of testing puts pressure on staffing, threatens the opportunity cost of those resources, and adds more time to the build process of developing a commercially viable solution.
In-house solutions typically have a narrower feature set and within a short timeline will struggle, or not be able to deliver on critical business requirements.
These are just three potential problems associated with a homegrown solution, but the bottom line remains – in-house and legacy IoT platforms slow time-to-market and are more expensive than working with a company that specializes in building, maintaining, and improving these solutions.
Setting the Stage
For the purpose of this buyer’s guide, we’ll assume you’re an existing Salesforce customer, with Sales and Service Cloud, and a number of other Salesforce products or partner solutions.
You deliver service on the Salesforce platform and have visibility to your key performance indicators (KPIs).
Now, you’re wondering how you can face the challenges ahead, such as cost cutting, increasing revenue, high levels of service vacancy, and more.
Questions to Ask a Vendor
Edwards Deming once said, “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.”
Vetting vendors can feel a lot like you’re playing the classic game, Guess who?
Each question helps you narrow and eliminate options to land on the final person.
In this case, the right service solution that’ll take your business to the next level and maximize your money.
If you’re in this stage of the process, we highly suggest asking the following questions to uncover the answers you need to make a confident decision and a valuable investment.
Question 1: Can your solution seamlessly integrate (connect smart assets) with Salesforce?
This question is a great starting point because you want to know immediately if the solution requires an integration of middleware, extra connectors, or additional products or services to bring asset data into your Salesforce instance.
Beware of middleware as it’ll drive cost, complexity, and data mapping as well as Create Update Delete (CRUD) consistency issues.
Connectors make assumptions about what is and isn’t expected and can limit the versatility of the integration.
Integrations of any sort invariably cause issues and require setup and maintenance which can hinder progress and consume a brand’s budget.
Bolt Data Connect is the only solution that’s 100% native to Salesforce.
This makes the IoT data and administration available within Salesforce without the need for middleware or connectors to support full platform flexibility.
Question 2: Does your solution work with Salesforce Data Cloud?
Salesforce Data Cloud provides companies with Salesforce asset insights and it’s also complementary to the operationalization of IoT assets.
It can influence, design, build, commission, and implement long-term service strategies.
Salesforce is prioritizing Data Cloud, so it’s essential that solutions are compatible with and tap into the power of this real-time platform.
Question 3: Are the IoT user interface components available inside your Salesforce instance or are there multiple products and experiences?
For the sake of convenience and to avoid future confusion, a solution should provide a “one-platform” (no swivel chair) experience for the following:
- IoT Administration
- Asset Registration (alignment between telemetry data stream and asset record)
- Digital Twin Definition
- Alert Definition
- Business Context Analysis
- Alert Response (asset-driven business process automation)
- Remote Asset Command
A single-integrated user experience is especially beneficial for brands whose assets are driving operational efficiency.
A swivel chair integration, on the other hand, involves two screens with similar data but no hard integration.
Data is often copied and re-entered from one screen to the other which leaves room for error.
And, let’s not forget about the operational time and cost associated with this approach.
Question 4: Does your solution provide an interactive and insightful command center for a connected install base?
Building off the last question, you want to make sure the solution keeps all the information such as Salesforce Service Desk, Field Processes, as well as Asset and Customer Management in one place.
By having this information in a singular location, you can enable remote controls and adjust asset records and see the results in one interface.
Omni-Channel Routing with Service Cloud empowers companies with information to automatically route cases, leads, or other tasks to the right employees whose skillsets align with the case.
This creates operational efficiency, service desk empowerment, and a reduction in costly (and sometimes unnecessary) truck rolls.
Question 5: Does your solution provide a unified view of connected assets, open work orders, and technicians’ locations (their last geo-ping)?
We all know how much things can change in the course of a day.
Now, imagine having to sift through multiple interfaces to connect the dots of your assets, work orders, and technician locations just to keep things moving in the right direction.
This can create confusion which can lead to miscommunication, errors, and more.
That’s why keeping this information in one place creates a simple approach, lessons the number of mistakes, and improves operational efficiency.
Question 6: Does your solution enable customers to associate multiple physical sub-assets into one logical asset (Digital Twin)?
A computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse are all separate devices, but they work together and are typically managed as one.
The same notion applies to your solution which should manage multiple devices into one logical asset.
Question 7: Does your solution enable customers to create rules based on non-asset relationships?
In the real world, assets can exist in multiple contexts like all assets in a room or all assets on an assembly line.
Whatever the case, you want to know if you can create rules that work in various contexts without any constraints.
Question 8: Does your solution give customers access to visually connected asset performance including live streaming data?
Service providers and customers should both have access to live-streaming data.
This level of transparency strengthens trust and communication between both parties.
Question 9: Does your solution manage connected asset alert history as part of the asset record?
When looking for a new house, interested buyers are given a Seller’s Disclosure that gives the potential buyer all the details about the property’s condition and the upgrades made.
Your solution should create and maintain a disclosure agreement of sorts so you have a 360 view and the ability to track the asset’s history to inform your decisions in the future.
Question 10: Does your solution monitor and respond to state and condition changes?
Your interfaces and processes like service desk, field service, sales, and marketing should all work together with a seamless choreography.
Every aspect should be in coordination which promotes operational efficiencies and empowers automation which helps you better monitor and respond to any state and condition changes.
Question 11: Does your solution enable automated asset registration?
Can you automate asset registration based on geographic location, serial number, or other information?
Can you assign rules and service contracts while reducing administrative overhead?
Will you have the ability to know when a machine is connected and online?
These are questions you’ll want to ask because if you can automate more, especially in the registration phase, you’ll be able to reallocate resources and employee time to other high-priority efforts that’ll move the needle for your business.
Question 12: Can you natively integrate IT and OT data with your solution?
An IoT solution should give you the ability to natively integrate IT (technical asset information) and OT (telemetry) to create stronger rules, processes, and more value.
The solution should also co-analyze telemetry data with respect to IoT Alerts Rules and Business Contextual Rules.
Question 13: Does your solution work on mobile devices and offline?
We’re living in a mobile world and our mobility requires flexibility.
When vetting solutions, you want to know if it works on mobile devices and offline.
This flexibility gives your employees in the field access to a data view of failure and a view of the Digital Twin on their mobile phones.
Having this level of accessibility improves first-time fixes (FTF) and lowers mean-time to repair (MTTR) while also enhancing the customer experience and net promoter scores.
Question 14: Does your solution remotely command assets like software updates?
Can you send commands to an asset for reset, patches, and diagnostics?
Can you see the results on a single screen and within the context of all the other data?
You’ll want the service provider to say yes to both as remote capabilities and convenient contextual information streamlines processes and promotes efficiencies.
Question 15: Does your solution use simulator asset telemetry streams?
We can almost guarantee you don’t want to break your piece of equipment just to test your rules.
That’s why it’s important for a vendor to have simulation capabilities to inject data for a variety of conditions and combinations to validate your rules without breaking your machine in the process.
Question 16: Does your solution monitor IoT infrastructure and security?
There can be many layers from the sensors to the output in Salesforce.
Though the data is secure at rest and in transmission, verifying that the hardware is up and running and performing normally inside of Salesforce is critical to overall integrity.
This question will help you uncover if the vendor has the capabilities to thoroughly monitor the security of the solution at every step of the process.
Question 17: Does your solution throttle alerts and manage repeat alerts?
Alerts sound like a simple offering.
But, if you’re sampling a sensor every second and it’s over the alert threshold for an extended period of time, do you really want a new alert every second?
This level of noise causes people to become almost immune to alerts which can cause problems if they ignore or shut them down.
Bolt Data Connect provides customers with a single alert on initial triggers and an overview of how long that alert condition has existed.
Question 18: Does your solution provide alert responses (asset-driven business process automation with respect to business rules)?
Real-time alerts empower companies to provide real-time solutions.
Bolt Data Connect automatically creates work orders and sends customers alerts, which can be integrated with Slack in real-time so technicians can be dispatched when the system detects the asset has failed or needs maintenance.
For example, Bolt Data Connect can detect when a drink machine runs out of fluid and needs a cartridge replaced before the customer notices.
This proactive approach keeps things running smoothly which improves productivity while also reducing costs for unnecessary truck rolls.
Question 19: Does your solution provide enhanced service reports?
You want access to service reports that show what service was performed.
This information should be enhanced with asset data graphs and charts and should provide a range of insights from broad reports to more granular information such as when an asset’s temperature level spiked, for example.
Data is power and the more you have, the more you know, and the more you know, the more successful you’ll be.
Question 20: Does your solution provide service reporting, analytics, and insights?
Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google once said, “The ability to take data – to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it – is going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.”
Data drives our decisions so you want to be confident the solution you’re vetting provides quality service reporting, analytics, and insights.
For example, can you use asset data to enhance service performance metric reporting such as average response time and repair rate, FTF rate, and technician utilization?
Question 21: Does your solution enable product servitization?
Will you be charged based on how often an asset is used?
For example, for every 500 MRI patient scans a hospital will receive an invoice from the MRI machine company to pay for those 500 scans.
Instead of a plan like this, automating invoices to customers based on servitization plans that are customizable would be more beneficial.
This is known as asset-as-a-service or product-as-a-service.
Bolt Data Connect enables servitization by providing a way to easily collect and analyze data from their products directly on the Salesforce platform.
This allows companies to collect data from their products in real-time, and then analyze the data to gain insights into how products are being used.
Question 22: Does your solution expose asset data and commands in customer and vendor portals?
Can external users see asset data without having to access it through an Asset Administration platform like a Salesforce Community website?
Exposing asset reliability data, service, alerts, and more allows a customer to see in real time how their service is improving asset uptime and support.
Oftentimes, this is a premium service that vendors offer their customers.
Question 23: Does your solution enable edge processing?
Can data be processed locally to reduce latency and bandwidth use? And, can data be processed even if the asset’s offline?
Question 24: Does your solution provide real-time asset alerts?
Will you receive asset performance alerts in real-time?
These insights can help streamline your business, uncover issues, find resolutions, and maximize efficiencies.
Not to mention, real-time alerts will notify you of conditions that require immediate attention and can help you automate certain manual tasks.
This helps reduce operational costs and overhead and raises non-critical actions in the system sooner so you can promptly address them.
Question 25: Does your solution support customers without smart assets like retrofit sensors and I/O?
Older assets typically don’t have sensors or connectivity and can be retrofitted with devices to monitor their usage.
For example, refrigerators can be equipped with sensors that monitor temperature.
Does this solution have the capabilities and resources to turn older assets into smart assets?
Question 26: Does your solution support customers without connected locations like physical gateways?
You need a solution that will support your business now and in the future so multiple architectures are critical.
Ideally, you want the functionality of the IoT Gateway to be in the cloud and/or on the edge. This helps the solution better meet your needs.
Question 27: Does your solution support low-cost edge sensors and gateways?
Edge sensors and gateways can be costly. Things can add up quickly if a lot of your devices need equipping.
Let’s say your company has 10,000 sensors that need edge sensors and gateways. But, each ruggedized sensor is $1,000.
Incurring this cost would be a big challenge for your business.
That’s why understanding a vendor’s cost structure around sensors and gateways is important to know before you sign an agreement.
Question 28: Does your solution support customers without an enterprise IoT data lake?
Building off the last question, you’ll want to know if a vendor has resources and plans in place to support customers that don’t have an enterprise IoT data lake.
If they can’t provide a definitive step-by-step plan on how they’ll address this situation, it’s a sign they’re not prepared to provide the support you need to succeed.
Question 29: Does your solution include a modular architecture that’s capable of leveraging/operationalizing other IoT services?
Be aware that vendors will try and lock you into their own technology stack. Don’t fall into this trap.
Your business and its needs are unique so you should be able to choose the best solutions for your business.
Bolt Data Connect is the only field service IoT software that applies business rules and context to your asset data in Salesforce.
As a result, you can fully automate manual processes that improve speed-to-response, eliminate manual tasks, reduce business risk, and more.
Making a Confident Decision
Choosing an IoT solution for your company is an important investment.
Use these questions and our IoT Buying Guide Checklist to make the right decision for your future.
If you’re ready to put your IoT data to work, explore the features, use cases, pricing and more of our award-winning IoT application, Bolt Data Connect, get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org.