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The Evolution of Field Service Management

For many in the industry, the term field service management (FSM) may conjure memories of clunky binders, pages filled with scribbled notes, and the deafening ring of landline phones. However, just like any other sector, FSM is changing. In fact, the field service management market reached a value of $5.2 billion. With eyes set on 2031, this is projected to be $29.9 billion, according to Allied Market Research.

Shadowing this growth, managing service teams has evolved. From a process that was once labour-intensive and time-consuming to a sleek and efficient system that leverages the best technology, the journey of field service management isn’t just a tale of tech evolution. It shows the industry’s continuous pursuit of excellence.

Join us as we wind back the clock and embark on an educational trip into the past, exploring the milestones that have shaped FSM.

What is Field Service Management?

Field Service Management (FSM) is the end-to-end coordination of activities, processes and resources to ensure timely and effective service delivery that meets demand. FSM provides seamless coordination between technicians, resources, and customers. It encompasses everything from scheduling service calls and dispatching technicians to tracking job status and invoicing.

Field Service Management Software serves as the digital backbone of this process. It is an integrated system designed to automate, monitor, and optimise field operations tasks, reducing manual interventions and inefficiencies. From real-time technician tracking and job updates to advanced reporting and customer feedback, a field service management solution equips service teams with the tools they need to elevate their service standards.

Discover More: Field Service Management 

1990s: The Dawn of Digitalization

The 1990s, often heralded as the era that bridged the old with the new, saw the first significant steps towards digitising field service operations. At the core of operations was the Personal Computer (PC). Businesses began to shift from manual record-keeping to digital logs, though much of this process was still heavily reliant on the human touch.

Customer service during this period still retained much of its personable nature. Interactions were direct, often through telephone calls or even face-to-face meetings. Service requests, logged manually, came through mail or direct phone calls.

Field service technicians were on the move, armed with pagers – the mobile devices of the time – waiting for IT to buzz and direct them to their next location. Or, simply, they carried clipboards with the day’s work orders pinned.

The Challenges

Despite the introduction of these digital tools, paper was omnipresent. Work orders, customer details, and schedules were often printed and hand-delivered to technicians. While PCs and databases started making their mark, many businesses still found solace in their familiar paper trails, making the entire process more time-consuming than it needed to be.

The biggest challenge was balancing the new world with the old world. Adopting new technologies while ensuring that the human element remained strong in customer interactions was a tightrope walk for many field service companies. Moreover, training staff to manage FSM software (in its nascent stages back then) was another hurdle, emphasising the importance of a smooth transition between eras.

2000s: Bridging Manual & Automated Processes

With the turn of the millennium came an unprecedented acceleration in technological advancement. The 2000s proved to be a transformative period for field service management. New tools and practices helped bridge the gap between traditional manual processes and automated ones.

Internal servers became the bedrock upon which many field service companies built their digital strategies. No longer confined to standalone PCs, these servers facilitated a centralised field service management system, allowing for data storage and retrieval that was more consistent and efficient.

The introduction of spreadsheets provided a semblance of digital asset management. Gone were the days when tracking assets required leafing through pages of records. Now, a simple Excel sheet became the go-to for many businesses.

Emails, on the other hand, completely revolutionised communication. Service requests could be relayed in near-real-time, making the entire process far more agile than the phone calls and mailed letters of the past.

Evolving Technology

However, it wasn’t all digital. Many businesses still held onto their paper processes, either out of habit or because of the perceived reliability and tangibility of physical documentation. The duality of digital and manual systems highlighted an industry in transition. It showed the cautious optimism about the potential of digital without quite being ready to let go of the old.

Text messaging emerged as a quicker alternative to pagers. Field service technicians now had a more immediate line of communication with both the home office and customers, leading to more efficient and effective service delivery.

However, while these advances were notable, they were just the precursor to what was on the horizon.

2010s: The Rise of Cloud & Mobility

The 2010s can be aptly described as the era of connectivity. Cloud CRM quickly overshadowed internal servers. The cloud offered a more flexible, scalable, and cost-effective solution for managing field operations.

Mobile devices weren’t just for communication anymore. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, field service technicians had a world of information at their fingertips. Mobile apps tailored for FSM became the norm, offering technicians on-site data access, troubleshooting guides, and real-time updates.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) emerged as a trend. Companies saw the benefits of allowing technicians to use personal devices for work. Hardware costs were cut and training was slashed by leveraging employees’ familiarity with their own devices.

Cloud Computing

Simultaneously, the move to the cloud allowed field service management software to be more accessible and integrated. Service teams could sync data in real time, making asset management, service requests, and customer interactions more seamless.

Nevertheless, while technology was advancing rapidly, the emphasis on the human touch in customer service remained paramount. The challenge was finding a balance – leveraging technology to enhance efficiency without compromising the personal interactions that customers valued.

Read More: The Digital Transformation of Field Service Management

2020s: Fully Integrated & Real-time Systems

The 2020s are an era where field service management isn’t just a business tool. Instead, it stands as an ecosystem intricately woven into the very fabric of a company’s operations.

As we navigate the decade, technology continues to evolve, making true cloud integration a defining trait of FSM. Harnessing this power is another question.

In this environment, fully integrated systems ensure that field service management software communicates seamlessly with platforms like CRMs, ERPs, and even IoT devices. This integration empowers field service companies to remain on at all times. This introduces the ability to address customer needs in real-time and instant issue resolution.

Learn More: Field Service Management Platform

Augmented Reality (AR)

A noteworthy shift we’re witnessing is the move towards mobile workforce management. Field service engineers aren’t merely equipped with a mobile app; they have a diverse arsenal of tools at their fingertips. These can range from augmented reality (AR) solutions aiding complex repairs to AI-powered diagnostic tools that preemptively identify potential issues. Such advancements are not just enhancing workflows, they’re enhancing first time fix rates. The result? Better customer satisfaction – awesome.

Read More: Augmented Reality in Field Service

Other priorities, such as data privacy, handling the copious data generated, and staying up-to-date with the ever-shifting tech panorama, compel businesses to adopt a proactive stance. Many organisations are, however, slow to embrace change and deploy these integrated systems. 

Challenges Faced Over the Years

Every evolutionary journey has its share of hurdles, and the path of field service management has been no exception. While each decade brought forth innovative solutions, they often came hand-in-hand with unique challenges.

Navigating Training Challenges

From the early days, training remained a consistent concern. As field service management systems evolved, the need to upskill service teams became evident. The human component was crucial to familiarising technicians with new software or training the back-office staff to manage FSM systems effectively.

Automation vs. Personalisation

As systems became more complex, integrating multiple tools without causing data silos or redundancies was a task. Field service companies also grappled with the balance between automating processes and retaining the much-valued human touch in customer service.

Data Security

With comprehensive cloud integration, data security is paramount, especially in the 2020s. Ensuring that sensitive customer information and business data remain secure and easily accessible is a tightrope companies must walk.

Enhanced Compliance and Safety

Modern shift planning tools ensure rosters aren't just operationally sound but also adhere to industry regulations, promoting employee safety and overall compliance.

Reduced Costs

By making rosters that align with real-time demand, there's less dependency on overtime and third-party staffing. This financial efficiency is a hallmark of a well-implemented, modern shift planning strategy.

Want to learn more about the most critical field service management challenges? Check out this article: 3 Field Service Management Challenges (And Their Solutions)


Field service management has been shaped by a blend of technological advancements, human ingenuity, and the timeless drive to meet (and exceed) customer expectations. From the humble, paper-driven processes of the 1990s to the hyper-connected, real-time systems of the 2020s, we are always searching for that balance between efficiency and the human touch.

Yet, for all the transformative tech and tools we’ve adopted, the essence of FSM remains unchanged: to deliver exceptional service. This industry has always prioritised its people, whether it’s the technicians in the field, the managers strategising in the boardrooms, or the customers waiting for solutions.

Ready to see what the future holds for field service? Dive deeper and explore the emerging trends shaping the next era of field service solutions in this insightful article: The Future of Field Service Management: Trends to Watch in 2023 and Beyond.

Edward Bell

Edward Bell, Totalmobile's Content Strategist, shapes and delivers compelling content spotlighting their unique SaaS solutions. With 6+ years in MarComs, his journey spans diverse marketing roles, driven by tech passion. Edward fuels Totalmobile's mission, educating and advocating for impactful solutions across sectors, ensuring ROI for customers.