Maximize Field Service Execution: Sharing tribal knowledge with the help of Unified APIs David Hallinan Published: June 6, 2019 The companyServiceMax’s Zinc product line is a real-time communications platform focused on field service workers. Their product gives these workers access to people, systems and correspondence that allow them to complete their job in a timely manner. Field service workers operate in unpredictable environments and encounter equipment of varying ages. This makes trouble-shooting with technical experts difficult. ServiceMax helps answer the question of how to share tribal knowledge that will increase field service workers’ engagement and productivity.ServiceMax employs hundreds of employees and services thousands of users across the globe.The ChallengeServiceMax had a lean team of engineers whose mission was to focus on rapid innovation in the emerging space of real-time communication for service professionals. They needed to connect their product to the preferred systems of their customers, many of whom worked at decades-old enterprises with mature tech stacks. And they needed the connection to be seamless and mobile-friendly. Further complicating matters, field service workers and their supporting managers and technicians store information in standard document formats, but they keep them in a variety of storage systems. The ServiceMax team wondered, how could they unlock that info and make it easy to share on the go? How could adopting ServiceMax, a product that integrates with cloud and on-premise services, support digital transformation in the field service workers’ company? Once before, the engineers at ServiceMax built an integration directly to the Salesforce API, at which time they discovered the overhead involved in maintaining one-off, bespoke integrations. According to SVP of Product and Engineering John Stetic, “When you start down the path of one integration and the thing you integrate with changes over time, the maintenance becomes a headache and it’s zero value-add for your business.”They knew that, as they added more services and learned how each of the interfaces worked, it would be helpful to have an abstraction layer so that they could treat all of the cloud services the same.The SolutionKloudless quickly became the backbone of ServiceMax’s cloud storage and cloud content integrations for the Zinc product line. That’s because Kloudless enables Zinc users to search and share files from any cloud storage service. Zinc’s engineering team only wrote code once to integrate the Kloudless Storage API abstraction layer while Kloudless handled all other aspects of the integration behind the scenes including:Authenticating users via OAuth 2.0 on both mobile and web, and refreshing tokens behind the scenesMapping various cloud file formats into the unified Kloudless File data modelMulti-account concurrent cross-cloud search from the Zinc mobile appSharing files via linksTracking recently modified files via webhooks and doing so even for cloud services that don’t natively support webhooks or change-tracking capabilitiesThousands of Zinc users connect their SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and other cloud storage accounts to quickly collaborate on files over chat.The integration has functioned without a hitch for years, even as Google Drive and SharePoint update their APIs. Kloudless handles maintaining upstream integrations, saving ServiceMax’s engineers time they would have wasted mastering each native API, integrating each individually, and maintaining them as they change and break in unforeseen ways. When Microsoft made an API change that threatened customers’ OneDrive integrations, Kloudless quickly resolved the issue. There was no need for ServiceMax engineers to play whack-a-mole with version upkeep. While other integration platforms required users to exit an app to access their preferred cloud services, with Kloudless ServiceMax embedded the cloud service integrations right into their product. So customers remained within the same product environment while also accessing their service of choice. As far as the user is concerned, ServiceMax natively supports all the cloud services they could ask for.“one of the value-added features ServiceMax could benefit from was the ability to connect into these cloud-based document stores. With a lean team and lots of requirements to tackle, being able to farm out that work to an integration library was very valuable to us and allowed us to speed up time-to-market.”SVP of Product and Engineering John Stetic Here’s what the solution looks like in the field:A technician shows up to a site and starts trouble-shooting. Using ServiceMax, he starts a conversation with his supporting technician who is more senior than him. The senior technician is on the move. She tells him he needs to look at a wiring diagram in SharePoint. Inside the Zinc app, she goes to the files section and shares the wiring diagram he should reference to solve the issue.The technician confirms the wiring diagram helps solve the problem and also uploads the latest version for future reference. All other technicians using Zinc see the file updated in SharePoint from within Zinc’s view of Recently Updated Files. In the future, any technician is able to quickly locate the wiring diagram via Zinc’s built-in cross-cloud search capabilities.In the above scenario, the user opts to take a particular action inside the app. This functionality within ServiceMax is different than an automated workflow because she effectively shares the source of the real information the other technician needs to complete that particular job.A Look AheadServiceMax continues to see added value in surfacing data from various sources in a uniform way. Some of these sources of data have standard objects, such as Salesforce’s accounts and leads. Other objects live within field-service-specific environments–for example, installed products and work orders. The data model in ServiceMax’s industry is complex because the objects needed by a power company working on wind turbines are different than those needed by networking companies installing satellites. As ServiceMax looks into the future, they can tackle bigger questions related to how these service supply chains work. Having lived through API integrations bespoke and unified, they know what they need to do if they are to continue saving time and resources. Before they embark, they reach for the tools that in John Stetic’s words “enable all the plumbing.” With Kloudless taking care of integrations behind the scenes, ServiceMax engineers can focus less on APIs and more on product innovation.