When service management software solutions company Astea purchased FieldCentrix, arguably the industry leader in mobile field force automation, it put itself in the impressive position of being able to offer customers a more seamless solution with which to support their "service management lifecycle." It also gained an enviable client roster that included the likes of Honeywell, Ingersoll-Rand and Praxair, and positioned itself as a company that could appeal to both Fortune 50 empires and smaller players with big ideas but little infrastructure.
We spoke with Zack Bergreen, chairman and CEO of Astea, about the merging of the companies and what the purchase says about the marketplace.
Mobile Enterprise: What trends were you seeing that made you want to increase your mobile offerings?
Zack Bergreen: There are two realities coming into focus: Manufacturing in the traditional sense can be moved off shore, and at an ever-increasing speed more and more companies are trying to find cheaper ways to manufacture overseas and manage other locations. What you have remaining in North America and Western Europe and the more industrial countries is basically the customer-support elements, and what better way to enhance that relationship than having your own personnel ... out there in front of the customer, engaging with them and having a more personal dialogue. But that mobile workforce must have a very effective means of being part of a virtual computing platform, and therefore we need to have a very robust and comprehensive solution that will give them access to the latest information.
ME: Are you seeing customer support as a bigger and bigger point of competition between vendors?
ZB: Absolutely. As more and more manufacturing moves overseas, what's left are your customers, and that's the predictable revenue stream. If you had a bad experience on one particular product or with the supplier, it's unlikely you're going to buy again, so enhancing that experience and really focusing on customer intimacy is really something that companies are focused on. You need to have excellent solutions to make sure the process works smoothly. I believe that in the next couple years there will be an increase in paying more and more attention to customers and really trying to find additional revenue possibilities by being close to them, and so you need to have a very effective virtual platform to operate from.
MM: Astea provides "lifecycle management" solutions. What exactly does that mean?
ZB: The Service Lifecycle Management is fundamentally the entire process. We basically provide the automation tool that manages the entire process, starting from the time you engage with the prospect through the entire selling process, into the actual deployment of the product and the ongoing servicing of the product, and eventually decommissioning, which really starts the whole process all over again.
MM: Would you say that you offer a more end-to-end solution than your competitors?
ZB: Absolutely. I think that's a unique thing about us. And we're finding out that more companies would like to have an integrated solution for a particular mission, as opposed to taking the ownership of the system integration asset. [With other vendors] you're left with the need to somehow integrate the product into somebody else's backend, and when one version comes up you're obligated to upgrade the connection points, and so on. That makes the process very complicated and leaves the customer with the never-ending finger-pointing of, who do I talk to when I have a particular issue? They call it "one hand to shake," or "one throat to choke," so to speak. We give the customer the complete point of contact and the entire solution spectrum, so that we take complete ownership of the entire process and all of its components. //