Alpha Software Blog

Mobile optimized forms:Building a data-driven field service operation

It's tough to build the ideal field-service operation. Data is hard to come by, workers out in the field are often out of touch with the office, and it's a difficult job to automate. That's all the more reason to build an efficient one, because the savings and efficiencies can be tremendous. It's not as hard to do as you might imagine, though. The MSI Data blog has advice in a post by Joanna Rotter entitled "4 Steps to Becoming a Data-Driven Field Service Operation." We agree with a lot of what she says, and we've got advice beyond her suggestions --- how mobile-optimized forms can add so much more.

Joanna recommends restructuring your field service operation around data collection and usage, powered by mobile apps. She explains that the first step is to deploy an integrated field service management (FSM) system that, "allows you to connect, collect, and centralize data for easy access from multiple areas of the operation." An FSM system connects data entry, collection, and analysis to the rest of office operations for maximum efficiency.

Next, she says, equip technicians with mobile devices and a service app for collecting and deploying data. That will connect employees to the back office instantly. This can result in reduced administrative time, more accurate data-entry, access to training materials when out at the site, and invoicing and obtaining cash from the customer more quickly.

The third step is benchmarking your performance, and continually improving it. She essentially outlines a three-part process for benchmarking and understanding ROI: First plan the job, including how much it will cost. Then measure how you did. And then analyze the results. Keep doing this to improve performance.

The fourth step the blog recommends is getting the right data to the right people at the right time. In competitive business situations, time is of the essence.

Mobile-Optimized Forms Are Key for Field Forces

We at Alpha Software agree with all of what Joanna outlines in her blog article. But we also recognize that without mobile-optimized forms driven by real data, a field-service organization can't succeed. If all a form does is replicate what paper can do, you're losing all the benefits that tablets offer out in the field. And if a form on a mobile device is built for a desktop worker and not the unique needs of a standing working in the field, who has a smaller screen and often is only entering data with one hand, the app will also fail. As Alpha Software CTO Dan Bricklin explains: "Taking an image of a paper form and putting it on a tablet screen is not the answer." Instead, what's needed are new types of mobile-optimized forms: "These are applications that run on the tablet that can take advantage of a wide range of input types, that can have input means that are tailored to the needs of the particular data type and data values being entered, that can have layouts that are flexible, and that are customizable to the needs of the particular task."

Learn how Alpha Anywhere can help you build sophisticated mobile-optimized forms.

More information about Bricklin's recommendations on how to build the best tablet-based forms.
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About Author

Amy Groden-Morrison
Amy Groden-Morrison

Amy Groden-Morrison has served more than 15 years in marketing communications leadership roles at companies such as TIBCO Software, RSA Security and Ziff-Davis. Most recently she was responsible for developing marketing programs that helped achieve 30%+ annual growth rate for analytics products at a $1Bil, NASDAQ-listed business integration Software Company. Her past accomplishments include establishing the first co-branded technology program with CNN, launching an events company on the NYSE, rebranding a NASDAQ-listed company amid a crisis, and positioning and marketing a Boston-area startup for successful acquisition. Amy currently serves as a Healthbox Accelerator Program Mentor, Marketing Committee Lead for the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge Launch Smart Clinics, and on the organizing team for Boston TechJam. She holds an MBA from Northeastern University.

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The Alpha platform is the only unified mobile and web app development and deployment environment with distinct “no-code” and “low-code” components. Using the Alpha TransForm no-code product, business users and developers can take full advantage of all the capabilities of the smartphone to turn any form into a mobile app in minutes, and power users can add advanced app functionality with Alpha TransForm's built-in programming language. IT developers can use the Alpha Anywhere low-code environment to develop complex web or mobile business apps from scratch, integrate data with existing systems of record and workflows (including data collected via Alpha TransForm), and add additional security or authentication requirements to protect corporate data.