upcoming voting feature for clients

We’re trialling a system in-house at the moment which allows us to throw our ideas into a database and then vote on which ones get priority. This way our field service management software development work is not dominated by one or two voices, but is led by consensus need instead.

If this works out well, then we will be pushing it out to all of our workflow management software clients as well.

What will happen is that one client might have an idea of something that needs to be done for their job management software, will explain that in a post, and then apply a few of their votes to that idea. If other clients like the idea, they will also vote for it.

We will monitor the voting carefully, and every week (that’s the plan, anyway!), we will take the top few and get started on them.

This way, you get a stronger voice in what we do, and help to guide the field service software towards something that is even better for your own business than it already is.

In-house, we’re using this to help prioritise work that gets done, so we (the field management system development team) have very clear targets each week, so we don’t get mixed signals (everyone wants their own pet projects now, now, now, and we only have two hands each to work with 😉 ), and so that everyone feels a more collective ownership of things when they are completed.

We are really looking forward to seeing how this works out, and are excited to see what workflow software ideas you come up with yourself.

Why does FM software update so frequently?

One of our clients asked us why we release new versions of our workflow management software app and CRM so often.

image: the Waterfall Model is the general model of software development we follow to ensure that our clients experience only the most stable version of FieldMotion available (Maintenance in the model), unless they choose deliberately to use our testing (Verification in the model) server

We don’t really. Yes, there is always a lot of development going on with the field service management software, but this only filters down to the public once it’s been thoroughly tested. The only exception is when we fix an issue (such as today, we fixed an issue where exporting job data from the job management software, while applying a custom filter based on the customer name, ignored the filter), but the system is really so well-used now that there are no common issues left. Even if we fix 50 issues, you will probably never have noticed any of them before or after, because they’re all to do with using the system in a way that is uncommon.

FieldMotion is cloud-based field service software – we have maybe five different versions of it serving all of our clients. When we release a new “stable version” of the field management system (every six months or so), we start moving clients onto it from the older versions. Because we have many more field management software clients than we have internal developers, this means that the clients will sometimes do something we did not expect, and we then have to fix whatever allowed that to happen.

The stable versions are called “stable” because they are changed as little as possible. In the Waterfall Model of software development, these versions are called Maintenance versions because the only ongoing development they receive from the moment of release are maintenance updates. The only reason we change anything on the stable field service manager software servers would be to correct a bug. If a client insists that they need a new feature that we have not yet released on a stable field services management software server, then we move them to a testing server, because we do not develop new software on a stable field services management server. Of course, we only move them after first making sure that they are aware that the testing server is, by its very nature, not a stable server, and therefore they might experience glitches every now and then. This is their own choice to make. To wait for the new requested feature to be released within six months on a stable field service management systems server, or to jump the gun and move onto an unstable server that will have new features and tweaks almost every day.

With the app, we have “stable” points as well. Whenever we do anything new on the app, it’s added to a completely new repository version. Every repository version that we have has a specific purpose for its existence. For example, repo 73 was created to help speed up a form that a client’s field workers pointed out was slow. We spotted the issue, fixed it, and his mobile workers’ forms now load exactly 54 times quicker (yes, exactly). Everyone that upgrades to a new repository version gets the new enhancements that repository and all the preceding ones brings. This means that if you are on version 62 (optionally disable job ref editing on the app) and we upgrade you to 73 (speed up form-based calculations), then you also get the enhancements and fixes for everything in between.

We are always adding new fixes, features, and optimisations to our service software code, but we only ever upgrade people if it’s necessary (such as to fix a bug which we identify as possible affecting multiple people), or after we take a break at a certain repository version and decide to “rebase” everyone to it so we can have everyone on generally the same number again. Of course, we first put the app through yet another round of rigorous testing, but because later versions are by their nature more tested than earlier ones, we rarely, if ever (I really can’t think of a single case) come across an issue where we’ve broken something that previously worked.

To be honest, we probably update our stable servers much less than larger companies such as Microsoft do. I’m sure you are all familiar with Microsoft’s Windows telling you to please wait while it installs updates? Well, all software needs updates sometimes, but we try to make them in the background so you will never notice them.

So, to the client that thinks we release new versions all the time. No, we don’t. Yes, there are always new features being developed, and issues being addressed, but the only reason you would encounter all of those changes would be if you are a member of our development team, or if you are one of the few who are early-access testers for us.

Customer Spotlight: Montgomery Refrigeration

Tell us a bit about your company

Originally a refrigeration and airconditioning installer and maintainer, grown into full FM services and building contract and fit out company
 
Please tell us a little about your position in the company

Account manager for Major supermarket retailer covering fridge, M&E, food prep and building maintenance

What problems were you having that FieldMotion was brought in to fix?

Inflexibility of existing system, outdated and expensive to amend the mobile to suit our business, limited in functionality
 
How has FieldMotion affected your business since you’ve started using it?

it has enabled us to move on for only having a single mobile service report to having multiple reports designed by ourselves that are applicable to each of our customers where relevant. We are able to convert paper checklists etc onto mobile forms saving on travel time for engineers to pick up printed sheets. We have been able to design a robust monthly engineer checklist covering the engineer, his vehicle, his tools and equipment, his PPE and his ladders. All of this on the mobile and set to automatically run every month
 
If you could put a number on it, how many hours/person/week have you saved by switching to FieldMotion?

No labour saving as we are a 2nd generation user of a mobile platform
 
Through your use of Fieldmotion, has your company seen a positive financial benefit, and if so what would that be?

yes, running costs reduced by 30%, we now don’t have to maintain our own servers to host the system, most new form builds, we can do ourselves removing these additional development costs compared to the original system
 
Do you think that FieldMotion software will help your company take on more work?

Yes, if we utilise it fully, it’s a great benefit when we are working as a sub contractor to another company and we need to be generating their work sheets etc

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if you used FieldMotion, you would already be setting up the barbecue

It’s already well-known that field service management software cuts down on the time you waste filling in reports, so let’s just get past that.


image: barbecue image by Kornekar

Wouldn’t you prefer to be outside working on your sunburn or showing the neighbours how well you can burn your kebabs?

If you want to take advantage of the time-saving that you get from using workflow management software that automates all of your paperwork and builds your reports for you so you don’t need to do it yourself, ask us for a demo. We promise to not disturb you during your barbecue. After all, we’re too busy working on our own annual lawn-mowing and gardening to care! But, we’ll get back to you as soon as the rain comes back (you know; tomorrow).

I was going to write a load of industry-specific stuff, like how we’re saving time for fire and safety inspection officers by automating their PAS 79 records, or how our pest control software’s recurring jobs make the business a pleasure to do, but you know what – I’m off out into the sun to enjoy myself.

What is Workflow Software?

According to Wikipedia, a workflow management system “provides an infrastructure for the set-up, performance and monitoring of a defined sequence of tasks”. The words themselves are usually enough to give a good idea of what it is, but there is an actual industry standard that defines what is or is not a workflow system.

image: when workflow is designed correctly, the result ticks along beautifully

Workflow software has been around long enough that there are actual international groups that define standards for what they do. For example, the Workflow Management Coalition was set up in 1993 by IBM, HP, Fujitsu and about 300 other software companies.

A workflow system is broken down into abstracted categories of system:

Routing System
This is the part that most people think of when they mean workflow – it defines the order in which jobs happen, and moves information from job to job as needed. In FieldMotion, we define these sequences using the onComplete logic system and through “sources” in the form fields.

Distribution System
In a fully automated system this takes the role of a manager, dividing work out among workers so that no-one is under-utilised. In FieldMotion, this is handled through the Dynamic Scheduler.

Coordination System
This makes sure that there are no clashes – that people are not asked to do two jobs at the same time, etc. Our dynamic scheduler handles this automatically, but we also make this visually obvious in our Timeline view of jobs, where you can easily see overlaps.

Agent System
The agents are the “workers” of the system. In a field service application, the agents are the engineers that are out doing the work.

Assistant System
In a system that has some artificial intelligence built in, the “assistant” is an AI system that will offer hints as to what should be done, based on insight from the other data in the system. FieldMotion’s Dynamic Scheduler is an assistant system, as it offers a suggested order of events based on information such as geographic location of the jobs, the category of work and the skills each worker has, the the hours the worker is active, etc.

The original definition of Workflow Management System was defined for fully automated systems, like manufacturing plants or software workflow, but since the advent of smart-phones, the definition has been spread to include field workers and Field Service Management Software.

Exporting completed jobs through FTP

A third-party water management company that sends out jobs to a few of our clients wanted to receive the completed job information back in XML format sent through FTP. It made sense to us to automate the process in order to save our clients a little more time and effort.

Instead of writing something specifically for that third-party company, though, we wrote a general exporter that can be configured to send in a few formats, using a few connection methods.

This means that we can supply the job information in CSV format, for example, or XLS, XML, JSON. Whatever the recipient needs. Our client just needs to configure the connection methods in their field service management software (usernames, passwords, etc) and the format the end file should be given in.

This extends our workflow management software capabilities so that we can be part of other companies’ automated workflows as well – they send information from their workflow software which we import automatically, our clients do the work, and the completed data is sent back to the sending company automatically. In this way, we cut down on time and potential mistakes, because the jobs that the client’s field workers do is precisely, down to the letter, what the recipient company has asked for. No more 15 minute phone calls describing a job, no more misheard details or typos.

Four continents and growing

Today, we signed a client in Asia, adding to our collection of continents (Europe, Africa and North America are already mounted and stuffed on our walls).

We’re now working towards total world domination with our field service scheduling software. The image is a friend’s contribution to the cause, a poster to sell FieldMotion to penguins in Antarctica. It might work. Who knows? I’m sure penguins keep the ultimate paperless office already, but being so far from us, they’re also the ultimate mobile workers, and so we should at least try 🙂

We’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings, working in the back-office of a larger company, then growing to take over the entire building. And we’re still growing. By now, we must be about the, oh, fourth-largest workflow management system company in town! Although I couldn’t name the other three even if I tried.

Luckily, the team is up to the task. Our development team is careful to not race ahead and add everything that occurs to them (as head of development, I keep that rein firmly in check!), so we spend quite a large proportion of our time making sure that there are no known issues, and that the system has no growing pains either due to our scaling up. When an issue comes in, we tackle it immediately. The fact that we get any development done at all is a sign that no-one is reporting problems!

Having said that, we still do develop new tricks here and there. On Monday, I wrote about how we are adding to our Zapier capabilities. Today, we finished some work related to “F-Gas registers” (a record that all fire and risk assessment software should be able to show a history of). As usual, we wrote it in such a way that it is perfect for fire and security software solution, but it can also be used for adhoc purposes, allowing us to cater to anyone needing similar tricks.

FieldMotion as Pest Control Software

I’ve been looking at how people arrive on our website, and a lot of people are here because they’re looking for mobile pest control software, which I haven’t talked much about before on the blog.

FieldMotion does everything that a pest control engineer needs. We have quite a few clients in the pest control business, and some of the features of the system were actually built to satisfy their needs. In particular, the recurring jobs features are important for pest control management software and were developed with our clients.

You can set up recurring visits to customers, to run checks every 6, 12 months (or whatever you want), the job notes you keep for one appointment in a series will be available in the next, and notes about particular clients are available within the job details as well so you’ll never need to look in many places at once.

If your customers need to be kept informed, you can give them access to a customer portal, where they can log in and see everything you’ve completed, and download their reports.

We can record the GPS coordinates of the engineers when they mark their jobs done, and when they get signatures or take photographs.

Setting up your appointments is easy – you can create them from the app or from the online CRM, where you can create them in a list view, a timeline view, or a calendar view. Timeline and calendar views are drag-drop, so you can lay your jobs out visually. Or you can use the dynamic scheduler to organise the appointments for you, sending the right engineers to the right jobs, and saving you time and money.

Everything in FieldMotion’s pest control software programs is realtime. When a job is created in the office, it is immediately sent to the engineer. As an engineer updates the job form, the information is sent back to the database and immediately visible in the office.

FieldMotion even works offline. It’s completely seamless. When you’re online, information is synched with the pest software database live. When you’re offline, the information is “queued” to be uploaded as soon as you’re back online. No need to think about it. It just happens in the background.

Ask us for a demo

FieldMotion as a workflow management system

Earlier today, I wrote about Zapier integration with FieldMotion, to make sure that when a customer is created in FieldMotion, it is also created in …whatever you’re connecting it to (Zapier has literally thousands of end-points)

Integrating your FieldMotion account with outside applications is just one more example of why ours is one of the most powerful workflow software systems on the market.

When filling in forms on the app, we have “skip logic”, which allows the engineer to only see the form parts that are relevant to the task at hand. Just because they’re paperless mobile forms doesn’t mean you should feel free to waste “paper”…

We also have calculations, “source” fields (such as fields that fill in with pre-recorded data from assets, etc), and other powerful ways to automate the content of the form so you have less work to do.

Once your digital forms are completed, we have a robust and powerful “on complete” engine, which can send emails or set up new appointments based on the values in the forms.

When the end report is being created, we have some more tricks up our sleeve. We can set up reports so that they only show the parts that are needed. For example, if a fire and security inspection form involved checking three extinguishers, then you will have three extinguisher report sections in your service management software form. No need to show empty report parts!

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, and how we can automate your workflow management, please book a demo with us.

link FieldMotion customers to Quickbooks customers through Zapier

Zapier is a very popular middleware system that connects hundreds of online applications together.

With Zapier, you can very quickly link your FieldMotion information to any of those hundreds of applications. Today, I’ll describe how to automatically create customers in Quickbooks when a customer is added to FieldMotion.

You will need a Quickbooks account, a FieldMotion account, and a Zapier account.

Login to your Quickbooks account and click Make A Zap.

Choose the FieldMotion app. If you don’t see it, ask us to send you the Beta

Choose the New Customer trigger, and click Continue

Select the FieldMotion account you are linking to and click “Save and Continue”. If you have not already set up a connection, use the “Connect a New Account” link to do so, then come back to this.

Next, you need to test the connection. By running the test, Zapier requests a list of customers from FieldMotion. You should make sure your FieldMotion account has at least one customer in its database.

If you click on the “view your customer” link, you’ll see something like this:

Next, you should select the “QuickBooks Online” app

Choose “Create Customer” and click “Save + Continue”

Connect to the QuickBooks account by following the steps (note that it requires a subscription account. a trial account will not work)

When that’s done, select the account and click “Save + Continue”

The next step is to link the FieldMotion customer fields to the QuickBooks fields. To do this, click on the Menu icon on the right of each field:

A list of FieldMotion customer fields will appear in a drop-down. Click the appropriate one for each field.

Full name = Name of the Customer
Email = Email
Company = Name of the Customer
Phone = Landline
Address Line1 = Street Address1
Address Line2 = Street Address2
Address City = County
Address Zip Code = Postcode
Address Country = Country

click Continue when done.

Next, you are shown a quick preview of what will be exported to Quickbooks

press Create and Continue, and a test will be done on the Quickbooks account

If you check your Quickbooks account, you will see the new customer already imported

Finally, just click Finish, give the new zap a name if you want, and turn the zap on.

That’s it! You’re connected now.