Adding more field-based autonomy to the app

Generally, the way that service management software works is that you have an office-based staff which handles the apportioning of the jobs, and the field workers go out and handle those jobs.

In some of our clients’ cases, they like to do it all out on-location. This involves bringing a laptop, because the CRM part of our system can be too large and complicated to work with on a phone.

Last week, we added the ability to put stock items directly into form subtables, so you could say where exactly the stock was used, instead of attaching it generally to the job itself.

This week, we did the same for the schedule of rates.

We think this is leading in a “bottom up” way towards being able to quote and order a job completely from the field on a phone. We just need to make sure this all links into the financial database parts of the system properly, and then we’ll be happy to call that a complete feature.

A step beyond that would then to be able to send an invoice directly from the app and have the client pay it via a payment system such as Paypal or Stripe. One of our juniors is currently looking into that at the moment, but I would not expect it to become an actual thing until early next year.

This is all leading towards being able to administer a large part of the system as a paperless office solution from the field itself, so the workflow management system handles as much as possible automatically, there is very little to do manually, and that little can be handled on your tablet or phone.

We already have at least one company where all jobs and customers are created by a team lead who is out in the field himself. He creates the jobs and customers on the field worker software in his phone, then he reassigns the jobs to specific members of his team.

It’s not a big step to prefix all of that with quote generation, where the quote can create an invoice through Paypal/Stripe, and a job is then created from the quote, either manually (where you get the go-ahead and want to just start working), or after payment (one of our clients would like to get paid before doing the work).

It’s all interesting work. We enjoy throwing new features in, then seeing how our users find ways to make use of them. The aim is to make FieldMotion into simple workflow software that has as much automated away as possible so you only need to use a minimal interface (like on a phone).

This ability to flexibly add new small features that may not have been part of the “grand plan” years go, without needing to rebuild from scratch, is part of the reason FieldMotion is the best workflow management software. When adding new bits and pieces, we always try to think of how this might need to change in the future. For example, we mention PayPal and Stripe, to make sure that when we write that bit, we don’t just hard-code a single solution in and make it difficult to stretch it later. We intentionally try to make the code accommodate much more than it currently can, so we can easily add new features later on that we haven’t thought of already.

In a way, it’s a living version of Donald Knuth’s famous saying “premature optimisation is the root of all evil”. If you write your software as if the plan the bosses came up with years ago is the absolute correct and only way the software should run, then you risk making it impossible to change later when it becomes obvious there are new features needed.

We originally planned the system so that jobs are created in the office, and the app is just for filling in the forms. But, we wrote the code such that this was not set in stone.

In fact, this flexible approach is the very reason FieldMotion exists at all in the first place. When I was hired to make the first version of the system, there were 2 or 3 specific forms for mobile devices that needed to be filled by the mobile workers. I could have just hard-coded those forms and then gone onto my next job. Instead, I made it possible to customise and create your own forms, and FieldMotion was born. We are now the best field service management software in the UK, and working on being the best in the world.

Tracking your mobile workers in FieldMotion

FieldMotion’s field worker software automatically adds some geolocation data onto important events in order to allow measurement of distance traveled by the mobile workers, estimation of time to the next job (etc), or even just so the person in the office knows what field workers are near a job in order to be assigned it.


When a signature is take, the time and location is recorded. This is important, because a signature is a record of authenticity, so it is good to be able to verify not just that the recorded signature matches a person’s paper signature, but also that the person and the mobile worker were at a specific place at a specific time.

Photographs are datetime/location stamped in the field worker app as well, so we can say that a specific photo was taken at a definite time and location. For example, you will sometimes want the mobile worker software to verify that a photo was taken before or after a certain time or event, or that it was at a specific location. An example might be the taking a photo of a delivered asset, in order to verify when and where it was delivered.

We also stamp the events when you say you are on to way to a job, have started a job, or are completing the job. From a financial point of view, this is valuable information, as it allows the accountants to charge accurately for distance travelled and to figure out the mobile worker’s allowance, and allows the managers to manage field workers based on current locations.

In the office part of the field engineer management software, we encourage the managers to record the location of customers because it lets us set up route optimisation for the fieldworker, using our dynamic scheduler software.

Improved reports for risk assessment industry users

This week, we concentrated on improving the creation and output of reports for risk assessment software.

These reports tend to be 60 or more pages long (the PAS 79 2016 report, for example), and so can normally take hours of tedious work for the engineer to fill out. By using FieldMotion, you cut that down to just the click of a button.

We overcame two difficulties this week – the first is that some service management software reports may require a mixture of landscape and portrait pages, and the second is that there can be a lot of repeated sections in reports, where the details may change, but the layout stays the same (header, title, questions, etc).

We already were able to provide mixed landscape/portrait pages when creating reports in PDF format, because the way we created those pages was more like painting than writing – each element on every page was precisely formatted and positioned. But with the newer risk-assessment type forms, we needed a more flexible format, so created a method of report-generation that produces Word-style documents, which are flexible and can be as long as they need to be.

The problem with generating Word-style documents (could be OpenOffice, Word, WPS, or any other similar format), is that they’re not really designed to be created by a server, so we need to generate them in HTML format, and then convert to Word by using third-party conversion software, such as libreoffice, phpdocx, and other conversion methods. There is always a loss in the translation.

In a way, it’s like trying to write a book in German by first writing it in French and then using an online translator such as Google Translate to convert from the French to the German. There will always be a loss in either meaning or nuance.

This week, we found a way of improving the existing Word document conversions so that they retained our instructions to switch to Landscape or Portrait at specific points.

The next big breakthrough this week was in how we are now able to easily create large repeatable sections in custom-formatted ways, in a way that’s much easier for our end users than the previous method we had.

It’s hard to describe in text when I mean by this, but I’ll do my best.

In risk assessment reports, there will be parts of the report where you must itemise each risk, such as fire hazards, doors, combustibles, gas canisters, and must provide some information about each of these, including how the company mitigates risk for them, any expiry dates, etc.

The same is true of other similar industries, such as pest control, where there will be bait boxes inspected, etc., and reports drawn up about them.

This kind of item investigation is predictable – you know that if you have ten fire extinguishers, then there will be ten sections in the report which look similar.

Before this week, we had no way of providing an easy way to enter this into the risk assessment or pest control software such that there could be an arbitrary number of items investigated and reported. Field management software is filled out on mobile devices, which by their nature do not have keyboards or other methods of easy mass-data-input, so anything we could do to improve this was needed.

This week, we came up with a method of drawing up a layout of how the data should be shown, and then telling the report “output the data using that format”, applying the rule to specific tables filled in on the app.

This allows us to have arbitrarily large numbers of items entered into the form and printed to the report in an easily-formatted way.

It was a good week for our workflow management system – two big advances that reduce the work needed by both the end-user, and by the implementation team that generates the report templates

Does My Business Need a CRM System?

Asking yourself that very question is a step in the right direction. It means you are serious about improving your business and make no mistake, a CRM system will undoubtedly improve your business processes. You are looking into a list of CRM systems, my advice to you? Give it more than a thought, weigh up your options and don\’t make a decision too hastily. You need to know what to look for in a solid CRM system and how it will help your business. It\’s important to ask yourself these questions:

Will it be difficult to implement?

When you are choosing a CRM for your business, it makes sense to look for a system that is not difficult to implement. This will allow you to save time with the technical side of implementing your new system. The easier it will be to implement, the smoother your transition into CRM.

Will it be difficult to train my staff on how to use it?

Don\’t be confusing yourself and your workforce with a difficult system. If it is too difficult to use, you will not use it! It really is that simple, a user interface that is simple to use will not only improve your overall business processes, your workers will be happy. A happy worker is a productive worker!

Will it integrate with our current systems?

If you are already using a system to run your business, you will need to know if it will be compatible with your new CRM system. If you are able to import your data from the old system into your new system then you are onto a winner. Easily integrating your data is a must for your new system.

How does it compare to other systems?

Take your top picks and compare them. Do they all do what you are looking for? If so, which system does it best? That is your best pick, it may seem obvious to say but you need a system that can do what you need it to do. What do you do? Do you pick a system that\’s cheaper than the others but doesn\’t have the same capabilities? Of course you don\’t, that would be counter-productive. When it comes to CRM systems, you get what you pay for!

Will it improve Customer Service/Satisfaction?

Any CRM worth buying will have the ability to store all of your customers\’ information all in one place and allow you access with the click of a button. With a decent CRM, you can improve your customer service and satisfaction with a series by knowing everything you need to know in advance of dealing with a certain client and their problems.

These questions are general guidelines for choosing a CRM system for your business. Ask yourself these questions and answer them truthfully, does your business really need a CRM? It\’s up to you to make that decision.

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Check out our Customer Success Stories to find out how our Workflow Management Software has helped them make the right decision when choosing a CRM system. Watch our video – Introduction to Workflow Management Software to see what our system allows your business to do.

Making The Most Of Your Field Based Software

Companies with field based workers apply methods they think will improve how they manage their workflow. As far as a solution goes, they are a long way off. Read our article about the 5 must have features of a workflow management system.

Important Field-Based Software Features

There are a lot of software solutions out there that are aimed at field workers. As time goes by, there is increasing pressure on contractors to have a more fluent means of completing paperwork. Here are some important features of field based software we think you should consider before choosing the best software for your business.

Instant

When your field based workers need to complete paperwork for a certain job they have to travel to and from locations before a job is started and upon completion. By using a field based system, it will enable you to eliminate the need to do such travelling which will save you time, money and a big headache.

Less Clutter

We all know the pain of doing paperwork, so much so we think it\’s a good idea to dismiss it with an “I\’ll do it later” attitude. This is no longer necessary, find out how our software has made this a thing of the past.

Mobile

Your company will be truly \’on-the-go\’. Allowing your field based workers to send and receive information to the office on a mobile device will be the best way to streamline your workflow. If you are able to send paperwork back to the office through a smart phone, you are already head and shoulders above your competition.

Simplicity

Using your field based software should be as painless as possible. There are a lot of software platforms out there that incorporate quite complicated usability. We don\’t understand why but it may be due to the rate at which software has progressed. Mobile workers shouldn\’t have to navigate difficult, backward technology just to send a piece of paperwork back to the office.

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Implementing a software system to streamline your workflow may seem daunting at first but in the end it will be greatly beneficial. Gone are the days where your field based workers will have to travel to and from the office just to collect a piece of paper with job details.

Businesses that have made the switch don\’t have to worry about paperwork, they are sending invoices as soon as a job is completed. As a result of using field based software, businesses are improving customer service and making big savings. In this current economic climate, that can\’t be a thing, can it?

Request a free demo of our software today or contact one of our friendly staff members for more information.

Workflow Management System – 5 Must Have Features

There are many features available in even the most basic of workflow management systems. Choosing the right one is paramount in the smooth running of your business. Whether you are looking for a system to streamline your workflow or monitor your members of staff, it needs to be the best system for YOU!

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When you are choosing your Workflow Management System, make sure they have these vital features. Don\’t settle for a product that can\’t keep up with your daily operations. After all, the system is meant to make your life easier, not harder.

1. Cloud-Based

You are looking for a workflow management system, that\’s a step in the right direction. Choosing one that is not hosted in the cloud? That\’s taking two steps back! Your workers should be able to access data and reports anywhere and at any time.

2. Notifications

If your workers are using a system and aren\’t receiving notifications about jobs they should be doing, you are only asking for trouble. If they don\’t know what job they are meant to be doing, they can\’t do the job. This will only lead to abandoning the software and wasting even more money.

3. KPI (Key Performance Indicators)

When you start using a workflow management system you will discover that certain jobs or processes take longer than you anticipated. You may find that you are actually neglecting a certain part of your business. Either way, you will be able to tighten up on these areas as soon as you implement your new workflow management system.

4. Form Building

All businesses use forms on a daily basis and using paper is fast becoming obsolete in modern administration. Using a workflow management system will take away the pain of paperwork. Your forms will be entered into a workflow management system and you will be able to complete all forms on a mobile device, anywhere and at any time.

5. Simple to Use

The most important feature of a workflow management system is that it is simple to use. If you are implementing a new workflow management system into your business, you must ensure all of your workers are capable of using the system with minimal fuss. Think about it, no one ever complained because something was easy to use!

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So there you have it, the top 5 features that any workflow management system should have. You are going to the effort of looking for a workflow management system, why not make the effort to choose the best one for you!

Make Real-Time Decisions

It\’s never been easier to make important business decisions with our Workflow Management Software. We have developed a system that allows your mobile workers to send information to the office in real-time.

What do you mean Real-Time?

Exactly that, if you have workers in the field and they need a risk assessment, job sheet or proposal sent to the office for processing, the process can begin in real-time. Your office worker has received the necessary paperwork they would need as standard on the office database. When they have taken care of the processes on their end they can send information straight back to the guys in the field:

Instant Invoicing

With instant invoicing, when you have completed a job and the necessary paperwork has been sent, you are able to invoice your customer instantly.

Customer Alerts and Updates

Your customers will be notified when a job has been completed and are able to view completed jobs on their mobile device as soon as a job is completed.

Real-Time Information From Site

Job sheets, risk assessments, proposals, contracts etc. can be sent to the office and to the guys in the field at the ouch of a button.

Employee/Vehicle Location

GPS tracking is enabled so you know exactly where your workers are to assign jobs that are better suited to their locations.

Job Completion

As soon as a job is completed, it is instantly sent back to the office and ready for the next stage of processing, which is normally the invoicing stage.

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It really has never been easier to make important decisions within your business. What\’s more, you can do it faster than ever before. Talk to one of our experts today to find out more about how our system will change how you do business. You can request a free demonstration of the system if you\’d like to see it in action.

Customer of the Month – October 2015

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Overview of Company & Services

RACE LTD offer a comprehensive range of commercial and domestic electrical services to businesses and home owners, our services include being able to design and install new electrical systems and maintaining existing installations. They also offer specialist niche skills in the provision of temporary electrical services to the construction and events industry. RACE currently have a division within their company dedicated to the OOH industry (Out Of Home) helping clients based within the media sector complete and certify electrical works this includes digital screens, back lit light boxes, trough lighting to paper and post bill boards testing and inspection to all formats from 6 sheet to large digital installations. They also have experience within the special build requirements that clients request from time to time.

RACE service electrical systems throughout the entire UK and have various packages available when clients require services via call outs and annual visits.

They currently hold a fully approved NICEIC Registration allowing RACE to design, install and certify all aspects of electrical installations.[divider scroll_text=””]

Why RACE Ltd started to used FM

We as a company decided to start using FIELDMOTION having being shown the benefits of real time working. We have some very demanding clients who require us to produce reports and certificates. We feel that by using FIELDMOTION we can meet our clients needs and issue these reports and documents in real time along with all of the stock control systems placed within the software this was a no-brainer decision for ourselves. The guys behind the scenes have been there whenever we have required their services and customer support is second to none.[divider scroll_text=””]

How have you benefited from it?

We now have the ability to control stock levels that we place with our engineers out on the road. This has saved us time and money by ensuring that we have no wasted visits to wholesalers, saving time, fuel and even making us a greener company! There is now no waiting for our engineers to return paperwork to the office as it is all completed in real time, allowing us to invoice more quickly and keeping our cash flow coming in on time![divider scroll_text=””]

Added Comments about FIELDMOTION

I just would like to thank the team at FIELDMOTION for the persistence they showed in getting me to take their software on board (I just seemed to be too busy but they never gave up). I would recommend at the very least letting the team show you what the system can do and I am more than sure they will impress whoever takes a look. I have already recommended this software to several clients and associates and guess what they love it and have signed up to FIELDMOTION too.

Ron Robertson, RACE Ltd

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Do you want to make savings and reduce paperwork like RACE? Get in touch with on of our friendly staff members and you could be making a huge difference in how you manage your workflow. Our workflow management software will change your life.

Dynamically Updating App Scripts

As any person who develops apps will tell you, the most painful part is when it leaves your laptop and is uploaded to the various app stores. In the case of Android, the Google Play Store takes an hour or two for the app to propagate, but in Apple\’s case, the average wait is a whole week.

This can be incredibly annoying; especially when your upload is an emergency fix for something which could potentially cause problems. We\’ve experienced it, and no amount of cajoling, praying, or bribery will make it go any faster.

To alleviate this problem, we\’ve come up with a new method that will leave the propagation in our own hands, meaning that there is no waiting at all – when we release a new update, it is downloaded to our app within seconds.

Not only that, but the downloaded code is actually more secure than if it were part of an app bundle.

Also, we can target /who/ gets the updates. We can target, for example, a specific company, or a development team, or a specific person or device.

Ok, so how? I\’m not going to share the actual code, but will describe the method we use, so any development team can replicate what we\’ve done.

Well, we start out with a tiny “core” app, which is distributed via the app stores. This core rarely needs to be updated, so it doesn\’t matter if it takes a week or a month for it to get through.

Upon first start-up, the core downloads a “login” script from our mobile server. This script simply shows the login screen and lets a person log in to their FieldMotion account. After logging in, the script then downloads user-specific scripts, and checks constantly from that point forward for any new scripts.

The trick is in /how/ this is done.

Scripts are downloaded over HTTPS, so they are not vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. The login script is generic and can be downloaded by anyone at all, so it doesn\’t matter if it can be read, but for the main app scripts, one step in security is in making it difficult for potential hackers to read your source code. Using HTTPS means that hackers cannot simply listen to your WiFi and copy down what is downloaded.

When the scripts are downloaded, they are then stored in the app browser using localStorage. Because Android and iOS compartmentalise apps, one app cannot read the localStorage of another, so this is one of the most secure ways of storing your scripts so they cannot be read even if someone has access to your phone.

Once a person has logged in, you can then send them the scripts that are specific to them, depending on the groups they\’re in, etc.

To keep their scripts up-to-date, you can set up a long-poll which constantly checks for new scripts to download. In the case of people that are using “stable” code, you can change this to a relatively delayed (every 30 minutes, for example) short-poll because it is less resource-intensive on the server side, and stable code doesn\’t need to-the-second updates.

Another benefit to this method is that you no longer need to compile your code for each phone. It can take a few minutes to install new code on the Android or iPhone. This can be very annoying if it\’s just a one line change you want to test. With this method, though, you could do your development on-line using a code editor such as Code Mirror, and have it pushed to your test phones as soon as you click Save. If happy with the code? Just push it to a release group for your users.

To summarise, the main benefits of developing your apps this way are:

  • Dynamic upgrades on /your/ schedule
  • Code is more difficult for hackers to analyse
  • You can decide who gets what scripts
  • No compilation needed anymore – just test and release

 

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What is CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Software Really About?

Everybody who works or has worked in a call centre or sales based environment will know what a CRM is. They may even have been told at one stage that they need one.

Either way, the real burning question is this:
What is CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Software really about?

Well you have come to the right place, let\’s get started.

What is a CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. I know what you\’re thinking. Whaaat?!

Yes it is a bit of a mouthful, but as always technical terms are meant to sound like that, technical. It is actually quite simple to explain really. It refers to a piece of software that tracks all communication with your customers, past, present and future. Depending on your service provider, the features will vary but it will always be known in the business as a CRM.

Most CRM\’s will have features included to keep track of past, current and potential customer details like contact numbers, email addresses etc. Other service providers can allocate leads to a sales rep and keep track of correspondence with support teams and much more.

What is the ultimate goal of implementing a CRM?

It\’s quite simple really. The goal is to create a process that your company can use to increase productivity and effectively interact with current and prospective customers.

You will find throughout companies that implement CRM software, leads will be allocated to sales agents when desired. This increases productivity as the sales agent doesn\’t need to go through many different avenues to get details for each call, everything is in one place. Everything they need for each and every call.

Everyone is using the cloud these days, everything from storing pictures of loved ones, holiday videos and even storing songs they have downloaded. CRM software companies are no exception to this. Most are stored in the cloud making it just that much easier for a company to maintain their system without the need of big, chunky servers with a designated room.

The Burning Question: Do I really Need One?

To be completely honest, YES!

Imagine this:

You have records of all your customers stored in an excel spreadsheet. You need to find mobile numbers, email address, account numbers, some of which are missing from one but included in another. Then add those records to another spreadsheet, which you then finalise and prepare for the managing director of your company. Imagine doing this for 10,000+ customers to be split and distributed accordingly.

Well I don\’t have to imagine this: I had to do it! Needless to say the mere mention of Microsoft Excel makes me feel uneasy.

A CRM is a piece of technological magic. It will automatically keep track of your customer info so you can focus on the bigger picture, expansion. Whether you are a big or small company, a CRM is an absolute dream to have implemented in your company and it will make it easier for you to manage your workflow and it will also increase your workflow.

Which CRM Software Is Best For Me?

There are a lot of CRM software options out there that would work for your business but it all depends on how you want them to work. Settle on what features your business really needs and when deciding on CRM Software, ask yourself these questions:

  • Sales

Will your sales team be able to know who and when to call with the current processes you currently have in place? If the answer is no, implementing a CRM will give each sales agent a much better insight into which potential customers could be turned into actual customers.

  • Initial Contact

Do you make contact the same way for all prospects? Is it always by phone, email, LinkedIn, all of  the above? A CRM could make your customer interaction much simpler for sales agents.

  • B2B

Is your company one that regularly deals with large B2B contracts and require you to interact with lots of different people within lots of different departments? If this is the case, a CRM would enable you to pull all of the relevant data you need based on the company details you have.

If you want to know what will work for your company, ask and answer these questions for yourself. Take a look at your daily processes throughout your sales department and as a whole. Let that be your guide on whether you need a CRM system.

What Is The Most Important Feature Every Company Will Need?

Perhaps not a feature per say but to properly communicate and track your company\’s leads and current customers at every stage of the buying process, your CRM needs to achieve this. Full Stop!

FIELDMOTION\’s Workflow Management Software can do all of this and much more. Click here if you would like a free demonstration of our software.[divider scroll_text=””]

The Bottom Line: If you are running a business and want to keep expanding, you should get a CRM. Every business\’ success relies on the ability to delight your customers. If you know all you can know about your customers, you can deliver first class customer service while solving problems at a much faster rate. I hate this word but you would be delivering a \’Bespoke\’ experience in which a customer feels special, which will in turn, help you grow and prosper.

Want to see our CRM in action? Check out our Free Webinar today!.