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.

FieldMotion: the book of the system

I’ve been tasked with writing a book about this field service management system thing that we built. Most of the books I’ve written have been code-related and general in nature. Writing a specific “how to” of a single system will be a bit more challenging. Especially as the system we have is really so large that condensing it all into one book will probably make the book wither much too long to read, or much too dense to read.

So, I think the best thing to do is to write a general overview of the various parts within the system, and how to use them from a basic point of view. I will intentionally avoid detailing the use of the more complex parts of the workflow management software, and will return to those either in later chapters, or in follow-up books.

Why write a book?

I’m a big fan of written tutorials. I would much rather read instructions on paper than watch a video. Printed instructions and explanations can get a lot more in-depth than videos. Also, it’s easier to highlight lines in a book, or refer back to earlier pages.

Videos tend to have accents as well. Even within the single English language, there is enough disparity in accents that it can be hard for a person in the US to understand someone with a Scottish accent (for example). Written text does not have accents.

It’s also easier to translate a book than a video. With a book, it’s a simple matter of having the text translated by a technical writer. With video, though, the entire thing must be re-done.

I will be publishing the book in this blog as I write it.

When I wrote my other technical books, I stuck to a general prescribed format – about 13-14 chapters per book, each book should be 15-20 pages long, and all concepts should be presented with visual diagrams if possible. I’ll do the same here.

Proposed chapter list:

  1. Introduction to FieldMotion
  2. General Usage
  3. Customers
  4. Jobs
  5. Assets
  6. Stock
  7. Using OnCompletes to setup WorkFlow
  8. Financial Reports
  9. Dynamic Scheduling
  10. Recurring Jobs
  11. Outsourcing Jobs
  12. Linking to Xero
  13. Using FieldMotion with Zapier

After completion, we hope to give out electronic copies of the book for free to people that ask us for a demo of our job scheduling software, and will give a free printed copy to all new customers.

purchase ordering system

This week, we’re polishing the purchase ordering part of our field service management software. This is a system which allows you to create purchase orders, mark off the items as they come in, and automatically update the stock levels of the destinations as you mark them off. This helps our clients take yet another step towards having a truly paperless office system.

As an example, let’s say a user has asked for 15 of product A and 10 of product B. You create the purchase order, list the items you’re ordering, and then as the orders are delivered to you, you mark them fulfilled, which will automatically increase the stock-take of product A and B for the user.

If only a few of the items were delivered to you, you just mark in the amount of arrived, which leaves the order in the status “Part Delivered”.

You record the cost and price of the items, so there’s an option in the future of maybe expanding this into something a bit more accounty than it is at the moment.

To round this off, we’re adding in the ability to record what stock is with what customer; something we’ve been asked for a few times. This means that you can set your purchase order up with the customer as the end target, then mark off the products as they are delivered to the customer, meaning that you have a record of all deliveries and part-deliveries.

We hope to have that done by the end of the week. If you’re interested in beta-testing this (along with the rest of the system!), please contact us and ask for a demo.

Prettying your email templates in Field Motion

FieldMotion field service management software has many parts to it which generate and send emails. Up until now, we’ve kept the design of those emails to be very bare-bones, but over the last few weeks, we took it upon ourselves to add a personalised touch to the emails, making sure the paperless forms of your corporate letters look just like the printed forms.


We added a configuration page for creating email templates, in which you can design the emails as if you were creating a document in Word. You can add images, tables, etc. This lets you create your corporate letter-head feel for the emails. Dragging the office look into paperless mobile forms!

You can set one of those template to be the site default. When an email is being sent, this template will be chosen if no other is already set.

In the Forms section, you can set specific templates for each Form type. So, if you just finished a task in your job management app and an inspection report to send off, you can make the email look different than a time-sheet report, let’s say.

As an example, here’s one I just generated for testing purposes (image on right – click to view):

Pretty, right?

Because emails are part of any workflow management software and you won’t be manually sending every email that your customers receive, it’s important that you have some measure of control over how they look.

If you want a demo of FieldMotion’s features, contact us and we’ll be happy to arrange it!

how to: paperless office

We created an online savings calculator a few years ago which calculates how much money you can save by going paperless with our field service management software.

It measures a few important metrics, but I think one of the most metrics is how much time is spent filling in documents, and the cost in paper for these.

In a traditional services company, the engineer goes to the office to get the orders for the day, fills in reports when out on the job using notepads, and then returns to the office with those filled notepads to have the details re-typed by a clerk. One company I worked with literally had shelved rooms with boxes on each shelf, each filled with notepads of reports.

Apart from the cost of those notepads (minor) and the cost of storage (grows year by year), the biggest issue here is that a notepad that sits in a box in a room is not readable by the customer or by the engineer. If you go visit that customer again and need to recap on what was done last time, you need to dig out that notepad.

And so companies invest in clerks whose major role is to retype those notepad reports into a digital format that can be stored in a database or folder of documents, and emailed out to the engineer or customer when requested.

The cost of a clerk is prohibitive – why are you paying someone to type up something which has already been written?

With service management software, the report is filled in on an app, using your mobile device, such as an Android or iOS phone or tablet. Because the information is stored digitally, there is no need to retype it. Simply take the information from the phone and store it in the database!

The next waste of paper is with the reports that you send to your customers. Do they really need a typed report? Most companies these days are perfectly happy to accept digital copies of your reports, which they can store in their own databases, and which can easily be regenerated by yourself if the customer loses their copy.

A clerk is traditionally needed in order to create these reports, as the format that an engineer writes in may not be readable to your customer. And a report can run for 60 pages or more, such as the PAS 79 2016 form used in fire risk assessment.

With field service software, though, the information can be entered into the mobile device in one format, and neatened up and output in another format automatically when it comes time to send the report.

With FieldMotion, we completely automate the process – the engineer fills in the details of their report as they work, and then when they have the customer signatures entered (again, using the mobile device), they mark the job complete, the report is automatically created by the workflow management software, and the customer has the report in their inbox within minutes of the job being done.

With our own office, it has gotten to the point that when I needed to draw something up to illustrate a point to one of my programmers, I had to go search for paper, and then had to go search for a pen afterwards.

Paperless office solutions such as FieldMotion not only reduce the storage requirements (and associated fire risk) in your office, but also speed up your job to the point that we have one testimonial which states “The best was when we measured from receiving a call – job to engineer- job completed- job invoiced took 25 mins in total – never known before within our company!”

Job-scheduling in the field with FieldMotion

As companies get larger, the jobs become more specialised. The person who used to do accounting and data entry now has someone to do data entry so can concentrate on accounting. The field worker who had to make on-the-spot decisions as well as carry out the jobs, is now a manager in charge of a team of specialised electricians, plumbers and whatever else is needed.

As the teams grow, you find that more decisions are being made back at headquarters based on findings made by the workers in the field, because there are too many workers to let them just decide for themselves and potentially get in each others way.

Example 1: availability-based job scheduling

As an example, let’s say you’re working on a job that involves doing plumbing and electrics. The team of diggers has finished up and the work area is ready for whoever’s next. Maybe the electricians are busy already? Or maybe the plumbers need to be somewhere in 5 hours so need to be first here?

With smaller teams, the managers might meet up and decide, taking time. With larger teams, you might have a site manager whose job is to make these decisions.

Why not just let FieldMotion decide? If you manage your jobs through our FSM (field service management software), then it already knows that the plumbers are due somewhere else, or that the electricians are busy. There is no need for a meeting between the managers. Using the FieldMotion Dynamic Scheduler, you can automatically order your jobs in such a way that everyone has time to do their jobs, with no clashes in schedule, no teams due on the other side of the country five minutes after finishing this one.

Example 2: decision-based job scheduling

Or let’s say that the job you’re doing involves making decisions based on the findings you make in the field. For example, let’s say your company does health-checks on house-bound people, and the decisions you make after these checks depend on what you find while doing your inspections.

You could hire a person and train them up to make qualified decisions on whether to bring in a doctor or optician. Or you could hire a person who just fills in forms and those forms are then read by a person who is trained to make the decisions. Obviously, it is more economical to train (and pay) 10 form-fillers and 1 decision-maker, than to train 10 field-based decision-makers.

But why are you paying for a decision-maker in the first place? If the decisions are based on simple rules (such as “how high is the blood pressure”, or “has the patient fallen recently”), then you don’t need a paid decision-maker for that. Just add the rules to the “on-complete” section of the form that’s filled out in the field worker software, and FieldMotion will make the decision automatically and book a doctor or optician for you immediately, and a recall visit will be created in a few weeks or months depending on the patient’s age or health.

If all decisions are based on simple rules, then you don’t need to train someone up to waste their time doing it – just let a computer do it for you, leaving you more time to go visit more patients.

A few tips to make your business more Environmentally Friendly

There are many things a business can do within their day to day operations to lighten their footprint on the planet. By introducing Eco-Friendly practices you will not only help the planet but your business will also reap the benefits, going Green will help your business bottom line and also your company brand and image.

If you would like your company to be more Green, start off with easily achievable goals and as time goes by you can become more ambitious.

Define your company Green Plan and vision for the future

  • Encourage all staff to get involved in helping to implement your plans because to change a company culture will require a contribution from all team members.
  • Set up short term and long term objectives – Check strategies and measure regularly to see what is working.

A few ideas to help you get started

1 – Print less paper

Don’t print every email, and when you do, use sustainable paper and print on both sides.

2 – Go Digital

  • Require all employees to keep their files in digital form and all documents should be distributed electronically.
  • All Field based workers should send information back to the office using a cloud based workflow management system like FieldMotion which allows field based workers to record data and capture signatures in the field and send it back to the office in real time.
  • Use a cloud based Accountancy package like Xero which allows you invoice electronically rather than post.

 

3 – Introduce a Recycling Program

  • Have paper recycling bins beside photocopiers
  • Recycle Bottles and Cans
  • Set up a compost system for food waste
  • Introduce a recycling program for electronics, many charities will collect these as they benefit from the proceeds.

 

4 – Power down

  • Switch of all computers, monitors and printers at night.
  • Switch of all lights when not in use, fit energy saving light bulbs. Also think about installing intelligent lighting systems. Zone lighting and detection sensors will save on energy especially at night, whole floors do not need to be lit for a few staff.

 

5 – Heating

  • Timed thermostats
  • Heating shouldn’t be more than 19 degrees Celsius which should be warm enough and comfortable for all staff
  • During summer months there should be a balance with the Air conditioning, you don’t want staff wearing coats because it is too cold.
  • Make sure your office is well insulated

 

6 – Bio-degradable cleaning products
7 – Car Sharing

Encourage staff to do more car sharing which will cut down on fuel costs for the business and staff. This will also reduce your carbon footprint. Car sharing will also encourage team building and help productivity.

8 – Motors

  • Use energy efficient motors and keep them well maintained . Don’t keep engines idling.
  • Vehicle tracking like TomTom can help monitor speeding and driver behaviour, also tracking can help a business plan out routes more efficiently to help save money on fuel.

 

8 – Bathroom tissue and paper towels from recycled fibre
9 – Bring your own mugs rather than using paper cups.
10 – Green Business

  •  Use other businesses that are Green or certified Green

 

If you would like your company to become more Green you don\’t have to do everything at once. Take baby steps and eventually things will start to fall into place. The most important thing of all is changing your work culture and involving staff to participate. Educate your staff and yourself on new ways to go Green and the benefits.

Reward employees that suggest environmental improvements that could save the company money as this will encourage employee participation and help your business take steps towards reducing your environmental impact.

If you have any other tips throw them in below.

Good Luck

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!