Collecting and Collating field data – The challenges and how to overcome them
Any company with a remote workforce will have experienced and know the difficulties in managing and understanding the activities around these individual’s roles and responsibilities. No matter whether the information relates to sales, health and safety, risk assessment, accident reporting or delivery statuses, the core issue is how best to bring remotely collected data into core internal systems to provide a comprehensive view of what’s happening within a business, without making this task overly cumbersome or time consuming.
Having worked with a variety of companies who have exactly this requirement we have built up a comprehensive understanding of the demands of managing a remote field force and developed solutions that streamline information collection, integration to internal systems and data analysis.
The problem with paper……
Historically and even currently, companies have used paper based forms to capture information whilst they are on site or in field locations. This can present numerous issues:
- Individuals have to carry a variety of forms and ensure that they are always using the latest version.
- Forms can get lost and then you’re reliant on people’s memories a) to remember to retrospectively complete a new form and b) the information they record.
- How long will it take for this form to arrive at the head office to be of any value? Arguably once it’s been received by anyone who can action it, the moment has past or the opportunity lost; either way it’s difficult to offer any form of timely response.
- Paper forms offer no consistency as to how they are completed, as such reporting and analysis of any data becomes more difficult, especially if you are looking for trends.
- When the data is re-entered into Head Office systems this can often lead to errors and, at the very least, is a duplication of effort, time and manpower.
- Paper forms will need retaining and storing as the original source of the data collected.
All of the above can be hugely time consuming and costly.
So what do you do……
Essentially we’re talking about replacing the clipboard, paper and pen with an electronic form (or series of forms) and a mobile device. Improvements in mobile connectivity through 4G and wider availability of wi-fi networking have allowed mobile devices to become a realistic, sensible and cost-effective option for field based reporting and form completion. By working in a ‘connected’ manner we would look to overcome the above issues by:
- Using one centrally updated and controlled version of a form, synchronised to a device or simply completed online, ensures everyone are using the latest version of any form.
- Forms can be automatically completed with data such as date, time, GPS location, weather and even data from a calendar entry which may include client contact information.
- Data consistency can be provided by drop down lists, check boxes, context sensitive options and still leave space for any free text comments.
- Files and images can be attached to add additional information or clarity, we can even use a built in camera to take a picture linked directly to the form.
- Once completed the form can be immediately sent to Head Office systems and its data integrated to the main system in real-time.
- Forms can be completed by more than one person simultaneously so you get a broader perspective and more in-depth data.
- Where required forms can be escalated through an authorisations process or processed through queues.
So, you can start to access and use consistent and accurate data in a more timely manner without the need to wait for a paper form to be re-entered into Head Office systems. You can set up automated processes for high priority incidents based on the data collected and instantly manage any impact.
Why would I bother……
Well, that’s simple:
- Instant access to more consistent, accurate and comprehensive data
- Greater visibility of field based issues within the business
- Immediate and automatic alerts when issues arise
- Process data quickly, efficiently and effectively
- Ensure quality of data, reporting and analysis
If you need any more convincing, think about the amount of times you’ve been frustrated by no having accurate data at your fingertips and the amount of time and money that could be saved if you had.