Futuristic-sounding tech developments regularly make the news. In comparison, “going paperless” can seem very 1990sBut paper is still used daily in the construction industry, so technological developments that help reduce reliance on it are imperative. 

Projects that are over schedule and over budget are so common in the construction industry that they are practically business as usual. According to a June 2016 report by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, “Large projects across asset classes typically take 20 percent longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80 percent over budget.” A decline in productivity, accompanied by low profits for construction firms, are also noted. The same report suggests technology-related “big ideas” that the construction industry should adopt, among them the use of digital collaboration tools, with the goal of going paperless. 

How does going paperless manage to rank alongside cutting-edge, and sometimes glamorous, tech trends like the Internet of Things and geolocation? The answer is: because paper-based systems are still costing the industry countless millions of dollars each year. Paper has been around for a long time and it is the basis for almost all of the industry’s existing systems, so many construction industry personnel question whether completely changing those systems can result in efficiency gains. But paper-based systems have fatal flaws—and digital solutions can go a long way toward addressing those flaws. 

Completeness 

A line on a form that isn’t filled in…a page missing from a packet…an entire binder, perhaps, that isn’t on the shelf: these scenarios are all too familiar. Often, they’re compounded by other “missing” items: calculations that don’t get performed, unsigned paperwork and photographic evidence that is no longer attached to the documentation it is supposed to support. All of these situations can slow the resolution of claims, change orders, etc. 

Having a preset electronic process and document set—especially one that has been customized by the team to be project- or company-specific—is a good way to overcome the problem of missing or incomplete paperwork. Forms that use conditional, “if-then” logic enable personnel to fill out documents correctly and completely by prompting them for responses that fall within certain parameters. Files created in different applications (such as photo files, signatures or calculation sheets) are easily stored together.  

With paper-based systems, stakeholders often get left out of the loop when documents are circulated. Expenses such as courier services can be involved with moving documents, too. When desktop computer workstations came into common use, cc’ing all team members became easier, but licensing fees often prevented key players from accessing important files. A software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery method, on the other hand, allows all team members to have access to the data, greatly enhancing its completeness. 

 

Timeliness 

Even if paper documents could be completely accurate, their relay does not happen in real time, which creates an inherently slower rate of progress. Traditionally, offices have had to employ layers of administrators and office personnel to organize and store data; those employees then had to turn the data back around in the form of new reports and documents. There’s a reason, after all, that these management layers were called “paper pushers.” All of the efforts at collecting, organizing and repackaging information led to enormous amounts of rework, snowballing errors, and substantial overhead costs. 

By using tablets or mobile phones to access cloud-based documents, these problems are dramatically reduced. Personnel can view and edit all files associated with a project, either from the office or in the field. They can do so even when an internet connection is unavailable. Once a connection has been restored, data syncs via the cloud. 

Electronic updates, which happen instantaneously, also lead to clearer chronological organization of documents. Many software solutions offer date- and time-stamps, workflow and role-based permission settings and protection against alteration by non-authorized users. These controls make it clear what version of a document is most recent and establish a chain of custody that keeps progress on track. The flexibility of SaaS-based documentation also streamlines the schedule: follow-up reports can be quickly and seamlessly attached to preceding ones, for example, eliminating the need to sift through multiple files. 

 

Lifespan 

Customized electronic forms provide cumulative advantages. They are flexible enough to be adapted to each new project, yet there is no need to “reinvent the wheel” each time. This represents savings in both time and money. 

Furthermore, when using paper-based systems, the loss of historical performance data or analytics can mean that lessons learned on one project don’t carry over to the next one. With digital solutions, contracts, forms, calculations, procurement information and more can be carried over from project to project, improving efficiency each time.  

Ultimately, the digitization of information sharing underlies most other gains. When important decisions rest upon paper documentation—which is slow to move from place to place, hard to duplicate, and not always easy to access when and where it’s needed—the entire decision-making process can get bogged down. Using technological tools to eliminate these steps becomes invaluable.  

July 2018 Issue

Article Published in CoatingsPro Magazine July 2018, pg 22-24

Accidents, especially on construction sites, are not uncommon. That is why companies need to be responsible for training employees not only for productivity but for safety, too. And because legally it doesn’t matter whether the accident is the result of employer negligence or employee carelessness, employers are bound by various regulations to establish processes to protect their employees from injury. It’s important to note that even when the employee’s own behavior leads to an accident when on the job site, the employer is still responsible for ensuring workers’ safety.

To protect employees, customers, and themselves, it is imperative for employers to take measures to safeguard their employees from accidents at work. Safeguards can be as simple as putting up signs reminding workers to wash their hands after visiting the restroom, and they can be as complex as multi-step field inspections. The bottom line is that no safety measures will work without a culture of “safety first.”

So the real question is how can companies instill a safety-first culture? And more importantly, how can employers protect both their employees and their mutual livelihoods?

Benefits of a Strong Culture of Safety

A simple but necessary first step in creating a safety culture is to require staff to conduct daily safety meetings. Often, this is required by law, but even when it’s not, holding regular safety meetings will instill an attention to safety and help build your safety culture. The following are benefits of a strong safety culture:

  • Strong Teams: Safety incidents degrade the performance of the team and the job’s progress, which can impact completion bonuses. Further, repeated incidents erode trust in the company from both employees and clients. Consistent safety training can increase team confidence and performance, give employees a voice in the process, and make for a more profitable company.
  •  Marketability. Any workplace that has a great safety culture — and the data to back it up — is more competitive in the marketplace. Not only is it easier to tap the talent pool, but a strong safety record can be a huge marketing advantage when selling to new customers. A safety record backed up by real data is a huge competitive advantage.
  • Profitability. A culture of strong safety leads to less turnover, better customer acquisition and retention, and fewer costs associated with fixing lapses in safety (i.e., accidents). All of these things hit your bottom line — why let them?

Having a strong safety culture is great, but to protect customers, employers, and employees, companies need to take the next step and document and preserve safety actions. Why? Because accidents happen — even when you’ve done everything reasonable to prevent them — and proper documentation can protect you from the inevitable legal review when a job site incident occurs.

Collecting and storing safety documentation can be overwhelming, and using paper may increase your risk of losing critical, legally-protective data. For this reason, you should consider electronic documentation and mobile data collection technologies to support your safety culture.

Mobile data collection has revolutionized safety-related processes, and it may significantly decrease costs and regulatory liabilities, help build a culture of safety, and ultimately save lives.

Mobile Data Field Collection

Mobile technology is part of all our personal and business lives. Mobile devices are readily available, whether they are personal devices or corporate-owned. This means that many of your workers are probably already familiar with this type of data collection. Additionally, it’s easily accessed from remote sites and can often be obtained through lightweight devices, a plus when working with heavy tools. Leveraging new mobile data collection technologies may improve your processes and increase profitability. Therefore, it’s important that you pick the right one.

There are several things to bear in mind when evaluating a mobile data collection solution:

  • Network. If your team is out of range of a mobile network, either WiFi or cellular, your system should be able to still collect data, then seamlessly sync and upload it when you are in range.
  •  Foundation. Mobile data collection solutions can either be web- or app-based. We recommend the app-based approach as that allow will you to continue your work unconnected (i.e., you don’t have to have web access to make it work). This doesn’t mean that the solution shouldn’t have a web portal that you can use to generate reports or analyse results — or even make those reports available to your customers — but it does mean that you need to be able to use the application in the field, just as you would with paper and a clipboard.
  •  Connection. Your mobile app should be flexible enough to map to your current (and evolving) safety meeting work process. Most of this will be standard, but if you need to change something, it should be easy and cost-effective to do so, whether this is done by your vendor or by yourself.
  •  Storage. Once the data is collected, you need to make sure it’s stored appropriately and securely — and that it’s available only to those who should have access. Consider leveraging the cloud for this. Some vendors offer on-site storage, but this can be more expensive to maintain the storage servers and to staff them. However, not everyone is comfortable with the cloud yet, so take that into consideration.
  • Reporting. Your system should be able to generate reports that both your team and your customers can use. These can be custom reports based on your safety processes or standard industry reports, but they need to be available both online and offline. Having this data will also aid in the analysis of your safety procedures and history.
  •  Accessibility. By having the data always available, you will be able to show auditors, customers, prospects, and even employees that you are maintaining safety records appropriately and instituting a culture of safety. If the reports are accessible, sharing pertinent information will be difficult.

Safety and Beyond

Documenting your safety meetings and procedures using a mobile device can be easier and more cost-effective than traditional paper-based forms. You can map the forms, notes, and photos directly onto your smartphone or tablet, then push that data into whichever reporting format your company uses. The data will always be there — no more transcribing back at the

office or, worse, in the hotel room at night. And this may mean fewer mistakes or missed opportunities for you.

The problem with handling paper documentation is that you must keep them safe and secure somewhere, then take on additional costs to prepare, send, or retrieve the information from the job site. Paper-based data is not immediately available to everyone and may not be easily accessible but digital data can be.

Proper and accessible documentation is invaluable when working with auditors, lawyers, or others who need access to your safety data. Building a legal case and protecting your company can be much less painful with good data. Through mobile collection and presentation of required documentation, you can immediately demonstrate that diligent, standard processes were maintained in making the workplace safer for everyone.

Accidents can happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. We can’t prevent all job site incidents, but you can take proactive measures to mitigate risks. Creating proper safety procedure is only the first step; you also need to focus on developing a safety culture through regular safety meetings — and then document them for analysis, improvement, and legal protection. A culture of safety may reduce risk, save lives, and ultimately minimize organizational liability. And using mobile data collection technology may make the process much more efficient and cost-effective for you to do so.

 

Article Published in CoatingsPro Magazine July 2018, pg 22-24

Over the last few months, we’ve covered topics ranging from selecting a mobile data collection vendor to managing your fleet of devices. One of the major challenges with implementing a mobile data collection solution is overcoming your staff’s resistance to change.

3 Responses to Change

Imagine that you’ve selected a mobile data collection vendor, you’ve figured out the devices, you’ve had staff involved with the selection process, and now it’s time to implement the solution and train everyone. As training is conducted you find that people have aligned themselves with one of three groups. You have the early adopters who embrace the new technology and are excited about the change. Then you have the people who are concerned with the change but go along with the flow. Finally, you have the technology laggards who express frustration over the new changes and how it will make their job much more difficult. Even after you explain that things will be better with the new technology, this voice is louder than the rest and staff cynicism sets in. The success of the solution is at risk, and you feel defeated.

This scenario arises all too frequently with these types of projects. It is why it’s important to consider change management early in the process. Moving to mobile data collection is a cultural shift that not every organization is ready for, but if you incorporate change management early in the planning process you can overcome the potential backlash from employees that are not ready for any change and ensure project success.

How to Successfully Implement Change

Competitive pressures, market changes, regulatory requirements, and other external forces are pushing companies to embrace organizational change in order to remain profitable. Organizations that are successful in implementing change take a calm, measured approach to change, and embrace employee involvement early in the process. Using this approach, you help your staff acquire new skills, innovation is embraced, and your company’s profit margins will grow with the positive influence of change. Moving to mobile data collection is not a trivial undertaking and should be managed like any other project you’ve taken on.

Managing the Cultural Change

We’ve discussed best practices for mobile data collection and the steps to success. Building the strategy and tactical plan is a good start, but you need to be able to manage the cultural change and clearly articulate why you are moving to mobile data collection in a clear, concise manner to all stakeholders. From management to staff, everyone needs to know their role and understand the impact to their role/job function. You don’t need agreement, but you do need alignment on why you are making this change. In the end, everyone should understand the drivers for the project and the expected outcomes. These could include empowering staff with modern tools to make their job easier in the field, reducing office overhead, increasing the visibility of fieldwork, and getting reports completed.

Engage Them Early In The Project

Once you have staff aligned with your plans, engage them early in the project and provide them an opportunity to contribute throughout the process. This will allow the team to give feedback before the solution is finalized, thereby minimizing the employee backlash that occurs when the training session is the first exposure to the solution. No matter how hard you try, you can expect that there will always be someone that will be resistant to change. However, the more people you get on board with the new process, the easier it will be to overcome the objection of these laggards and end up with a successful solution that everyone buys into.

Manage And Incorporate Feedback

Finally, as you deploy your new mobile data collection project, you will need to find a way to manage and incorporate the feedback your team provides on the solution. As you start seeing the benefits of mobile technology, you might want to jump in and start changing things right away based on that feedback. Take the time to let the first wave of feedback, feature requests, and bugs to settle, then start managing and prioritizing these change requests. Review the requests with a group of staff members to ensure that you are not introducing a change that could negatively impact all staff just to satisfy one person’s request.

Change management can be a challenge for any organization, more so if not handled properly. Remember to plan early, include key stakeholders, gain alignment with your plan, and collect feedback throughout the project planning process, and roll out the solution carefully. Most of all communicate, communicate, communicate! It’s much easier to put the effort in early to ensure that change is accepted with less resistance and that your project will ultimately be a success!

I’d love to hear more about your projects and the challenges you’ve faced with change management and going to mobile. Please feel free to contact me anytime if you have any feedback or questions about how we can help with your change management challenges.

BYOD Bring your own device (BYOD) policies have been growing in popularity over the years and they continue to be questioned as the right strategy for organizations as they look to successfully mobilize staff. Debates over corporate data security continually pressure company’s IT and management to seriously consider the best approach for mobile data collection and analysis. As we look at best practices for a successful BYOD strategy please keep in mind that BYOD may not be for every company, but it can be the best for yours.

As we learn more about why BYOD has become more popular we need to understand the trends that fuel adoption. Mobile computing has evolved rapidly as device manufacturers increased their focus on mobilization and introduced more powerful smartphones that have empowered consumers to do more with less. Desktop PCs gave way to laptops and now notebooks and tablets have rapidly grown in popularity. Smartphones have become the norm for almost everyone and larger phones or “phablets” are more popular than ever. Consumers, and most importantly employees, can do more with less as they have become accustomed to their preferred device in helping them become significantly more productive.

Mobile workers today rely on mobile technologies to keep them connected with a sense of empowerment to use the tools they need to help them be successful. Personal preference and user experience are key to fueling increased productivity and more transparency from the field. This all brings us back to how businesses can leverage this trend to help minimize overhead while fueling profitability.

Buy vs Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Since device security and BYOD have become pervasive, the decision to buy versus BYOD has become dependent on organizational preference and/or regulatory constraints. Buying versus BYOD also has implications in regard to cost, support, security, and employee adoption.

With BYOD, acquisition cost and employee adoption decrease, but support can be an issue for your IT staff. Having to staff in order to support BYOD with a myriad of different manufacturers, models, operating systems, etc. increases costs in other areas. The good news is that many of the smart device manufacturers have improved stability, so the struggles to support devices have decreased significantly over the last few years.

If you are leaning towards purchasing devices for staff, then your acquisition costs can be high, employee adoption can be slow, and support costs may be lowered because of standardization. You also need to consider the use case for the device and make the right buy decision considering environment, reliability, and usability. Have your staff (the users) involved in the buying decision so that you minimize the friction of user acceptance. You don’t have to buy the best, but for harsh conditions or excessive use, do not go cheap with your investment.

BYOD and Security

No matter if you buy or adopt, BYOD security is another consideration. Security tools for mobile devices have matured to the point that there are virtually no stories from the press that a data breach was caused by someone’s tablet or smartphone. Mobile device management (MDM) tools have given the organization the ability to maintain oversight on application security for both personal and business-owned devices. You can install and manage remotely so that IT can maintain oversight and your staff. If a staff member loses a device or it’s stolen you can remotely wipe the data ensure that your company assets are protected.

Developing a Corporate Mobile Policy

Finally, for either case of buying or BYOD, you need to develop a corporate mobile device user policy for both company-owned and BYOD device preferences. Specific guidelines around device, corporate data use and security should be clearly defined, and staff should be educated. You should also have employees acknowledge acceptance and sign off on the policy document. No matter what you decide for your mobile device strategy, always consider the end goal and how your field staff will use devices to complete their work. In today’s mobile connected world, user experience should be the key focus for success.

At Kordata, we’ve worked with a significant number of organizations that have both company-owned and BYOD devices. I would be more than happy to share with you our experiences with each approach. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you’d like to learn more.

Erin.hutchison@kordata.com Mobile (208) 854-7988

When considering the move to Mobile Data Collection finding the right solution to address your specific needs can be a challenge. The good news is that there are many techniques you can use to make this effortless challenging. I’ve found that the best way to approach identifying the right solution is to have a clear set of requirements based on the specific problem you are trying to solve documented.

Start by Framing the Problem

To accomplish this effort, you should start with framing the problem you need to solve first. This should include feedback from everyone that is impacted by the problem. A good way to start is with a simple problem statement. For example, a problem statement could be as simple as “We are losing clients because of consistent inaccuracies and delays from our field reporting activities.” After you clearly frame the problem, the next step is to identify a list of key requirements. An example of a requirement could look like “the solution should be easy for the field tech to enter data on a mobile device without having to reference external xyz lookup tables.” The benefit of this capability is that the field tech can reduce delays and inaccuracies by having the lookup table integrated as a drop down on the mobile form that they can easily select a predefined option.

As you build out your problem statement and the requirements for your mobile data collection needs, you should consider 4 key areas including 1) the roles and responsibilities of all involved, 2) the data elements to be captured in the field, 3) the workflow – from field to office and office to field, and finally 4) how will the data be used? presented and/or reported?

Identify Roles & Responsibilities

When identifying and defining the roles and responsibilities, these could include field staff, office users, managers and clients that directly interact with the field data. You may need to have different levels of authorization for staff to edit and others only the ability to view and report on the data. You may also have to accommodate for managers that should only have visibility of specific team members or clients that may want to review reports only for their projects.

Define Data You Want to Collect in the Field

The second area to consider is the type of data you want to collect in the field. Many organizations don’t take into account that going to mobile data collection can significantly reduce the amount of data a field worker has to collect. Customer names, addresses, product lists, work descriptions can all be structured as pre-defined dropdowns or auto-populated in the reporting process. Also overcoming paper-based limitations, you can expand your capabilities by adding additional data elements such as photo capture, signatures, barcodes, etc.

Outline Your Workflow

The third area to consider is the workflow. This is a very important aspect as it could impact the user experience and approval processes. For example, you may have reports that need to be edited and submitted for approval before client delivery or access. Should your field staff be able to collect and edit inspections in a draft mode and then submit for approval once ready? Should the report be automatically routed to a manager in the office with the report is ready? Who else needs to sign off on the report before submitting to the client? Does there need to be a chain of custody workflow? And are their regulations that need to be followed to ensure that the documents follow the correct guidelines? Many things to consider to ensure that the mobile data collection solution meets with your processes.

Consider Your Reporting Needs

The final area to consider when selecting a solution is your reporting needs. Are there multiple different ways that your organization and your clients need to visualize the data? Considerations like special branded reports, regulated reports that require specific formatting, excel reports, or direct integration into your back-end systems. You need to clearly define your reporting requirements to ensure that your mobile data collection solution can meet your specific needs.

All of this work seems daunting, but the process is actually much easier than you think. It will result in a blueprint that you can use to communicate your requirements to your IT staff or solution vendor to find the best solution to meet your needs. Mobile data collection is not a catch-all that can solve every problem, but if you’re struggling with delays and inaccuracies with the collection of field data, then it might be the best solution for your organization. It all comes down to the problem you are trying to solve.

Companies in all industries are responsible for training employees to perform their jobs safely and productively. If and when accidents happen on the job, is your company liable? One of the best ways to minimize risk and liability from job site accidents is to create a culture of safety in the workplace where employees take responsibility for reducing incidents and ensuring job site safety. One simple step in creating that culture is to require that staff conduct daily safety meetings that cover relevant safety topics related to the job at hand and in documenting safety meetings as they occur.

Not only are safety meetings important for general business liability, but they are a requirement for OSHA compliance. Just holding safety meetings is not enough. Are you making sure that your safety meetings are well documented and can be accessed quickly upon request?

Seeing is Believing – Documentation is Key

Statements to the OSHA Compliance Officer like – “We hold daily tailgate meetings at each worksite” or “Our Supervisors train all the employees under their control how to do the job safely” tend to fall on deaf ears – unless you can prove the training was done with written documentation.

For OSHA seeing is believing. They want to see proof of training that includes:

· Date of the meeting

· Topics discussed

· Roll call lists with names of all attendees including signatures to prove attendance?

How Important is Safety Training Documentation? Employee Safety Training Records are among the first records that the inspector wants to see when an OSHA compliance audit is performed at your organization. Usually, the request for records occurs during the initial meeting – when the inspector must communicate the purpose of the audit. The audit meeting is mandated by OSHA regulations and it must occur before an inspection of a facility begins.

When the request for audit documentation comes from the inspector, it’s imperative that you comply. Many organizations are not prepared and thus fines start adding up. If you have implemented a system where you can easily access the history of Employee Safety Training Records, it must include all pertinent data to validate compliance.

For many organizations, the process of preparing for an audit consists of accessing a paper file folder and hoping that all paperwork is complete and up to date. We all know that hope is not a strategy when it comes to protecting your business assets and liability. Employees must understand the importance especially when not all organizations have safety managers or compliance officers that enforce the discipline of proper documentation. Because many organizations have paper-based processes, aggregating the data for summary reports can be a significant manual effort.

Electronic data collection is becoming the norm and if you haven’t considered an electronic records collection and reporting system, your organization and most importantly your employees are at risk.

Kordata’s Safety Meeting Module Configured for Your Workflow

Kordata’s Safety Meeting Module was designed to make documenting safety meetings simple and easy using your tablet or phone in online or offline modes and will automatically sync the safety data to a central document and reporting system. Our Safety Meeting Module can be customized to your specific workflow including all pertinent data. Kordata’s Safety Meeting Module supports all types of data while enforcing compliance with the help odrop-downwn menus, GPS coordinates and Google Map integration, documentation of weather conditions, location of meeting (Tailgate meeting, Ad Hoc, Facility and more), topics of discussion, and names and signatures of staff in attendance.

Collecting safety meeting data with Kordata is easy and ensures that the documentation of safety meetings is complete by enforcing compliance with required fields preventing staff from saving until all data is entered properly. Mobile data collection also increases ROI by reducing redundant data entry. Accidents do happen and if and when they do occur, proper documentation could potentially save you thousands of dollars in fines and most importantly preventing future accidents.

Finally, and most importantly creating a culture of safety as a priority will not only save your company money but will reduce risk to employee safety.

For more information about Kordata can help you with your safety programs, watch the short demo of Kordata’s Safety Meeting Module above and sign up for our Protective Coatings Free Trial, which contains the Safety Meeting Module

For a list free Toolbox Talks for safety meetings that you can use or model in your company OSHA Training.com is a great place to start. Check out the Toolbox Talks

Developing a Mobile Strategy

 

When considering a mobile strategy for your organization, your team needs to be concerned about security to ensure that your business-critical data is not exposed or stolen by employees or hackers. You need to think about security at two levels: the hardware level (the mobile device itself), and the application level (the software that runs on the device).

Security at the Hardware Level

At the hardware level, most mobile device manufacturers provide multiple levels of built-in security. For example, fingerprint and facial recognition security measures are becoming more common, which help to ensure that access to the device is limited to the unique user. Additionally, most devices automatically encrypt data stored on them with 256-bit AES encryption when they are. A recent article claimed a brute force attack utilizing over fifty supercomputers that could check a billion, billion (1018) AES keys per second would require about 3 × 1051 years to exhaust the 256-bit keyspace to expose data. Considering this, it would be a herculean effort for an attacker to expose data on a locked and encrypted device.

Security of  Mobile Applications

Mobile applications can be vulnerable, but reputable business application vendors are also aware of the threats and incorporate additional levels of security to prevent data breaches on mobile devices. For example, access to critical applications is typically secured using minimum password requirements and other methods such as Two-Factor (2FA) or Multi-Factor authentication (MFA). Data transmitted to and from servers is encrypted using 256-bit AES transport layer security (i.e. HTTPS). Some vendors will also provide their own layer of encryption for application data so that, even if the hardware level encryption were to be breached, application data would be protected. For the most part, mobile data security is pretty solid and there have been no recent reports of data breaches from smartphone users using a business-based application.

Mobile Security Education for Users

At a recent roundtable discussion, a federal cybersecurity agent explained that the biggest threat to a data breach or access to confidential information on a mobile device is the user. You can lock down your data with the best security in the world and use mobile device management (MDM) tools to prevent users from installing unauthorized apps, but you can’t stop a user from human error. Users that are not educated on security can inadvertently expose data by not using passwords, 2FA/MFA security, writing their password down in an unprotected space, or unlocking their device and letting someone else use it. They can even expose information by using non-business-related apps.

Can apps access other apps’ data?

Apps may not be able to directly access other apps’ data, but they can expose information about the user’s behavior that could be used for other clandestine purposes. This can be best illustrated by the recent report in late January from the US military regarding the use of a health app or health tracking bracelets. Military personnel that were using these apps and devices to track their running progress were exposing GPS data that mapped their running routes. Although this data seemed harmless, it was later made publicly available on the web and revealed several hidden military locations and movement patterns of personnel. Fortunately, this was addressed quickly, and staff were educated on the risks of non-secure mobile applications and devices, and new policies were put in place to reduce future threats.

Keep your Company Safe

Understanding security is an important issue to consider when moving to mobile data collection. You need to ensure that you are working with your vendor to understand their security architecture, threat detection, data breach, and security enforcement. Most importantly you need to formalize processes and training for your users to ensure that they fully understand the threats, risks and best practices to ensure that they don’t inadvertently put your company or staff at risk.

Mobile data collection has become more pervasive over the last few years which means that if you haven’t considered it for your business yet, you are most likely behind. Mobile data collection is not for every company, but for those that are currently collecting critical information in the field on paper, mobile is imperative for many reasons. These include visualizing data quickly, eliminating errors and delays from manual data entry, and empowering your field staff with the tools they need to get their job done accurately. To shift to a mobile-oriented data collection solution you must first identify your goals. These goals will help you maintain focus and will be a yardstick by which you measure your progress.

GOALS:

For instance, a goal for mobile data collection may be to reduce the time it takes to get data from the field so that you can eliminate manual data entry and replication of work, and thereby significantly reduce delays with reporting. Delays may result in lost revenue, fines, or, in the worst case, injury from a potential job hazard. When considering going to mobile, setting goals is important, but quantifying the return on your investment and implementing the correct capabilities will ensure that you are truly benefiting from the transition to mobile data collection.

DECISIONS TO CONSIDER:

When deciding on mobile capabilities, it’s also important to take in to account the culture of your field teams and how they will react to a new or different method of data collection. Consider solutions that will address your current processes and address the needs of the end user to ensure that they can and will embrace the change. Resistance to change typically comes from lack of experience with something new or the fear that technology will diminish the value the employee brings to the company. If you involve the end user early in the process, they will assume the role of ownership, but most importantly they will provide valuable feedback which will reduce resistance to adoption in later stages of deployment.

SHORT TERM & LONG TERM NEEDS

Finally, always consider that the change to mobile data collection is both a short and long-term investment. Finding a solution to address your immediate needs may be good, but you need to be prepared to answer many questions and fully understand your company culture and risk tolerance.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER?:

· Do I build a solution in-house or find a solutions provider?

· Does the solution provider I choose have a proven record of success with customers like me?

· Can the mobile solution scale to meet my needs for the short term and as my business grows?

· Can it address other data collection needs outside of the immediate need?

Mobile data collection may sound good to solve the problems with getting and reporting field data quickly, but there are many challenges to consider both with technology and culture. If you are considering going to mobile data collection, first invest in the time to analyze both the benefits and risks.