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.

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