Thursday, December 27, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Companies that can be run by a mobile owner/manager. The mobile owner/manager is able to enter work orders and job assignments on his handheld computer, dispatch the job to his team and keep working in the field. All the work is electronically documented on handhelds and synchronized back to his office accounting and work order software without human intervention.
These capabilities offer very compelling competitive advantages. You have full business visibility on the handheld. You don't have the high admin cost for the office. You can run very small operations very efficiently and with built in quality assurance.
For more information please visit MobileDataforce's website.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
This article describes the value that mobile software applications on handheld PDAs can provide businesses:
- Eliminate time spent in the re-typing data collected in the field.
- Reduce time spent on the phone dispatching service tickets , rather dispatch direct from your office computer to the mobile handheld computer in the field.
- Send driving directions in the mobile work order to save driving time and fuel costs.
- Save driving time by wirelessly synchronizing work orders with the office.
- Reduce fuel costs by minimizing the need to drive back and forth to the office to deliver paper work.
- Provide better customer service by accessing their account information via wireless connectivity on your handheld computer.
- Improve the efficiency of field data collection by using barcode scanners or RFID readers for rapid asset tracking.
- Improve the quality of work by providing real-time management visibility to work being done in the field.
- Create and schedule service tickets direct from the field. Reduces the need for an administrative intermediary.
- Immediate invoicing for faster collections and cash management by synchronizing with the office accounting system or by using a mobile printer and credit card swipe machine on the handheld computer.
- Proof of work – GPS audit trail of work with date and time stamp documents location and time of work. Reduces invoicing disputes.
- Reduce introductions of human errors with automated business processes and systems integration. Move electronic data from the field to your database applications without human intervention.
- Ensure complete data is sent from the field – incomplete data wastes time tracking down later.
- Avoid handwriting and translation errors by pre-populating electronic form information.
- Validate answers on mobile handheld PDA forms – to ensure data accuracy.
- Take digital images to document work and avoid invoicing disputes
Push data to the handheld and avoid time communicating information on the phone.
- GPS tracking for reduced travel time and lower fuel consumption.
- Compute and analyze data on the handheld in the field – programmed analytics can help field users make quicker and better decisions.
- Automated business processes - your mobile application can be configured to perform all kinds of automated business functions, queries, computations, analytics and many more time consuming features automatically based on data input or buttons pushed.
- Enforce business processes for efficiency and best practices - mobile software solutions can be configured to ensure the field user follows the appropriate business processes.
- Avoid lost data —capture data immediately and sync to headquarters.
- Avoid undocumented inventory usage and unbilled time due to forgetfulness. Enforce real time data entry at point of work.
- Require clock in and clock out at jobsites to document the accuracy of work/time estimates.
- Train new service technicians and inspectors with audio memos or video clips.
- Capture digital signature for proof-of-delivery and proof of work on handheld computers.
- Query for available inventory in nearby work vans to save travel time, inventory and fuel cost.
- Use product and services information on handheld computers to up-sell.
- Query latest shipping status and/or inventory levels via handheld computer while onsite with customer.
- Document work and inspections time and dates to limit liability and disputes
Use mobile technologies as a competitive advantage and show instant visibility to work.
- Demonstrate to potential customers the advantages of including GPS, time and date stamps, digital images, audio memos and more to document work and synchronize with the office using your handheld computer.
- Download product warranty information to the handheld computer for review at point of work.
- Using rugged handhelds are often easier to carry around at job sites and are more durable than using laptops—lower ownership costs.
- Mobile handheld computers with barcode scanners capture data quicker than typing on a laptop.
- Combine your phone, GPS device, laptop, digital camera, paper forms and barcode scanner all on one mobile handheld device to save money, weight and support costs.
- Combine job estimates, inspections, work orders, mobile inventory, time sheets all on one mobile application and one synchronization platform to mobilize and automate the entire business.
- Scale your business by lowering administrative costs and the administrative work required to run the business.
- Improve profits by analyzing real-time data collection on handhelds to understand the amount of time each task takes—so better scheduling and estimates can be implemented.
- Push data to the handheld and avoid time communicating information on the phone.
Monday, December 03, 2007
- Work Orders software
- Inspection Software
- Breakdown repairs and preventative maintenance on all biomedical equipment
- Safety and performance testing of all biomedical equipment
- Loan equipment to minimise inconvenience
- Acceptance testing of all new biomedical equipment
- Training and education on equipment operation and maintenance
Our mobile application will integrate with their pre-existing CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) to provide mobile handheld PDA applications for their service technicians.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Boise, Idaho— November 29, 2007 – MobileDataforce® a leading provider of business critical mobile software applications for use on handheld PDAs, today announced the release of the PointSync Mobility Platform, Professional version 2.0. This release represents a major upgrade to the company’s award-winning rapid application development solution.
“PointSync Mobility Platform, Professional version 2.0 contains over 29 new features to help make mobile application enablement faster and less expensive,” said Tim Cerami, Director of Product Management at MobileDataforce. “We worked closely with our technology partners, customers and channel partners to better understand their need to develop custom mobile software applications faster and with more tools to help develop larger and more complex enterprise mobile solutions. The results can be found in today’s release.”
New Version Includes:
- Support for larger data requirements on data intensive mobile applications
- Support for server to server synchronization which enables complex mobile architectures and high volume data movement
- New mobile application design features to speed up development (Control Picker, Tab Controls, Expanded Toolbars, Dynamic Show/Hide Controls, etc)
- Ease of use features for mobile applications running on Windows Mobile phones
- GPS Device Settings – enhanced GPS integration features for mobile applications
About PointSync Mobility Platform
The PointSync Mobility Platform is an enterprise class development platform used to rapidly design, develop, deploy and support mobile business applications running on mobile handheld PDAs and barcode scanners. It is architected to provide database centric mobile applications with bi-directional synchronization, connectivity, security and enterprise database integration all within one platform.
MobileDataforce is a global leader in the development of enterprise class mobile software development platforms and mobile business applications for use on handheld computers, PDA phones, Tablet PCs and laptops. MobileDataforce is a fast growing company with offices in Europe, North America and in Australia to support their expanding customer base and sales channels. Privately held, MobileDataforce has been mobilizing business processes since 2000. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.mobiledataforce.com/news/www.mobiledataforce.com.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I often get asked what markets we focus on with our mobile software applications for handheld PDAs. My first reaction is to say only the markets that have money, but that is not true...we are particular...we prefer certain currencies such as the Euros now days! The real answer is that inspection services is a very big market for us.
In the inspections services market nearly every customer has unique data collection requirements. They can not simply go to Office Depot and find a handheld PDA software application that meets their unique inspection service needs. What is required is the ability to cost effectively customize a mobile inspection solution in a relatively short period of time. We developed the PointSync Mobility Platform for that purpose.
Most inspections follow a common process. From a high level software technology perspective an inspection looks like this:
- Create and upload an electronic inspection form to a handheld computer
- Capture data
- Synchronize data and integrate data with the office database application
When you drill down a bit deeper it looks like:
- Development tools for creating electronic inspection forms quickly
- Add pick lists and drop down menus of items to inspect (to speed up inspections)
- Add the measuring scale for inspections (i.e. excellent/good/fair/poor)
- Add data validation to ensure quality data is capture
- Add business rules to the handheld inspection form (i.e. the answer is invalid if it says the VW can carry 76 passengers)
- Configure connectivity preferences (i.e. wireless, wifi, cable, satellite, etc.)
- Configure the synchronization process
- Configure the security settings
- Configure integration of data with the designated database
- Manage application updates and versions
- Manage mobile users
- Manage a large variety of unique mobile applications
- Manage mobile handheld PDAs
Two of the key words above are "Configure" and "Manage". You don't want to be required to program or code these items. It takes far too long and is far too expensive. You need a rapid application development tool for mobile inspections. You want to be able to design, develop and deploy new custom inspections quickly and cost effectively.
Some of our biggest mobile inspection customers are electrical utilities, food processing companies, electrical contractors, government agencies, construction engineering firms, etc. The common theme is a huge amount of data needs to flow easily and cost effectively between the field and the office over handheld computers, laptops or Tablet PCs.
If you would like to brainstorm about how to mobilize your inspection processes please contact us.
Noted Speaker, Sales Leader and Visionary Business Executive Joins MobileDataforce as VP of Sales...learn more
We are growing very fast here at MobileDataforce and we are attracting some very good industry talent to our management team. Mike Freeman, former VP of Enterprise Sales at Palm Inc, will bring a huge amount of talent and expertise to our team.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I again saw this phenomena in play when a large customer would not pay their bill until I properly registered as a vendor, got approved as a vendor, and filled out a series of forms before they would even consider paying me. Again, it was the completed and submitted data that released the funds, not the work.
The importance of getting accurate, complete and timely data from the point-of-work to the bill paying department of your customer is crucial to your success. Many small companies don't recognize this upfront. They assume doing a good job in the field will equate to good collections and a good bank account. Wouldn't that be nice.
Reality is that many small companies fumble around with these processes trying to keep stacks of loose forms and paper that are floating around in the cab of their delivery or service truck organized long enough to carry them into the office and pile them on the admin's desk. The admin looks at the stack of dusty and mud stained forms with blazing eyes that leave you watching your back.
The good news is that mobile handheld PDAs and smartphones with good mobile software applications can now be cost effectively integrated directly with your accounting and work order management systems.
The purpose of these mobile software applications is to ensure that accurate and complete data, that documents the work you have performed, gets into the hands of your paying customers as soon as possible, with as little administrative work and expense as possible. We call that "mobile business process optimization." If you would like to learn more about optimizing your field services using mobile handheld devices and mobile software applications please contact us or visit our website.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The following items can be identified by simply scanning the barcode on the dashboard or on the door frame of a car: year, make, model, body type, bed length, doors, # of cylinders, engine formation, engine size, fuel delivery method, fuel type, gross vehicle weight, build plant, restraint system, transmission gears, transmission type, wheelbase, antilock brakes (y/n), stability control (y/n), traction control (y/n), trim level, curb weight, EPA city mileage with auto, EPA city mileage with manual, EPA highway mileage with auto, EPA highway mileage with manual, ground clearance, height, length, width and color options.
All of this information can be automatically imported into a vehicle inspection or a work order uniquely associated with the automobile. For more details please visit our website.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Nick Martin, a Boise State University graduate and technical support guru, arrived at his office to an unpleasant surprise this morning. His desk was fully decorated in his rival's colors. I am sure revenge and conspiracy course through the halls.
How does this relate to mobile handheld computers? I took this picture with my Palm Treo 750 PDA phone running on Windows Mobile 6.0. I synced the image back to my desktop where I am writing this blog. Using the software solution PointSync Mobility Platform I can do the exact same thing with any business application - work orders, inspections, asset tracking, proof-of-delivery and more. The world is now ready for mobilized business applications of all kinds. If you would like to discuss your thoughts on mobilizing business applications please contact us.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Boise, Idaho— November 15, 2007 – MobileDataforce® a leading provider of business critical mobile software applications today announced a new mobile software solution called FieldSync Automotive which was designed and developed using the popular PointSync Mobility Platform for mobile handheld PDAs. This application is specifically designed for companies involved in the mobile automotive services market such as Paintless Dent Repair, Smart repair, windshield repair, bumper repair and other mobile services that require automotive inspections, work orders, VIN scanning and decoding, mobile invoices and reports.
“We are excited about offering a new category of mobile business software solutions,” says Kevin Benedict, CEO MobileDataforce. “FieldSync Automotive is the first in a series of mobile business solutions that we will be releasing on the PointSync Mobility Platform to run on Windows Mobile devices.”
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
For more information click here. Here are some statements from their website:
Flexibility: MobileDemand's Rugged Tablet PC's are created to be as flexible as your workforce needs - regardless of the industry you are in.
Total Cost of Ownership: For markets such as Direct Store Delivery (DSD), Field Service, Transportation and Logistics, Healthcare, and Manufacturing and Distribution the right choice is a mobile computer..
Durable, Rugged Tablet PC: Nowhere is a failure more recognizable to the customer. It is critical that your field personnel are equipped with the best mobile solution.
Superior Customer Service From MobileDemand: MobileDemand's goal is to provide the best total experience before, during, and most importantly after the sale.
Customer Focused Engineering: MobileDemand takes pride in listening to our customers and using their input in the product design of our products and accessories.
MobileDataforce often works with both rugged handheld computers and rugged Tablet PCs. The majority of our customers have projects that involve data collection out-of-doors in wet, muddy and dusty environments so durability is an important component.
Here is a scenario - The Business Manager walks down the long row of cubicles to the IT manager's desk and says, "I need a field service work order management system on rugged PDA phones for my service technicians."
The IT manager closes down his My Space page and slowly turns and faces the Business Manager. "We have a custom Work Order Dispatch application written by your cousin Pete. There are no mobile applications that plug into it off-the-shelf."
"Just develop it then."
"How? Do you have a large budget and 12 months?"
This is the question that comes up in companies across the globe. The big unknown is how do you cost effectively create mobile applications. The answer is you need a RAD tool (rapid application development tool) that is designed for mobile applications. The following link covers this subject in more detail.
The PointSync Mobility Platform is the RAD tool created by MobileDataforce to address this need.
Friday, November 02, 2007
In the last month I have spoken to several of our customers about their motivations for mobilizing their business processes for use on handheld PDAs. I was very intrigued that several of them identified their primary motivation was closing new business.
At MobileDataforce we are very focused on helping our customers identify the cost savings that can be achieved by mobilizing business processes on handhelds like:
- Work Order Dispatch
- Asset Tracking
- Delivery services
- Clinical trials data collection
However, sometimes this can blind us to the fact that the primary motivations of some of our customers are to close new business by mobilizing, rather than achieving cost savings by mobilizing.
Two of the custom mobile software projects my teams are working on today were initiated because our customers wanted to achieve a competitive advantage in their business. They were not motivated primarily by cost savings due to business process efficiencies. They wanted to show their sales prospects a better way of conducting business using handheld computers, mobile software applications and wireless synchronization with their office database applications. In both cases it worked. Their end user customers chose them over competing companies that were still using inefficient paper, clipboards and fax machines.
I wrote an article called the 28 Reasons to Mobilize which can be downloaded here, but in this article I failed to list as a motivation - closing new business. Yes mobilizing your business prcesses to run on handheld PDAs can save money through efficiencies, but it can also add top line revenue to your business.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I was in Paris last week for the unveiling of Psion Teklogix's new rugged handheld PDA phone/scanner/gps data collector called the Ikon (sorry Psion I don't know how to make your special font characters). It is one of the few rugged phones with built in industrial strength scanners and batteries for real world working environments like the ones MobileDataforce works in on a daily basis.
Here is the text from Psion Teklogix's press release:
25 October 2007
Paris, France Signifying the dawn of a new era in the PDA marketplace, Psion Teklogix (LSE: PON), a global provider of solutions for mobile computing, wireless data collection, imaging and RFID, announced its return to the market it pioneered over 20 years ago, launching today its newest product, the rugged PDA – iKôn. A sleek, compact and powerful design with robust built-in functionality, iKôn is an ideal mobile computing device, delivering increased productivity and efficiency by enabling advanced mobile applications across the enterprise. "We’re extremely proud to be launching iKôn today, a day when we’re also celebrating our 40th year of existence in a very exciting marketplace," said Psion Teklogix CEO Jacky Lecuivre. "iKôn is the most advanced handheld computer our company has ever brought to market. It is a very synergistic addition to our portfolio as it enables us to truly address the needs of mobile workers, helping them do their jobs with the best possible mobile computing support." He added, "With the launch of this new rugged PDA, the company continues to evolve in the best Psion tradition. We are universally acknowledged with having created the PDA, with the introduction of the original Psion Organiser in 1984, and today we’re proving how our past is indeed the way to our future." Customers and partners worldwide were solicited for input and feedback on the types of capabilities they expect in a rugged PDA. "We listened to our customers, to the point where they became an integral part of the design and features definition process. Consequently, initial market reaction to our prototypes has been immensely positive and we are extremely optimistic about the prospects for iKôn," said Lecuivre. iKôn packs incredible functionality into a compact form factor with class-leading ergonomics, aesthetics, and ease of use. Whether reading barcodes with the integrated imager or scanner, or using the camera to take a colour picture, iKôn is a category-leading data capture device ideal for mobile workers in dynamic applications. With a choice of three operating systems, including Microsoft Windows CE 5.0, Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 Classic and Professional, iKôn offers customers an industry standard, yet leading edge platform for their applications. The capability of iKôn to fully integrate voice and data communication options onto a single device eliminates the need for multiple devices - effectively reducing capital expenditures as well as support costs. iKôn delivers true anytime, anywhere, wireless voice and data communications, GPS positioning, with simultaneous WiFi, Cellular (GSM/GPRS/UMTS) and Bluetooth connectivity options. These features enable real-time information management, improved efficiencies and increased asset visibility across a customer’s operations. With a full VGA display, iKôn is more suitable for complex applications with sophisticated graphics than many competing devices with one-quarter VGA displays. Finally, the highest battery capacity of the market ensures full-day productivity for mobile workers. International consulting firm Capgemini is already seeing the benefits of iKôn as the company is planning to work with its client, Hydro One Networks, in Ontario, Canada, to pilot the new device on a large Smart Meter project. Hydro One Networks owns and operates one of the ten largest electricity transmission and distribution systems in North America. iKôn will be used by Hydro One installers, alongside other Psion Teklogix rugged PDAs already being used, to support the smart meter installations – part of the provincial government initiative to have electricity distribution companies install smart meters in all homes and small business by 2010. "We’re excited to be among the early adaptors of this great new device. With its rugged design and multi-mode capabilities, iKôn will help in our efforts to create a culture of energy conservation across the province of Ontario," said Gord Reynolds, the Capgemini Program Manager of Field Services for the Smart Meter Project at Hydro One. Capgemini, one of the world's foremost providers of Consulting, Technology and Outsourcing services, enables its clients to transform and perform through technologies. iKôn will be available to customers through Psion Teklogix' global sales offices and value-added resellers in December 2007.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Most service or work order documents are divided into common sections:
- Date, Service Technician name, service ticket number
- Customer Name, address, phone number
- Reason for Today's Call
- Work Performed and description
- Identify equipment that was serviced
- Cost of work performed
- Cost of parts used
- Status of Work (complete, incomplete, outstanding)
- Payment information
- Customer and Service Technician signatures
We use the ability to pre-load the mobile work order application with all the dispatched customer information from the office. Most of the data the service technician enters into the mobile application can be done using:
- Check boxes
- Pick lists
- Radio buttons
- Pull down menus with multiple choice
- Digital signature capture
- Pre-determined labor rates
- Pre-determined parts' pricing
We are able to automatically compute the cost of labor and parts and you can even swipe a credit card from many of the handheld PDAs.
What is the value of mobilizing a work order or service request service?
- Faster dispatch from the office
- Pre-populated work orders synchronized to the handheld PDA
- Less data to fill out on work orders
- Instant invoicing for work complete
- Faster collections
- Complete and accurate work orders synchronized back to the work order or accounting system in the office
- Less admin work in the office
- Less dispatch work in the office
The benefits list is very long. If you would like to discuss your business requirements with a mobile solutions expert, please contact MobileDataforce by email or by visiting http://www.mobiledataforce.com/.
Here is another article on mobilizing work orders/service requests using handheld computers.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
- Kevin -"What have you got there on the clipboard."
- Unsuspecting HVAC service technician -"This is a work order form."
- "How do you know where to go for your next job"
- "I call Pam at the office. Problem is my Nextel phone takes 10 minutes to connect to the office...I hate it. Sometimes I use my own personal phone to call her."
- "What does Pam do?"
- "She talks to all the service technicians and dispatches all the work. She tries to keep track of where all the service technicians are and what they should be doing, and where they should go next."
- "What happens if Pam elopes to Las Vegas with a circus clown?"
- "We would just close down the shop and lock the door. She is critical to our business...I call her 5-7 times a day to have her look up archived work orders so I know what previous work has been done on a furnace or air conditioner, and what parts were replaced."
- "How long do you spend on the phone with Pam for each of those 5-7 times a day?
- "About 10 minutes each time."
- "Do all the HVAC service technicians call her for information on archived work orders?"
- "Yup...she also dispatches all work orders to us by calling us on the phone and reading us the address of our next jobs and instructing us on what to do. We stop working or driving and write down all the information for the next job."
- "How does the work order information get entered into the accounting software?"
- "Another person enters the data into the accounting software each day."
At this point -my wife stepped in between us and pushed the HVAC service technician out the door and he escaped!!!"
OK...some math and ROI considerations:
- 7 HVAC service technicians
- 60 minutes/day/HVAC service technician on the phone with Pam looking up archived work orders
- 20 minutes/day/HVAC service technician on the phone with Pam writing down new work orders
- 10 minutes/day/HVAC service technician waiting on the Nextel phone system to work
- Pam spends 8 hours a day dispatching and talking to HVAC service technicians on the phone
If my numbers are correct that would equal 18.3 hours per day that the HVAC company is wasting on tasks that could be automated and mobilized by using a mobile handheld PDA work order software application (from MobileDataforce) synchronized with the work order management system in the office. If you multiply 18.3 by $20/hour you have $366. Now multiply $366 by 22 work days in the average month and you have $8,052. Now multiply $8,052 by 12 months and you have $96,624.
The total cost of a mobile work order management system running on ruggedized handheld computers that synchronize wirelessly with the office dispatch system would be a fraction of this expense. Plus I did not even include the cost of entering the data into the accounting system.
I have written several articles on the different components of a Paintless Dent Repair mobile software application for service technicians. Here is a consolidated list of the various component of this application:
- Mobile Handheld PDA bar code scanner to scan VINs (vehicle identification numbers) for the purpose of uniquely identifying the vehicle you are inspecting and servicing (for more information on this)
- VIN database and VIN decoding - the mobile handheld PDA contains a full database of nearly all the automobiles available in a particular country. When you scan the bar code on the vehicle the VIN number is decoded and the description of the vehicle automatically populates the inspection or work order application on the handheld pc. This is updated regularly.
- Vehicle Inspection Application - once you have scanned the VIN number, you want to inspect the vehicle to identify the necessary services that will be required. This blog article discusses the SPLAT screen technology that is used to graphically identify the location on the vehicle where services are needed.
- Mobile Work Order Software Application - once the inspection is completed and the customer signs his/her digital signature agreeing to pay for the services, the work can be preformed. Once the work is completed the customer will be invoiced and the work order data can be wirelessly synchronized with the accounting software in the office.
- Work Order Management Software in the Office - back at the office new employees and service technicians can be entered into the work order management system and this information can be synchronized back out to the handheld computer in the field. Once this information is synchronized with the handheld computer the employee can be assigned to work orders. Many of our customers pay employees based upon their completed work so this is important. This office application also provides a history of work completed for each customer, reports, customer set-up and administration settings. You can also schedule work in the future with various customers.
- Integration with QuickBooks (or other accounting applications) - All of the completed work in the field needs to be tracked and invoiced through as accounting system. MobileDataforce has integrated with many accounting packages, but the default accounting system that will come pre-integrated in the FieldSync Automotive application is QuickBooks.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
MobileDataforce is in the process of developing a very interesting mobile software application for handhelds and PDAs called FieldSync Automotive (TM). This software application runs on a rugged handheld computer and synchronizes with a desktop application that manages work orders, schedules, reports, invoices and integrates with Quickbooks. Other accounting systems can be supported but require additional customization.
MobileDataforce is developing a powerful collection of applications for companies that provide mobile automotive services. Services such as paintless dent repair (PDR), detailing, mobile windshield repair, automotive inspections, etc. If you would like more information please email us or visit our website.
The mobile handheld software application (pictured above) enables the user to scan (using a barcode scanner) the VIN number on the automobile and then assign a work order to that unique vehicle.
Monday, October 01, 2007
- The office can wirelessly dispatch new work orders directly to a handheld device
- Small service companies, with an owner/operator, can take calls from customers while on the road and enter new work orders on their mobile PDA phones. These work orders can be synchronized with the office and dispatched immediately to other service technicians
- Wireless work orders can be integrated straight into office database applications and accounting systems so there is no additional paperwork to be entered
- The wireless work orders can contain all the information on the customer, warranties, equipment type and model, history of the account, driving directions, etc. No need to call the service technician on the phone and dictate all the information.
- Re-prioritize work orders automatically from the office to the mobile handheld device
- Print invoices directly from the handheld using a mobile printer and give to the customer
- Get a digital signature from the customer on the electronic work order
- Take digital pictures of the work both before and after and integrate with the wireless work order
- Get an automatic date and time stamp on the work order when it is opened at the customer's site
- Track the time it took to complete the work - record for job scheduling and cost analysis
- Wirelessly synchronize completed work orders directly to the office accounting system for instant invoicing.
- Send parts orders directly to the office via the mobile handheld for quick processing
- Parts and inventory can be queried from the field. Do we have the needed part in stock either in the office or another van? If it is available in another van, where is the van? Can you drive over and retrieve it?
- If you implement a GPS system on your handheld computers, the office can see the location of all service technicians and optimize job dispatch
- The service technician can schedule future service visits on his mobile handheld computer and synchronize back to the office
- The service technician can estimate a new job on the handheld computer and sync this information back to the office for reference and database integration
- The service technician can record parts, equipment and services sales on his handheld for immediate syncing with the office
- The service technician can view past work orders on his handheld device for improved customer service
I heard a story about why Sears Service Technicians implemented a wireless work order system in their service vans. They wanted to be able to increase the sales of warranties, parts and other appliances while at the customer site. The results are said to be impressive. There is no better time to sell additional services, parts, warranties and other products than when you are with a happy customer in their home. The wireless mobile computer enabled them to fill out product and service orders at the point of work, reference online product catalogs, check shipping status and a variety of other customer friendly activities.
- Do you want the mobile software application to look exactly like the paper form in use today? If you don't specify differently, the programmer may design it to look like a small piece of paper on a mobile handheld PDA.
- Do you want the programmer to dictate your business process, or do you want to tell the programmer how the business process should work?
- Do you want the programmer to tell the field workers how, when and where they should sync the mobile application, or do you want the business users to tell the programmer.
- Do you want the programmer to select the mobile handheld PDAs, or do you want the business unit to describe their requirements to the programmer?
- Do you want the programmer to tell the business unit when the mobile software application is complete and final, or do you want to test it and approve it?
Most of these questions have obvious answers. The business unit, the organization that will benefit or suffer from the mobile application, needs to have active input into the design, development, testing, deployment and support of the application. It is not a 1 programmer job.
The problem many development projects suffer from is this active involvement was not anticipated or planned, therefore, it either does not happen or comes as an inconvenient surprise. However, you have now been warned in advance so this will not happen on your project, right?
- How many mobile software applications have you already designed, developed, deployed and supported successfully for handheld PDAs? Is your employer comfortable with having you learn on the job or are they risk adverse? Are they willing to be patient with your learning curve? If it takes you 4 months longer to develop your own, does the business suffer?
- Have you created a full synchronization engine successfully in the past? This is very complicated and software companies like MobileDataforce have spent years optimizing these. What are the chances you will get it right and optimized on the very first project?
- Do you have experience developing and configuring a variety of connectivity options such as cradle sync, wireless sync, satellite sync, bluetooth, etc.? Does the business manager know which one is needed in every case? Should you develop one, or develop multiple methods? Are the business requirements likely to change in the next 3 years?
- Have you developed a full database integration manager for mobile solutions? Do you need an API or will your DBA allow you to directly populate the database? If you can directly populate the database, then the data better be validated in the mobile software application on the handheld pc. Did you set aside time for that?
- Do you have experience designing scalable and reliable mobile applications? This is simply an experience thing. You don't know what you don't know.
- Do you have support for a Pocket PC 2003, Win CE, Microsoft Mobile 5 & 6? How are you going to upgrade and support next year's mobile OS from Microsoft? Is this built into your project plan and budget?
- Have you developed mobile applications that run on a large variety of different mobile handheld devices? This takes a lot of work and thought. Every week new mobile handheld devices are being delivered with new technologies and add-on components. The device selected today, will likely not be available next year at this time. How do you keep current?
- Do you have experience developing interfaces for third party hardware? Mobile applications often need additional third party technology integration like bar code scanners, RFID, GPS, Digital Cameras, etc.
- Have you thought through and developed dashboards for managing mobile application security, users, applications publishing, etc?
- Do you have a development environment set up exclusively for mobile applications development that may include short-cuts, libraries, screen designs and scripts?
- Do you have experience creating a helpdesk dashboard for sync logs, users, applications, device management, etc.?
Most often the developer was only interested in creating the screens for the mobile application, not a complete mobile application platform and support system. They had not considered the full end-to-end solution requirements when volunteering to develop a mobile handheld application.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I was reading about the industrial grade handheld PDA M3 today and their description points to some of the rugged features that users need to consider.
M3 Industrial PDA M3’s rugged design and IP54-rated sealing ensures continued use and uptime by protecting against dust, moisture and extreme temperatures (-20°C ~ 50°C), And, whether working inside or out, it has a drop spec of 1.5m to concrete across vast temperature ranges, reducing equipment and maintenance costs.More...
A lot of your decision needs to be based upon what kind of mobile software application you are going to use and what operating system it requires. Do you need a large screen to read drawings, blueprints and maps, or a simple data form?
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
In Steven McConnell's book, "Code Complete" he describes why a person should not jump right in and start developing code for a mobile software solution for use on handheld PDAs on the first day that the business thinks it is a good idea. Often business motivations help drive a sense of urgency to start coding a software application immediately, but there are also business motivations NOT to start today. Coding without gathering ALL the requirements and architecting the system has a high cost.
Here is an excerpt from McConnell's book that is very interesting and true:
Explicit requirements help to ensure that the user rather than the programmer drives the system’s functionality. If the requirements are explicit, the user can review them and agree to them. If they’re not, the programmer usually ends up making requirements decisions during programming. Explicit requirements keep you from guessing what the user wants.
Explicit requirements also help to avoid arguments. You decide on the scope of the system before you begin programming. If you have a disagreement with an other programmer about what the program is supposed to do, you can resolve it by looking at the written requirements.
Paying attention to requirements helps to minimize changes to a system after development begins. If you find a coding error during coding, you change a few lines of code and work goes on. If you find a requirements error during coding, you have to alter the design to meet the changed requirement. You might have to throw away part of the old design, and because it has to accommodate code that’s already written, the new design will take longer than it would have in the first place. You also have to discard code and test cases affected by the requirement change and write new code and test cases. Even code that’s otherwise unaffected must be retested so that you can be sure the changes in other areas haven’t introduced any new errors.
...Data from numerous organizations indicates that on large projects an error in requirements detected during the architecture stage is typically 3 times as expensive to correct as it would be if it were detected during the requirements stage. If detected during coding, it’s 5-10 times as expensive; during system test, 10 times; and post-release, a whopping 10-100 times as expensive as it would be if it were detected during requirements development. On smaller projects with lower administrative costs, the multiplier post-release is closer to 5-10 than 100 (Boehm and Turner 2004).
McConnell lists 5 steps in the software development process:
- System Test
There is simply NO way to bypass these steps for the purpose of saving time and money. If there is an urgent need for the mobile software solution, then there needs to be an urgent need to define the requirements, and architect the system so coding can begin.
- They don't want their inspectors taking up parking spaces at the office. The parking space is limited so they would rather synchronize data out to the mobile inspectors than have them come to the office.
- They don't have anymore office space for the inspectors. They want them to work from the field.
I had never considered these 2 reasons on my article entitled 28 Reasons to Mobilize that is available to download. Make that 30 Reasons to Mobilize.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
- How can I put a work order solution on my Palm Treo 750?
- How can I dispatch a work order to my mobile device?
- How can I accomplish instant invoicing?
- How can I take digital photos of my work?
- How can I get "proof-of-delivery" using a mobile handheld PDA?
- How can I take these paper forms and convert them to mobile solutions?
- My paper process is costing me $234,000 per year. Can I mobilize this process?
If you would like to discuss potential ROIs and the value of mobilizing various business processes please contact us at http://www.mobiledataforce.com/, or call 208-384-1200.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
- Enterprise Solutions such as ERP, CRM and EDMS;
- Infrastructure and networking solutions;
- Radio Frequency Identification;
- Security Solutions;
- Enterprise CAD/GIS strategy;
HiFX focuses on providing business extension through field force automation using handheld PDAs and mobile software for continuous synching of business critical data in the HO and field force. These solutions provide up to the minute information to all employees guaranteeing consistency of data. We are also able to provide services that escalate existing legacy applications, ERP and CRM solutions, workflow applications to seamlessly integrate with mobile applications. With all expertise fundamental to mobile solution development, HiFX rolls out enterprise mobile software solutions and custom business solutions for midsize to large enterprises using handheld PDAs.
MobileDataforce in China Working on Mobile Inspection Software for Moible Computers, PDAs and Handhelds
Friday, September 14, 2007
- Draw a picture or diagram of the various players, software systems, buildings, vehicles, etc., that will be involved in the system. It helps everyone to see where the data starts, where it is collected, edited, synchronized used and stored.
- List the business processes involved in the system (i.e. work orders, asset tracking, inventory, inspections, accounting, payroll, invoicing)
- List who will be using the system
- Ask an expert to draw out and detail how the enterprise application works and interfaces with third party software
- Identify how each person involved will access the information (i.e. mobile handheld computer, desktop application, web application, etc.)
- What reports do they need to have? Are they dynamic, or are they standard reports?
- What database application(s) does the mobile application need to interface with?
- Provide a database schema for the database where the data will be stored?
- Make an expert, that knows your database application, available so the development team can quickly get their questions answered
- Pick your mobile device or handheld computer early so the development team knows screen sizes, button configurations, bar code, RFID, GPS etc., configurations
- Have a person available to review and test the work each step of the way.
- Don't ask the mobile application to do all of the same things as an enterprise software application. Be careful to use the mobile software application in the right manner with an understanding of the limited screen size, processor speed and memory available on mobile devices.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
- Mobile tax assessment application
- Mobile water deliver application
- Mobile clinical supplies and supply chain logistics application
All of these customized mobile software applications were developed using the same mobile software development platform called the PointSync Mobility Platform by MobileDataforce for use on handheld PDAs and Smartphones.
- Mobile auto inspections
- Mobile job estimates for auto detailing and PDR
- Mobile work orders
- Wireless synchronization and integration with enterprise work order management system
- Integration with Microsoft Dynamic GP for accounting
- Production and work reports
Monday, September 10, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
In summary - qualified field services companies can receive a free 30 day trial of a Palm Treo 750, the PointSync Mobility Platform, 4 sample mobile software applications and up to 4 hours of free mobile solution consulting by registering.
- Time sheets
- Pet vaccination tracking
- Tracking medicine shipping to Africa
- Concrete testing
- Government housing inspection projects
- Subway system switch inspections
- Tracking condom distribution to clinics
- Beverage distribution and promotion system
- Clinical studies on sever spinal injuries
- Electronic Patient diaries for Hemophiliac patients
- ATM repair and maintenance
- Heating ventilation and air condition work orders
- Electric company's work order system
- Oxygen delivery
- Propane delivery
- Medical supply delivery
- Much more...
MobileDataforce's PointSync Mobility Platform is used by companies around the world to mobilize a wide variety of business processes.
- Scanning a bar code on the wrist band of the patient
- Scanning a bar code on the applied medicine
- Capturing the date and time stamp on the handheld computer
- Synchronizing the data to an enterprise software application
- The collected data activates business rules
- The business rules prompt the user with questions
- The system alerts user if there is a problem with the treatment or treatment schedule
- Ask for response to alert
This was a fascinating example of a handheld PDA and a mobile data collection system that is integrated with an enterprise database. These same 8 steps can be implemented with many different assets. Let's consider a large piece of manufacturing equipment and a plant maintenance technician:
- Scan a bar code on the side of the equipment
- Scan a maintenance service bar code to designate the service you are performing
- Capture date and time stamp on the handheld computer
- Synchronize the data with your Asset Tracking or CMMS system
- The collected data activates business rules
- The system's business rules prompt you with questions about the service
- The system sends you service alerts based upon stored data
- You respond to the alert and verify you read it
These 2 data collection systems work the same from a mobile data collection technology perspective, but serve 2 completely different industries.
MobileDataforce develops mobile software applications that help companies improve their field services operations.