How Automated Field Data Collection Can Reduce Errors and Accelerate Project Invoicing
5 min read
Organizations that have teams of employees operating in the field often have a pressing need to report the result of each interaction. Not only is this invaluable in terms of letting business leaders know what stage each project is in, but it also enables them to properly bill those clients as well.
The issue is that with many companies, all of this is still being performed manually - processes that are equal parts error-prone and time-consuming. This is all far too important to handle via something like a traditional spreadsheet, yet that is exactly what is still happening when companies do not have a well thought out software system in place to manage their unique business process.
Thankfully, a solution to this is available and it's a lot easier to take advantage of than one might think. By creating an automated field data collection system, and by using mobile devices as the entry vehicle, all of this critical data can be captured in an efficient and accurate way. When paired with a web-based database system that captures, processes and applies business rules to the information, it does more than just save a tremendous amount of effort. It dramatically streamlines the reporting process from the perspective of management, thus reducing the time needed to send invoices and pay vendors as well.
Business RulesMost organizations have many internal businesses rules they need to follow. However, sometimes these rules exist exclusively in one individual's head - meaning they're not documented in the ways that they should be. And if that person is out sick, on vacation, on maternity leave or God forbid, leaves the company, everything grinds to a halt.
Sometimes these rules exist exclusively in one individual's head … and if that person is out sick, on vacation, on maternity leave or God forbid, leaves the company, everything grinds to a halt.
The issue here is that these business rules define how a company interacts both internally and externally. The best approach is to build a business system that enables the company to execute these processes, all while integrating all of the business rules together so that there is no human error, no lost business intelligence and executed processes are perfectly consistent every time.
The solution to this problem begins by first documenting the rules in preparation for the creation of a system that would then be leveraged to automate as many of those processes as possible moving forward.
How to Automate Data Collection
Naturally, automating data collection for businesses with field teams - employees who then need to report that information back to company leaders - requires a fully thought-out process. This begins by identifying the business rules, at which point you can build an application that is accessible with tablets and other mobile devices in the field.
In the past, a lot of companies have dealt with haphazard or otherwise inconsistent data collection in the field. Once the new application is ready to be deployed, it can enforce business rules from the initial data entry point and enforce process rules. For example, an application for an employee in a construction firm that installs gas mains will query the employee about what type of installation is being performed. Based on the answer given, the application will ask a different set of questions all of which have major billing implications based on the business rules spelled out in their contracts with the gas utilities. Left to the workers in the field, who have no idea what rules are in the contracts, the data reported will be at best inconsistent and at worst a total disaster.
Provided that this was all executed thoughtfully in the first place, the result is clean data from the start and the fully automated delivery of that data into the company's critical business and accounting systems. Not only do the people who need this information to do their jobs have it, but you've also taken meaningful steps to break down the types of data silos that used to limit the flow of data across your enterprise.
Productivity Benefits of Automated Field Data Collection
There are a wide range of different benefits to going through this process - including those that touch on the financial and operational side of the organization, as well as from a larger productivity standpoint.
Almost immediately, field teams become more efficient because they're no longer dealing with paper-based processes. They also get instantly prompted to complete the data that is necessary, while the system can pre-fill everything else automatically. Right away, employees and field teams are saving a tremendous amount of time because they're no longer dealing with improper process flows.
That process flow is also enshrined in the application, where prior to this crucial business data could be lost because of questions pertaining to the process and business rules.
At the same time, internal teams become far more productive because they no longer need to transcribe paper forms into spreadsheets or other business system. This virtually eliminates errors and several manual process steps at the same time.
In the past, team members would have to manually apply business rules to the information in order to enable downstream processing like reporting and invoicing. After the deployment of the new solution, all of this happens automatically.
Another major benefit to automated field data collection relates to the real-time reporting it makes possible.
If essential business data is buried in a world of paper or spreadsheets, executives who need access to that insight to make better and more informed decisions simply do not have it. Especially in the fast-paced modern era we're now living in, business leadership needs timely and real-time business intelligence information that allows them to act quickly and to respond to client requests in a timely manner. Automated field data collection can easily become that solution.
The only way to get to that point, however, is to make sure that automated field data collection is incorporated into a business system in a way that applies business rules to make sure everything is accurate and immediately visible. More than that, these organizations also need the information to invoice clients as field-related projects often require field data to properly contextualize. That information helps leaders better understand when a project is complete, along with any elements of the project that the client will be required to pay for.
Automated Invoice Processes
One of the most significant benefits of automated field data collection has to do with automated invoice processing - another pain point for organizations in virtually every industry.
Many businesses need to capitalize on any opportunity available to them to reduce the amount of time between A) the delivery of a service, and B) the issuance of accurate invoices. The longer those invoice times stretch out, the bigger the problem becomes because it will soon begin to negatively impact the cash flow of the organization. This requires larger lines of credit with their financial institutions, along with limited strategic options in terms of business investment as well.
If a company does not have automated field data collection and hasn't made a meaningful effort to streamline the process, work being done in the field is never being properly documented - meaning there could be situations when clients aren't getting billed at all. This causes the company to lose money, deal with reduced profits and potentially far worse.
In the end, automated field data collection is imperative for any business with field delivery services or products. Many companies start out by implementing manual systems, but often never truly take the time to automate them. The innovative organizations do go to that extra effort, however, because they understand that it's such an important step for generating much-needed scalability.
All told, these are just a few of the many great examples of how a business web application development company can address issues in a way that also improves your business processes over the long-term. Many employ cutting-edge web technologies such as the Microsoft ASP.NET web development platform and their SQL Server database technology in order to solve their scalability problem, and if you haven't already considered taking this step in your own company now would be an excellent time to start.
McDonald’s is world renowned for their business acumen. But do they have a superior product? Not so much. In my humble opinion, Burger King has a superior burger. But what does McDonald’s have exactly that makes them so successful if they don’t have the best product on the market? They have an exceptional, repeatable, predictable, consistent business process that is enshrined in their software systems. They take ordinary people, and they plug them into an extraordinary process and they get the same highly optimized result every time. That is their key to success! So, if you want to scale and take your company to the next level, automating your business processes and field data collection is essential.
To find out more information about our ASP.NET software development outsourcing capabilities, or if you’d like to discuss your automated field data collection needs with Keene Systems CEO, Lance Keene click here to book a call with him. You can also download our eBook - Why ASP.NET Development Services Fuels Business Growth - to learn more about this essential topic.