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How To Incorporate Mobile Forms Data Collection Into Your Business Workflow


Everyone knows that mobile data collection increases business efficiency and productivity. But is it worth your time to switch from the current process to the mobile data collection? This article helps you make a more informed decision.
It will help you understand what mobile forms are and what can you gain by using them. You will also learn how to link mobile forms to your workflow without interruption of the current business process.


What Are Mobile Forms And How Are They Different From The Online Forms

Mobile forms are digital forms that you can fill out on a smartphone or tablet. There are two types of forms that you can fill out on the mobile devices:

What Is A Mobile Forms Software

Unless you plan to do your own software development in-house, you will need a mobile forms software to collect data on a smartphone. Mobile forms software will allow you to create custom forms, use them on a mobile device to collect data and store gathered information. Mobile data collection / mobile forms software packages on the market have different features and target different business scenarios. However, all of them have these three major components:

What Do You Gain By Using Mobile Forms

Here are just some of the ways mobile forms can make your life easier and your business more efficient:

Mobile Forms Have More Capabilities

Mobile forms have capabilities that neither paper forms, nor spreadsheets have. Some of these capabilities are not available in the online forms either:

Mobile Forms Increase Business Efficiency

Mobile forms help you modernize the entire team workflow. Each team member can get more done in the field, and everyone on the team has an immediate access to the collected information and can act on it quickly. There is no back log of collected data that needs to be entered into the computer manually. This saves you countless employee hours and eliminates a tedious job of data entry.

Mobile Forms Prevent Data Loss And Errors

Mobile forms minimize manual entries - whenever possible users can select a value from the list or scan data in. Data entered into the mobile forms are auto validated, preventing errors and missing information. As an employee fills out a mobile form, the entered data are auto saved on his device and are sent to a storage location when the form is completed - preventing costly data loss and necessity to re-do data collection.

Mobile Forms Improve Information Flow

With mobile forms, all authorized employees have real time visibility into the business operations, projects status and progress, and all collected documentation. They can review and analyze submitted data in real time, making more informed business decisions.

Mobile Forms Are Always Current

You do not need to reprint multiple paper forms each time you adjust a process or standard operating procedure. You can do an adjustment to the corresponding mobile forms online in minutes. Once an update is done, your employees will have current instructions/forms on their mobile devices to fill out.

Finally, as an extra benefit, you save trees by using less paper.
 

How Do You Create Mobile Forms

Any mobile forms software will give you a way to create custom mobile forms using a web interface. The way of creating the forms may vary: you may have a drag-and-drop interface or will have a list of form fields that you can add, delete or edit. If you plan to use the forms on a tablet, and you need to position form fields in a certain way, a drag-and-drop interface is a plus. If you plan to fill out forms on a smartphone, a small screen leaves a few option for fields arrangement. In this case, a list edit may be a better option - it is faster and helps you avoid visual clutter.

You will have an option to create different field types (input, list, checkbox, on/off switch). For each field, you will indicate if it is required or optional, and define a field data type. The exact set of the field data types will differ in different software packages. The basic data types will be text, number, and date. You also may have "media" field types (image, voice recording, video. These fields will allow a user to take a photo or record a voice message and make it a part of the form. You may have scan-in fields, that will allow users to scan in data from QR codes or barcodes into the field with a smartphone. You may have GPS field, that will allow a user to capture a location.

In some instances, you will be able to add a skip logic to the form (e.g. if field A is selected show section A, otherwise hide it), and add calculations.

Whether you are creating new data collection forms from the scratch, migrating from the paper forms, pdf forms or spreadsheets, you will be able to re-create your current forms online and make them more robust. If you have a lot of forms to transfer to the mobile forms software, there are options to automate and speed up the process:
 

How Do You Deploy Forms To The Mobile Devices And Collect Data

Mobile forms software will usually consist of two parts:

Each user who needs to fill out forms in the field will download software provider's mobile application on his / her mobile device from a respective application store. Once a user logs into the mobile application, he will have a way to access company's forms, pick the form for the task at hand, fill out the form and submit. With some mobile data collection software, you will be able to control which forms show up for a specific user on his/her mobile device based on:
The user can open a correct form on his/her mobile device, fill it out and submit to the back-end storage location. Submitted data are immediately available to the other members of the team to review/analyze/act upon. Many mobile forms applications will allow you to collect data offline and submit the form when a connection is available.
 

How Do You Access Collected Information

In most cases data collected with the mobile forms are submitted to a centralized cloud location. You access collected data online via a web dashboard. The data can be converted to the documents (PDF, Word, etc.), stored in the database, or both. Database storage is usually preferable. It allows you to query submitted data by multiple parameters (including data in the specific form fields). You can also export data for import into the other internal applications.

Depending o the software, you may have additional options of:

Linking Mobile Forms To Your Business Workflow

Forms do not exist in a vacuum. Whenever you fill out a business form, it is related to an object you are working with. An object can be an asset, property, customer, employee or something else. There are situations when you need to fill out a form for an object once - for example if you are doing one-time installation, service or inspection for a customer. In these cases, the ability of a software to link forms to the business objects and workflow is not critical. As a rule, you will just enter customer information in the header part of the form.

There are a lot of business scenarios, however, where you need to collect data for the same object on the regular basis. Often these forms will not be self-contained but a part of a workflow. For example, if you need to record equipment maintenance, service, and repair, or need to do routine inspections of a property, you will need a way to link all collected information to a specific equipment or property. If you need to document a business process that consists of multiple steps, you need to link the forms to both an object and a specific step of the process. This way your employees will have a roadmap of a process. They will know exactly what to do and what form(s) to fill out on every step. You will have real time access to each process status, progress, and documentation, as well as lifetime history of each asset.

If your business operations require linking of the collected information to an object and/or process, look for a workflow software with mobile data collection capabilities. QR Mobile Data is this kind of a software. It uses QR code/barcode scanning to uniquely identify an object and its current status and provides relevant information and a list of forms to fill out to the user.


Transition From Your Current Process To Mobile Forms Data Collection

Mobile Devices To Use

Which mobile devices are better to use for the data collection? Depending on the type of forms you have and the data collection environment, you may opt for either smartphones or tablets (or both). As a general rule, you may want to use tablets if your forms must have a specific layout that is hard to reproduce on a small screen of a smartphone. Tablets will work well if employees are collecting data in the office-like environment and do not need to carry a device with them all the time. For example, if you need to collect data in the store, or on the factory floor, or for home inspection a tablet will be a good tool to use.

If your employees are always on the go, then a smartphone will be a better choice. It fits into a pocket and is much easier to carry around than a tablet. Another consideration is a cellular data connection. In the field or remote places where wi-fi is not available cellular data connection often is. It is true that many mobile forms data collection applications will work offline as well. However, you cannot submit collected data until a connection is available. Therefore, having a connection is definitely a plus.

Where do you get the mobile devices for the data collection? The most efficient solution is to let your employees use their own smartphones or tablets. Not only you won't need to purchase extra hardware, but each employee will be working with a device (s)he is already using and familiar with. This will streamline an adoption of a new system and eliminate a learning curve, so you will become productive faster.

What if you need special devices which can be used in rugged field conditions? Take a look at CipherLab RS 30 Series. These are modern mobile computers with Android operating system which are specifically made to withstand the harsh environment.

Employees Training

The best technology is what you have and know how to use. Since nowadays almost everyone owns a smartphone or a tablet (often both), you won't lose much time on training and adjustment. Your employees are already familiar with your current forms and processes. You just need to show them how to navigate the mobile application for data collection. If there are changes in your current process, outline these changes as well. As a rule, mobile forms software providers will have plenty of materials to help with the system adoption (instructions, FAQ, videos). They may provide a webinar style training for your employees as well.

Keep in mind though that the best learning is by doing. So the good strategy would be to let your employees start using the new software, and provide support during the transitional period. You can educate team leaders on the new system first. Team leaders then will show the application to their team members and will be on hand to answer questions and provide guidance.

Mobile Forms Deployment

The best strategy for adoption of a new system is to deploy it one step at a time. Transition to the mobile data collection is no exception. Choose one unit of the company and/or a specific process to transfer to the mobile forms first.

For example, start with only one production process. Let your employees learn how to do things - then gradually move other processes to the mobile data collection. Or start using mobile maintenance forms for one equipment group. Once your employees are comfortable with the new process, add other groups. If you have multiple divisions, roll out mobile data system in one division. Iron out any kinks, then start implementing the system in the other divisions.

When you design the roll out strategy, make sure that you won't end up with the same process/objects/forms being done in two different ways. If you do, you will make your data organization and productivity worse instead of improving it.

For example, it won't make sense to have half of the employees fill out mobile maintenance form, while another half continues to fill out the same exact form on paper. You will have a mess on your hands and will have a hard time processing the results. However, it will make sense to switch only maintenance process/forms to mobile data collection system first. After your employees are used to the new system, do the same for the service and repair. The same is true for all other use cases. Pick the entire process or unit of your operations that will benefit the most from the transitioning to the mobile data collection. Start there - then implement the system for other processes/units.

What QR Mobile Data Can Do For You

QR Mobile Data is a mobile data collection software specifically designed for tracking business operations, projects and workflow. With QR Mobile Data, you will be able to:
Whether you need to keep track of equipment maintenance, report assets or equipment conditions in the field, keep track of the projects or production processes, mobile data collection will make your life easier and will save you from the problems associated with the data loss and errors.

 

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