Mobility: The Right Tool for the Job 2

Thursday, May 26th, 2016
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The word “mobile” means many things to many people. The same is true when discussing the topic in construction and chatter grows about mobile technology, mobile devices, and mobile apps.

Mobile is not one thing. Mobile is not a phone, not a tablet, not a browser, not a rich client – it is all of them. What we’re really talking about is “mobility” and having the tools needed to effectively handle the task at hand wherever a person is working. To accomplish that, it’s essential to identify and understand who’s doing what and how and then gauge if they have the right tools for optimal productivity.

Four legs of mobility

Appreciating that mobility is not just one thing, let’s explore the various aspects involved. In the construction world, mobility can be leveraged in four ways – at your desk, on the go, walking the site, and with the team. The main key across all four is keeping information mobile. Mobility is a convenience factor that must be weighed against power. That is to say, choose the right tool for where you are and what you need to accomplish there, and choose the one that will maximize your productivity.

When you’re on the go or at a job site, using phones or tablets is convenient because your experience will likely involve taking pictures or pulling up a floor plan. You may or may not have an internet connection, which will further influence your experience, but convenience and capturing information as quickly and accurately as possible without a lot of typing are the real focus of this job and the tool fits.

Compare that experience to when you’re working at your desk. You surely value power over convenience and want a rich experience to be at your most productive. The office is your space to get the paperwork done, drilling down into dashboards to focus your attention on issues, and spending time to manage profitability and risk by reviewing financials and project information. Being productive here is different than being productive when on the go.

In short, there is no one tool to maximize your effectiveness wherever you are in the world; you must use what fits your specific needs best. But does optimizing efficiency create a different problem in having to manage multiple solutions?

Deep integration is key

An integrated construction accounting and project management software solution with deep integration across roles and processes is critical to having the right tool for the job, and at the right time. Mobility allows people to be productive and efficient while working at a desk, while collaborating with the team, while walking job sites, while traveling, or at home.

Let’s first explore this mobility and integration subject in a plausible day-in-the-life construction scenario we’ll call ‘The Golf Outing.’ Bob, a construction project manager, has left the office to take some customers golfing. Just before teeing up, his phone buzzes with a notification that a job’s daily production KPI has gone red. He immediately calls the foreman and tells him he will stop by on the way, and then proceeds to drive the ball down the centre of the fairway.

After golfing, Bob stops by the job site to do a quick job walk with his foreman. Even though the site has no internet connection, the foreman has his tablet out, taking pictures and attaching to a digital floorplan.

The next day Bob is surrounded by a mountain of paperwork. He is doing a deeper review of the production issue and filling out additional information into the PO request to make sure it is processed correctly. Fortunately, Bob’s convenient actions the previous day have expedited these clean-up tasks, and he is able to focus on closing the month out.

The right tool where you need it

As you can see from that on-the-go scenario, mobility is a personal experience. It can be tailored to how you work best. Receive information (such as notifications, alerts, to-do tasks, appointments, and meetings) directly on your mobile device. Plus, you can also manage workflows; see RFIs, daily logs, photos to identify or resolve issues and so on, as well as speed up processes with rapid approvals and comments on documents at your fingertips.

Mobility also accommodates walking the site and staying efficient when at a job. In short, you can extend your office to the field. Initiate project documents, collect signatures from owners, subs, and suppliers, and access critical project information when you need it. You can also better manage with interactive plans in the field with tools to download and review plans, create and attach issues to drawings, create and track defect lists, and more.

Some may argue (and rightly so) that the real power of mobility can be seen when it comes to teamwork. You want a solution that allows you to review, markup, and comment on project documents, manage with ball-in-court tracking, create customized workflows, have at-a-glance dashboards to drive performance, and – absolutely essentially – have a single source of truth for all stakeholders.

Of course you must be productive at your desk and that requires two major activities. One is getting the paperwork done – an integrated solution will give you dashboards that show where your focus is required; help you efficiently tackle invoices, billings, contracts, and projections; and allow you to reduce the amount of paperwork on your plate by distributing and automating. The other activity you must accomplish to be productive at your desk is manage profitability and risk. You should be able to rely on your software for accurate, up-to-date financials with project information integrated with financials, so you see a clear and true picture of your business.

In summary, having the right tool for the right job means leveraging mobility where it helps you maximize your productivity wherever you are. Designing a business or IT strategy that involves mobility should have the goal of making your workforce effective, efficient, and productive. It certainly is the age of mobility and many say, “my workplace is everywhere!” but that doesn’t mean the same tool works best everywhere. Use the tool to fit the job.

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  1. Mark Lang

    Rob great insight. When most businesses think of adapting to field service technology. Deep integration is one critical evaluation that is often left out. Off the shelf or bolt on job management software that "talks" to accounting packages is often an attractive solution due to its low upfront investment. However the cost in the long run are unreliable data eg labor hours and inaccurate job costing reports. This may not be relevant for smaller jobs, however for larger commercial projects where overruns and cost data is important – these software are cumbersome.

    Evaluating Mobile ERP software such as Levesys with integrated field service, accounting, document and project management tools can be a potential solution for construction businesses that needs accurate job management and costing software.

  2. Jarrod Severn

    Will become increasingly widespread on sites as more young people enter the workforce – for them mobile device usage is second nature.