Our client, a field service company on the East Coast, has a team of over 50 field techs that travel to job sites in their territory each day.
Their entire team was working off paper work orders they would pick up from Dispatch each morning, or print from their home computer if not located near the office.
It was not uncommon for these work orders to get lost, compromising the privacy of their customers and ability for their technicians to efficiently get their job done. Their team was also losing valuable time commuting to the office before their shift each day to pick up their work orders.
To manage job scheduling, our client had a dispatch team at their head office. This team created the schedules, printed the work orders and took calls from the field team throughout the day answering questions. That’s not all, they also answered the phones when customers called to cancel or update their appointment…which then required calling the field tech responsible to convey the update. It was a non-stop, inefficient process that wasted time and frustrated their employees.
At the end of the day the field technicians would drive back to the office to drop off their completed work orders (or secure scan them from home). Someone at the office would then scan all the work orders into their work order management software or manually enter all the written data.
In a first attempt to improve things, our client bought laptops for 5 of their field techs and had them complete work orders directly in their web-based work order management software. This would presumably eliminate the need to stop by the office before and after their shift, and have someone manually scan each work order.
This approach instead created new problems. Laptops were getting dropped and damaged by rain, lack of solid internet connectivity was a challenge, and the laptops were just awkward to handle and use from the front seat of their truck.
This approach didn’t work for their initial test group and certainly wasn’t going to work if rolled out to their entire field team.
Our client’s leadership decided a mobile app would be far more versatile, less cumbersome to carry around and could open up new possibilities for real-time communication between their field team and dispatch.
Through a Google search for app developers they found Big Fish in Tampa, Florida. Our experience creating iOS and Android apps for field teams made us a great fit for this project.
Initially our client wanted the app developed for the smartphones most of their team already carried with them. On the surface this seemed like a good solution, but the Big Fish team alerted them to challenges that would occur trying to view and fill out detailed work orders on a small smartphone screen. We instead recommended the app be designed for iPads to enable a larger workspace and a single page view of each work order.
Through our discovery process we also uncovered additional uses for the app that would improve the efficiency of their team. Including push notification alerts from dispatch, integration with their parts management system and a task list.
Most notably we also proposed showing the technicians a list and map view of their jobs for the day, with key information visible at a glance, before they open the work order. This gives the technician a high-level view of their jobs for the day and prioritizes the most important jobs so their team can determine where they should go next.
After the features were planned, our team started by designing wireframes that would act like the blueprint for the app, showing where sections go and how to get there. In short, we created the user experience.
To facilitate quickly getting this into the hands of their technicians, we recommended a version-by-version approach to the app. Starting with the job list and work order feature; then testing and launching. Adding the other features over time.
This means their team can start working with the app in 3 to 4 months, rather than waiting much longer while all the other features are developed. It also reduced our client’s initial upfront investment and allows them to create their app as an ongoing operational expense, with new features continually developed and released over time.
Knowing the app needed room to grow we centered the design around a visual navigation bar on the left side of the app. As new features are added, additional icons can be added to the navigation bar. It is simple and intuitive, which is what we always go for when designing apps.
Once the wireframes were approved by our client we moved into creating full color designs for the version one screens. When finalized, we rolled the full color screens into a visual prototype that looked like a real iPad app, but did not yet contain functionality. The prototype was reviewed enthusiastically by their management and field teams.
The first phase was a huge success and next up we move into the development stage.
To manage situations where the field technician may attempt to save an update while in an area without Internet connectivity, this iPad app has offline functionality designed into it. If an attempt to save the update to their cloud-based servers fails, the update is saved locally on the device, and uploaded in the background when the app detects resumed Internet connectivity.