By Eric Goldstein
The emergence of mobile apps over the past decade has completely changed the way companies do business. Jobs or tasks that were once burdensome and time-consuming have become more manageable. The construction industry, in particular, has embraced the role of mobile applications, whether it is helping with the billing process or submitting work orders.
However, implementing an app within your company isn’t without challenges. If the implementation is poor, then the ability to use the technology will be severely hampered regardless of how good the mobile app may be.
Once a mobile app is implemented, it will then become an ongoing process to ensure that it continues to be used effectively. Companies must keep in mind that over time there are factors that may hamper a mobile app’s performance after it has been updated. New employee hires may need training or new features may be introduced that require further explanation. Issues like these require companies to have a plan in place to ensure the app works.
Here are some ideas to help successfully implement a mobile app and how to keep the implementation going.
PROVIDE A CLEAR RATIONALE
First, it’s important to explain to your employees why you decided to implement the mobile app. You need them to buy in and care about using it. Explain how the mobile app will directly benefit them. If they can see that it helps them just as much as it helps you, then they will be more engaged throughout implementation and more eager to see it succeed.
GET YOUR FOREMEN ONBOARD
Have other employees provide information about the mobile app rather than just you. If your foremen were the ones explaining the benefits of the mobile app, the jobsite crew might be more inclined to get on board. The laborers work directly with their foremen on a daily basis, so they may share a closer bond and value the foreman’s opinion more. Jobsite employees may be more inclined to take the word of people they know rather than individuals higher up.
BRIDGING THE GAP
The generational gap between your employees can also present a potential obstacle. Younger employees may be more open to adopting mobile technology, while older employees may be more likely to oppose. Older employees may prefer to stick with their current system, regardless of how inefficient it may be, because they know the current system and would prefer not to have to learn a new one. In order to overcome this obstacle, implementation should occur gradually over a set time period.
Do not assume the training will be easy. In fact, it is good to prepare for the worst. Although your employees may pick up the technology quickly, it is best to plan as if they will not. Train the foremen first; when they are up to speed, you can then employ them to help train other staff members.
Even after you go live with the mobile application, the learning never stops. It is recommended that you hold weekly meetings with foremen and other employees to get a feel for how they are using the app. Be sure to review the basics of the mobile app and share any tips or tricks to improve the user experience. Also keep in mind that over time more and more new features may be added to the mobile app. This will require companies to stay on top of the tools they are using and keep track of development. Continuing the learning process will help build your employee’s confidence in using the app.
When using a mobile application in the field, it is crucial that field employees are given support every step of the way. There should always be a staff member on standby in case of an issue. Problems using a mobile app offsite in the field are nearly inevitable. To mitigate the challenges, it is recommended to provide your employees simple troubleshooting tips for solving common problems.
HERE ARE SOME QUICK TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS:
- First ask, “Is this limited to one device or multiple?” By far the most important step is to find out whether the issue is limited to only one device or others. If it’s just one device then it will become much easier to locate the issue, most likely a problem with the device itself. If multiple devices are experiencing the same problem then it is more likely than not that it is an issue with the app.
- Do they have a connection? Nowadays most apps require some sort of internet connection. In order for the app to communicate with its servers to function, it will need an internet connection to do so. When an employee is reporting issues with a particular app, ask them where they are currently located and whether they have a stable connection. Contractors in the field typically do not have access to Wi-Fi and instead must rely on their phone’s data connection. If they are working in an area that has poor connection then that could affect their ability to use the app. A solution would be to provide them with a mobile hotspot. A mobile hotspot offers a stable mini Wi-Fi connection. This way they will no longer have to rely solely on their phone’s data connection if they are in an area with poor service.
- Are the settings within the app setup correctly? Some apps require certain configurations in order to properly work with the device. This can all be controlled from the “Settings” menu within the app.
- What kind of device are you using? Not all devices are equal. This is especially important for Android devices. Since Apple is the only maker of iPhones, developers can easily create apps that work across multiple versions of their devices. With Android, there are multiple distributors, Samsung, Motorola, & LG just to name a few. The issue is that not all of the devices may be compatible with the app. So, before you download, do some research and make sure that the app is compatible with your device.
- Check out the developer’s Twitter account. Almost all app developers, mostly companies, have twitter accounts. This way they can communicate with users and make announcements. If you run into an issue and can’t seem to find a solution, look on the developer’s twitter feed. If it’s a widespread problem then they most likely will tweet about it and that they are working on the issue.
- Lastly, contact the developer. There is no better source for support than the developer themselves. Contact them if you run into an issue you cannot seem to solve on your own.
There are two primary benefits to these troubleshooting tips. First, it allows your employees to solve their own problems and feel empowered, which can go a long way. Most people prefer to be self-sufficient and not have to rely solely on others to solve their issues.
Secondly, it can drastically decrease the turnaround time to sort out an issue. For example, let’s say your service tech is unable to connect to the mobile app and that the solution was to simply restart the mobile device. Rather than having to call for help and wait for instructions, the tech can simply refer to his or her checklist and see that one of the first steps is to restart the device. The service tech was able to solve the issue unassisted, and it only took minutes.
CHANGING THE GAME
Over the next decade, it is anticipated that the growth of mobile applications in the construction industry will continue and begin to take on more and more core functions. The possibilities are limitless as long as companies continue to look for innovative ways to improve how they perform their tasks.
To get the most out of a mobile app investment, work towards a smooth implementation. Remember, staying current with an app means updating from time to time and making sure your workers are all using the same version.
About the author
Eric Goldstein is the president of C/F Data Systems. With more than a quarter of a century of experience in the construction software arena, Eric has led C/F Data’s ongoing development of the company’s flagship solution, STRUCTURE. For more, visit www.cfdatasystems.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, October 2019
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