Automation of Field Data Collection Processes: The Key to Being Effective

You might think that in our current day and age, no one fills out forms in the field with pen and paper. However, many organizations are still working with these tools, and if you are reading this article, you are probably one of them! 

Using paper forms for field data collection operations can often be counterproductive and result in an overly manual workflow. These tasks can be redundant and time-consuming, and it creates an obstacle to the efficiency and effectiveness of your field data collection. 

The best way to automate this data collection process is to integrate a mobile application into the workflow! 

What is a Field Data Collection Application? 

A field data collection application is a software solution that allows you to create digital forms, to fill them out directly on a mobile device and automatically transfer the data into a secure database. 

The application automates the entire field data collection process currently being done with pen and paper! 

Benefits of Process Automation 

There are many benefits to automating this process, including: 

  • Cost reduction, 
  • Improved productivity, 
  • Reliability,
  • Scalability. 

Cost Reduction 

Using paper forms can be an expensive process. How much does it cost you to collect and store data using pen and paper?

Typically, it is a much longer process and requires manual geotagging and transcribing. In fact, technicians must then transfer the data into a database and attach the corresponding photos. Field technicians are expensive, and you don’t want them spending their time filling out forms! 

A study done by Guillaume Nepveu, the CEO of Chaac Technologies, found that manual processing can cost almost $2 for every data point that is collected.  This number was calculated based on his experience as a Field Data Manager and customer feedback. 

A field data collection application will significantly reduce this cost while eliminating these tedious steps!  

Improved Productivity 

Automating this process will also lead to improved productivity. Indeed, field technicians can spend more time accurately collecting data in the field rather than filling out forms. 

The application provides a single tool for them to complete the digital forms, take pictures, and orient themselves in the field. This will easily replace paper documents, a camera, and the GPS that would otherwise have to be carried to perform data collection. 

The data can also be transferred to the appropriate database in real-time, so managers and decision-makers can act more quickly. 

Reliability 

Manual data collection can often be unreliable because each field technician will do it differently. There are often errors and inconsistencies that can lead to incorrect decisions and sometimes data loss. 

Process automation improves the reliability of data and results found from field operations. 

Scalability 

Lastly, the time and money that you save by automating this process allow you to scale your business and take on larger projects – without needing to have a corresponding increase in staff! 

In other words, a smaller team can complete the work that would normally require more staff. 

Are There Any Downsides to Process Automation? 

Although there are many benefits to process automation, there are some downsides including initial cost and change management.  

Costs

Automating your processes will require an investment in a software solution. These can sometimes be expensive and require some time to implement properly. Luckily, the software industry is competitive and the prices for many of these solutions are very affordable. 

Calculate your return on investment and you will usually find that the advantages far outweigh the costs at this level. 

Change Management 

All process changes require time, and it can take people time to get used to new methods if they have been doing it the same way for years. Some software can be difficult to use, so be sure to test different options with your team to find out what will be the best fit.  

We recommend gradually phasing out old data collection methods to make this transition easier. 

How to Get Started 

Coral Collect is the best way to get started to automate your field data collection process. It is an easy solution to collect, store, and collaboratively share your field data. All levels of your organization can be involved in the management of field data, so technicians, analysts, and managers can work together to facilitate this process. 

To learn more about the benefits of a field data collection application, read the article: Top 5 Benefits of Using a Field Data Collection Application

Use Coral Collect for free!

Field Data Collection App: Top 5 Things to Consider

The days of noting down information in the field with a pen and paper are long gone. Today’s data collection apps make it possible to gather field data right from your smartphone, tablet, or iPad. Mobile collection platforms have not just simplified how we collect field data but have also made it easier to store, analyse and share information. If you’re looking for an application to fill out your forms in the field, here are 5 questions that will help you choose the right data collection tool.

Is an Internet connection available in the field?

As fieldwork often involves data collection in locations with unreliable or unavailable internet connection, it is imperative that your field survey app works offline. Field data collection software that doesn’t require an internet connection lets you backup your data and upload it once you are back online. Most applications for offline data collection save all forms on a mobile device and transfer them to a Cloud database once internet connection becomes available. 

What will your data collected in the field be used for?

If you are working in fields such as construction, environmental, and transportation, you will need to collect the specific GPS locations related to the data you just collected. If this is the case, make sure that your data collection forms app integrates geographic dimensions that will allow you to geolocate your data. A quality GIS application will allow you to automatically locate your data collection forms at your current position, or a desired location, either by clicking on a map or by specifying a civic address. In addition, look for an app that will let you obtain data in a variety of formats, such as Excel, PDF, and CSV. Some apps also offer formats that integrate geomatic dimensions including GeoJSON and shapefile.

Is the platform flexible?

Data collection needs can vary depending on industries, the nature of field operations and data collection methods. As such, look for a field data collection app that has all the features necessary to adapt to the way you manage your projects and user permissions, create forms, and choose the geometry of data. It is also important to consider the data visualization capabilities of your data collection platform. For example, having access to a map that allows you to view geolocated data and filter it according to different criteria will help you make fast and effective decisions. In addition, make sure that you can add, filter, remove, and modify data using the mobile data collection solution both on your smartphone and laptop at the office. 

On what basis is the pricing established?

The cost of data collection apps is usually based on the number of individuals who can use the tool within a single organization. However, it is worthwhile to look for a solution that is priced on the amount of data collected rather than the number of users registered on the platform. This is important because the added value for a company that collects information is related to the data and not to the number of users.

What is the quality of the support and resources available around the application?

Transitioning from pen and paper to a mobile device and digital field forms requires new workflows. As such, it is vital that the software company you choose is committed to quality technical and customer support, including the provision of training videos and guides for your team. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult the supplier to find out if they will be able to meet your specific requirements, and under what conditions and time frames.

Conclusion

The effectiveness and efficiency of data collection apps will take your business to the next level. We hope that this article has helped you in the process of selecting a mobile forms app that will meet your needs. Are you ready to choose your field data collection app? Start using Coral Collect for free today.

Top 5 Benefits of Using a Field Data Collection Application

The traditional way to collect data in the field is through paper forms, and if this is what you’re using, know that there are much more efficient solutions available.

However, many organizations are hesitant to change their way processes work – you don’t need to fix something that’s not broken, right? Well, just because something has been done a certain way for years does not mean that there is not a better way to do it.

Moving away from paper forms will not only save you time and money, but it will also improve the efficiency of your operations.

Here are the top five reasons you should be using a field data collection application instead of traditional methods:

1.  It Saves Time – And Money!

Hiring field technicians is an expensive task – they are highly specialized personnel, but they provide extensive value in the field. This means that you want to maximize the time that they spend in the field. You are not paying them to fill out paperwork!

When you use a field data collection application, your field teams will be able to collect data directly on their mobile devices. This information will be shared instantly with other team members and office staff, ensuring that you get the most out of their time in the field.

Not only will this save you time and money, but it will also give you a competitive advantage over your competitors. Our research has found that you can save up to 40% in data processing time by using a field data collection app!

2.  Accelerated Decision-Making Process

By using a data collection application, the field manager can monitor the information that’s being collected through visuals and other tools on the application in real time. This allows you to identify bottlenecks and other potential problem areas with your projects immediately so that you can make informed decisions and act on them as soon as possible.

3.  Improved Process Standardization

One of the biggest problems with traditional paper forms is that every field technician will fill them out differently. There are no required fields or specific text parameters on a piece of paper, so they can fill them out however they’d like.

A data collection application allows you to standardize this process and ensure that there is no variation in how the information is presented – regardless of who is doing the field observation. In addition, all data that is collected is automatically geolocated and transferred into a database.

Besides the fact that this eliminates errors or indecipherable information, it also ensures that no forms are damaged or lost. This will strengthen your data analysis abilities and allow you to better understand trends and patterns within the information that’s being collected.

4.  Access All Necessary Tools from One Place

Field data collection applications also allow your technicians to have every tool they need in one place. They no longer need to carry around cameras, GPS devices, pencil and paper, or even maps that help with field orientation.

Everything they need can be found right in the app!

5.  Enhanced Customer Service

 Enhancing customer service is another benefit of using a field data collection application. You can provide your customers with quick access to quality reports by using the app, and you can also avoid delays and errors in your deliverables that are caused because of issues with paper forms.

Moving Forward with a Field Data Collector

If you are ready to upgrade your process and move forward with a field data collection application, use Coral Collect for free!

Coral Collect provides an easy solution for data collection, storage, and sharing. This tool will help you use field data in collaborative ways and allows all levels of the organization to be involved in managing information that’s collected in the field.