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3 Practices for Data collection in the Field with Apps and Software

Decades ago, as the dawn of computing took hold, a short but critical phrase echoed through offices around the world, “garbage in, garbage out… or GIGO.” The idea was such that, even with a powerful new digital workflow, a company and its employees were only as good as the data they captured, shared, and acted upon. That sentiment is no less true today, even with significant enhancements in systems and software. We are all still held back by or propelled forward with the information that supports our daily tasks, from the jobsite to the boardroom.

We believe there are three best practices to achieving a more productive and profitable construction business with greater information management.

The first is to ensure the act of capturing valuable, mission-critical data is easy on the people responsible for its input. That experience has to be seamless and simple, accommodating generations of workers with differing familiarity levels with today’s technology, as well as the devices and systems they will use to collect information, from phones and tablets to laptops and notebooks of varying shapes, sizes, and functionality.

The more intuitive the user interface, the faster and easier workers can input or capture information, and that efficiency is compounded for every person who interacts with that data as it moves down the line. And, it’s not just documentation, today’s construction ERP (enterprise-resource planning) systems and their many applications can capture photos, videos, signatures, PDF files, and much more.

Innovative technologies can also provide quicker entry and capture with features like autofill, prefill, drop-down fields, sticky keys, barcodes, location enabling/tracking, programmable metadata, geo-fencing, and more. Responses and actions are heightened and the business can meet internal objectives or external customer goals with greater expediency.

The second best practice supporting more effective construction management through data control takes contractors beyond ease of capture and into advanced digital workflows and automation techniques that heighten the timeliness of construction data. Speedy capture enables and allows expedited action, led by accurate information for maximum effectiveness while performing any task. Multiple data points can be entered or captured at once and submitted to the ERP for enterprise wide utilization.

For example, time entry data is one of the most common capture applications that exist in the field. With a construction ERP solution, instead of just getting time information per employee on a weekly basis, contractors can acquire this data daily per employee, per crew, and per job. Aside from field time entry, other critical capture areas that can be enhanced with greater speed include work completion, service work, service contractors, safety audits, compliance checks, work orders, time and material billing, invoicing, Pos, and change orders.

A final best practice or third best practice to consider is to implement to achieve more efficient processes through stronger information management—and therefore a more productive and profitable enterprise—is to ensure the accuracy of the data that functions as the lifeblood of the organization. Eliminating labor-intensive manual processes that rely on paper documents or disparate systems is just the beginning.

One key in the quest for information accuracy is data validation.As information is acquired from any source across the contractor’s enterprise, the ability to compare and contrast that data against the systemwide ERP is a must. Validating wage rates, employee IDs, cost codes, cost calculations, job numbers, and more is critical to a streamlined workflow that produces optimal results.

Specifically, a flexible and scalable time entry app can be equally as important as a flexible and scalable ERP application to collect forms and fields from the jobsite that are customized to meet the unique demands of the organization or for a specific project or team. Large volumes of data must be processed quickly and easily, with no room for error or miscue.

Accuracy is best achieved through a data collection application that is fully integrated with the ERP itself, allowing for bidirectional information movement and a fluid data exchange between the two. These integrated applications must provide the opportunity for sophisticated workflows so validation can take place at the time of need. Flexibility and scalability are important in this process as well, as having the ability to add people or information, bundle items, and modify details at any time is the most effective way to control accurate data outcomes.

Ease of capture, streamlined timeliness, and accurate and validated information are three best-practice components of effective data management and, therefore, a profitable and productive construction contractor. The days of paper-based workflows, disparate systems, and information delays are long gone for industry-leading firms. Today’s construction front-runners won’t be slowed down in their quest to complete world-class construction projects built upon solid, actionable data. That’s what propels their business forward, what propels you?

Michael Bihlmeier, president, Computer Guidance Corp., is responsible for its operations. In this role, he unites all business functions in delivering innovative solutions to the market while engaging in the creation and maintenance of customer relationships.

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