Monday, 17 May 2021

The Right Tech Outside

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It’s great to see the forward thinking suppliers, who are not already all browser and fully in the Cloud, scrambling to take our Social Housing solutions there. Obviously avoid the Silverlight, design it to be responsive and exploit the great functionality of HTML5 that will work on any browser. Lately, the message I am getting from my clients are very much Cloud & Browser, or bust, which is very refreshing.

Clearly, now having solutions available quickly in a browser, possibly after fast two factor authentication, we have all our tech outside on the patch. So in theory, we can update details, set up agreements, carry out repair tasks, collate survey information. I am working with a few clients who hope to soon be moving to browser presentation and the natural question is, “Do I still need a dedicated mobile working solution”?

It’s a great question too, particularly if you have one already (at possible significant annual cost), or considering one. So, what’s to consider?

Often in the past I have been asked, why might we need a mobile working solution? For me if a process is transactional and significant volume could be completed at the place the data update originates, we have candidates for mobile app forms. When we have a browser based solution, could we use that instead?

Clearly, when the postman or UPS delivery person delivers and asks for our signature, it’s a convenient form that is designed for us to sign & be finished in about five seconds. If that were a signature in a box as part of a browser form that needed pinching and scrolling, that would seriously slow the transaction down. Not all our housing processes are as transactional as that and its no surprise that in social housing, it was internal repair contractor/DLO, where mobile working first took off. Our skilled trades are not ICT space cadets and apart from a few exceptions, I don’t think we would expect them to be.

So, what’s to be done with new browser versions of our solutions? Might they be suitable for outside the office, just as good as mobile working?

Well, the first question for me is, what sort of coverage have we got in our stock and geography? If we are in many rural locations with significant not-spots, browser presentation will struggle to cut it. However, mobile rollout is improving all the time and there are other means of having choice of the strongest network using multiple SIMs or an always roaming SIM, such as Manx Telecom. Solve any connectivity blockers and the first hurdle is jumped.

The next job is to do a direct comparison of individual mobile forms and the browser, full fat, system equivalent. This part of the task almost takes me back to 3 months I spent in an estimating department, in a switchgear factory as part of a technician apprenticeship, back in the early eighties. If the role/task can be tackled in a browser, within no more than a third of the time of the mobile form, it’s probably acceptable.

I have done this exercise with a client and you know what, in the system we were looking at, a lot of the housing and arrears functions were all feasible in a browser. Clearly staff working mobile on the patch or the scheme need to have been trained for the wider system, rather than mobile form users, who in theory should (if the forms have been thoughtfully designed), should pick up a new form in minutes, much like we are used to picking up a smartphone app. If that is not the case, for goodness sake, look again at your design or the app developers. Great apps are picked up quickly, poor apps end up on your page 6 & 7 of your smartphone/tablet don’t they?

In this recent exercise, it was clear than the housing, arrears and contact/CRM functions easily had potential be supported as pure browser by staff. However, the blind spot was clearly assets (condition surveys in particular), multi-use void inspections another area, all ones that clearly a mobile form driving a pathway through what is needed to be done. No DLO/internal contractor was present here.  I suspect that might be similar in other organisations, with other solutions out there.

Every solution is different and your organisations needs are too. How well trained are your staff, are they ICT literate enough, or are they your person people? That should be taken into account, particularly where your primary integrated housing system provider, has not already produced a promised all browser solution, or its still festering on their roadmap. As we know there’s still a few of those around.

If you are experiencing similar ponderings, I hope this has been of use. My conclusion is that we need all solutions in a browser as soon as possible, yet the mobile (staff) app is not dead and buried yet. Far from it. Comments as usual welcomed from users in the sector and suppliers (I would be surprised if you guys & gals would not have a view).


Related Post: Why do females do so badly in Social Housing ICT, a sector dominated by women?


I would be pleased to connect with you on LinkedIn - Message me with any issues or queries, you would like to be explored in this blog. We generally receive a couple of suggestions each month.

The Fixx – OutsideThe Fixx – Outside.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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