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Benefits of Mobile Apps for Your Field-based Teams

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   Organization at your fingertips.

Mobile Apps for your field-based teams can improve productivity and enhance efficiencies in your business operations.  Here are a few mobile app benefits:

  • Location Tracking

You need to track the location of your field-based teams. Using the location tracking features of a smartphone or other device in your mobile app has a few different benefits.

First, you can monitor where your field team members are going during working hours. This will create accountability, and reduce or eliminate personal side trips that may not be approved.

Location tracking is also beneficial if you have an urgent service call come in during the day and need to see which team members are closest to the job site where a technician is needed. 

  • Digital Capture of Customer Signatures

A custom mobile application will enable your technicians to get any required customer signatures simply, by asking the customer to sign the screen. Their signature is then uploaded instantly to the cloud. No paper necessary.

  • Offline Access Regardless of Connectivity

Even if your field-based team members are in remote areas (or large buildings) without access to the Internet, your mobile app can be designed so it will continue to work. They will be able to view and enter job details; and if they need to report a potential problem they can do it while it is fresh in their minds. Any related information such as digital photos can be added.  When the app detects that they are back in range of an Internet signal the information they added will be uploaded.

  • Simplified Project Coordination

When a different field team member or technician goes into a job, they need as much information as they can get. Giving your field team members the means to detail their findings and results of a job makes it easier to work with a client going forward. Any promises made or problems encountered are readily available to the next technician who services this client.

  • Real-Time Updates

One of the key benefits of a mobile app is that it syncs information to and from the field, ensuring your in-office teams have the same information as your field teams, and vice versa. Cloud sync ensures that everyone has access to the same information in real-time.

  • Improved Scheduling

Schedules change – that is the nature of field service. Whether a customer requests to change a date or cancel an appointment, you want your field team to get as much warning as possible. With the ability to look at the current status of projects, dispatch will be able to coordinate should an issue arise. If a team finishes a project early, or if it looks like a project will run late, dispatch can see this without needing to pick up the phone and ask.

  • Problem Resolutions

With a complete history at their fingertips, field team members are able to make better decisions in less time. Too often, technicians have to make snap decisions with little information. A mobile app can ensure that all of the details they need are in one place so that those quick decisions are informed, not just quick.

  • World Class Customer Service

If a customer takes the time to provide details when they make a service request, the last thing they want is to be asked to repeat those details again and again. Your custom mobile app makes it easy for field team members to get right to work based on specifications your client provided.

If your company takes it a step further and provides your clients with a mobile application, they can use it to view status updates about their service call, view and pay invoices, make service requests, update service requests and even view timely updates of when they can expect their technician to arrive.

Exceptional customer service leads to repeat business and recommendations, without additional marketing. 

  • Reduce Manual Errors

Humans aren’t perfect. From not remembering precise instructions to missing pertinent information in a work order, manual errors are going to happen. You may not be able to get them down to zero, but you can significantly reduce them with automation.

Your field app can automatically make calculations that are currently being done by the technicians and a calculator. Your custom mobile app can create reports, capture GPS coordinates, prompt the tech for more information, correct errors, prevent closing a work order if information (such as a customer signature) is missing, and so on. This saves time on-the-spot and saves time and money later when you avoid sending your tech back to the job site to get missed information.

  • Automated Quotes

If you want to really impress your clients, having the ability to provide automated quotes on the spot is a big plus. Field apps make this not only easy, but quick. With some customization, you can make sure that all pertinent information is included in the quote so that there are no surprises after you get the job.

  • Contract Protection

Depending on your industry, you may need a way (void of tampering) to document that the job has been completed, when and by whom.

With a custom mobile app you can automatically capture the time and GPS coordinates of the team member when they complete certain actions (such as taking a photo, getting a signature, recording data).

You then have documented proof of when and where the information was captured. Hand-written job notes do not provide this level of detail and may not be enough proof in the event of a conflict.

Benefits of Workflow Software

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The definition of workflow:

“The sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.”

There are multiple reasons to consider using workflow in an organization, as it can automate and improve processes in all areas of a business.  One of the most notable examples of workflow is the assembly line which helped to shape the standard of workflow, not only for car manufacturing but for all industries.

Henry Ford set the standard for this workflow, and the production of the Model T is legendary.  Toyota adopted Ford’s assembly line in the 1950s to develop their own lean production system. Over the following years, the benefits of their system resulted in:

  • Productivity increases between 300% to 400%.
  • Labor productivity increased an average of 25% a year.
  • Defect rates reduced from over 2000 to less than 50 parts per million, and in many to less than 10 parts per million.
  • Cost of quality cut by over 60%.
  • Work-in-process inventory cut by more than 80%.

Just a couple of examples of how workflow enhances business.

So here are 10 ways workflow can benefit any business:

  1. Workflow can help by identifying and removing any unnecessary steps in the process.
  2. Modifying the order of the steps can make the process more efficient. For example, some steps could run simultaneously as opposed to sequentially.
  3. Tasks can be assigned to the people with the skills to perform the task, rather than allocating to anyone who needs work to do, which compromises quality!
  4. Management can concentrate on strategic business-oriented activities, rather than the day to day operational tasks, such as task allocation and monitoring progress. This means the organization can grow as a business.
  5. Workflow has provisions to answer all possible questions that arise when deciding on or actioning a task. This helps an individual’s work confidence level, which in turn reflects in the quality of the outcome.
    Some of the questions answered include: What actually needs to be done?, Who am I doing this task for?, How long should I take to perform this task?, Who else is involved in the process?, What will happen after I action this?
  6. Workflow follows a sequential order. It ensures that all steps have been completed correctly (especially areas typically prone to human error) and checkpoints met before moving forward.
  7. Paperwork and paper chasing is eliminated thus reduces waste and saves time. Automatic routing with no paper handling and fast travel time will significantly cut time. The constant movement of the workflow means once a person has finished their part, they can immediately pass it on, so it doesn’t sit around where it can get forgotten or lost.
  8. It improves visibility. Tracking can allow a staff member to instantly check the status of the item. It allows the key people to see the critical processes at every point, identifying problems, and bottlenecks, and monitor end-to-end performance throughout.
  9. Decisions that were determined by people can be made by the workflow, based on businesses rules that can be made to represent human decisions.
  10. Since the workflow is linked to a database, it keeps a record of what occurs in the system. An audit trail shows who, what, when and what actions were performed.

In summary, workflow provides major benefits for any organization. The ten described here are just some of the many benefits of workflow. It makes an organization become more efficient by helping to save time, remove waste, cut out unnecessary work, better use of human resources, which overall saves money and will help an organization to grow and improve.

Adapted from Nathan Gilligan – All Things Workflow.

Roadmapping with Volano

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Fall is here which for us at Volano means, we revisit our goals and start planning for next year before the holidays are upon us.

When you think of how work is flowing through your company, are there areas for improvement in efficiency, accuracy, transparency or accountability?  Are you finding it increasingly difficult to track and/or manage your day-to-day operations because your “systems” don’t talk to each other? 

Volano can facilitate a review into the potential ways collaboration and workflow can improve your business moving forward. 

Here’s our roadmapping process – 

Define:

Envision – How would you like to see the future? 

Prioritize – What are the most important objectives?  How can you maximize?  

Budget – What is an appropriate budget to create and support your productivity tools?  

Deliver: 

Roadmap – Connect the dots between your priorities and set timelines, tying vision to results. 

Implement – A budget based phased approach is the most successful way to achieve your vision.  It allows you to manage to a set budget and always see where your company is going. 

 

Contact us for help facilitating a roadmap for 2019 and beyond!

Real-Time Tracking & Reporting from the Field

Posted by | Accountability, Accuracy, Efficiency, Transparency, Workflow | No Comments

Volano was very fortunate this year to help two companies, Hunt Electric and Miller Electric, as they teamed up for the construction of a multi-phased million square foot data center. They were challenged with scaling their proven processes to a project this size and decided to leverage software to overcome this hurdle.

Volano created an end-to-end solution building both a reporting & management portal for the office as well as a mobile app that works together in real-time providing the communication and insight necessary for the successful installation of the electrical systems.

“Volano listened to the challenges we were up against and built us that solution. Their role in creating a mobile app for more efficient reporting helped our communication and process tremendously.” – John Lepak, Project Manager | HUNT ELECTRIC

Download the Volano Success Study for Hunt and Miller Electric (19 downloads)

4 Things to Consider When Creating Your Employee Portal

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An employee portal can be a very powerful tool. It can save company resources, increase employee engagement and expedite processes, but it must be created thoughtfully and with the end user in mind. Employee portals have become (watch out, here comes a software buzzword) robust! Truly though, employee portals are now far more than an access point to the employee handbook. Be sure to consider the following when designing your employee portal.

Offer Self Service

Although employee portals are expanding, their traditional core functions should remain IT and HR functions. When employees need to make a request or access information, they should be able to rely on the employee portal as the centralized hub. Now, the employee doesn’t have to track down emails, information, forms, etc. to accomplish a simple task. Furthermore, instead of reaching out to IT or HR, waiting a few business days for a reply and wondering what stage the inquiry is in, your employees can get things accomplished quicker and with fewer company resources.

Make It Mandatory

If you’re a business owner or leader, that part about using “fewer company resources” probably caught your eye. While custom software isn’t one of the cheaper things on the budget, the ROI can be pretty fantastic if created and deployed correctly.

At Volano, we create custom software that works for you. Your employee portal should be streamlining processes and saving company resources. There’s just one catch; your employees have to actually use it. To put this into perspective, a recent study reported that two thirds of the respondents say their employee portal has reduced the administrative burden on HR.

Don’t maintain antiquated systems for the folks who simply don’t want to create a log in or “figure it out.” Optimize your ROI by making certain functions of the employee portal mandatory. With a little training and patience, you can get more out of your software investment.

Populate It With Information Your Employees Care About

While the core functions of HR and IT should be a big part of your employee portal, it doesn’t have to be just the stuffy, corporate stuff. You can house information about company events, the calendar for the softball team, or employee recognition and rewards. Make it a fun, social place for employees to connect.

Make It Mobile

Did you know that here in the US we spend an astounding 4.5 hours each day on our phones? It doesn’t even sound possible, right? Well, it is. They’ve become an extension of our bodies. Currently, only 11% of employee portals offer mobile access despite the fact that those portals which do offer mobile access gain more than 2 times as much engagement. Your employees want barrier free access to information, they want mobile access. Ensure that your dollars are well spent by making mobile access a must for your employee portal.

10 Things the Volano Team Loves About Omaha

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Some of us are transplants and some of us are lifers. Some of us have strong roots here, and some of us admittedly long for the coast or a mountain range, but we can all agree that Omaha is a great place for the Volano Team for several reasons…

The Tech Community

We’re in what’s known as the Silicon Prairie; an emerging tech hub right smack dab in the middle of the US. Tech talent has recently been drawn to cities like Omaha for the abundance of job opportunities and our strong economy. There are even great resources like code schools and internships all over the city to get the next generation involved in tech and keeping the tech community growing strong.

The Entrepreneurial Support

Not only can Omaha area entrepreneurs lean on our great economy and strong pipeline of tech talent, the community support of our entrepreneurs is pretty insane here. Investors and connections don’t just fall in your lap, but they certainly aren’t impossible to find. Coworking spaces and incubators are popping up all over the city to foster the growth of startups and entrepreneurs.

Omaha is Becoming More Walkable and Bike-Friendly

We’re seeing more bike lanes and more people using them. The city has also made plans to bring in an expert on making cities more walkable. We’re about a 7 minute bike ride from the heart of downtown, in NoDo (or North Downtown), so safe walking and biking is a huge plus for us.

The Music Scene

With several awesome, funky, divey venues around town, you can have your pick of genres in the underground music scene here in Omaha. You can catch a show somewhere around town just about any night of the week. We’ve even had a few successful recording studios pop up with great promise.

We Have an Abundance of Great Food Trucks

The food truck scene exploded in Omaha in the last few years and we couldn’t be happier about it. Every Friday a different food truck comes to our building and we have yet to be disappointed. That might just be the best part. You can find food trucks in any other city just as easily…but are they anywhere as good? We think not.

The Art and Craftsmanship Community

We’re builders, it’s what we do! Some of us are even part of the Omaha Makers Group. There are a lot of events and organizations that support the arts and craftsmanship in and around Omaha. You can see a strong embrace of the repurposing movement here in Omaha, with a unique blend of old and new; you can see it everywhere from our art to our architecture.

The Economy

The strong economy here makes it a little easier to compete for and attract great software development talent. It also makes it easier for us to offer a healthy work/life balance. The folks in Omaha don’t live to work, they work to live and fortunately, that’s a currency we can get behind.

The Folks are Friendly

It’s kind of like an airplane around here, if you don’t want to chat with someone, you should keep your earbuds in…and even that doesn’t always work. People are just plain friendly in Omaha. There are always outliers, but you’ll just about always catch a smile and a wave on your walk, whether you know a soul or not.

Craft Brewing is Huge

Not gonna lie, if this list had an order, this might be #1. The craft brewing scene has blown up. We now have several really top notch breweries around town. There probably isn’t a day you can walk into the Volano office and not see a growler sitting around waiting for the next fill up.

The CWS is in Our Backyard

Not literally, but if we had a backyard at the office and it was one block away, the CWS would be in our backyard. It’s a really fun time in Omaha and a really fun time at the Volano office. We can walk to the stadium, hang out around the tailgates, or make that short bike ride to the heart of downtown.

Workflow Automation Fails

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As they say, “Every rose has its thorn.” Workflow automation is intended to create efficiencies and increase consistency, but that isn’t always necessarily the case. Custom workflow software needs to be created thoughtfully, with a team of professionals who have seen it all and done it all. As leaders in custom software development in Omaha, we know exactly what the common pitfalls of workflow automation are, and how to avoid them. In this industry, knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does.

Fail #1: Information About Process Management is Being Hoarded

Let’s say Suzie (not Suze, for all those Seinfeld fans out there) was part of the creation and management of a core workflow. Everything was flowing perfectly, until Suzie left the company without passing along vital process management information. Now, the employee taking her place either spends company resources figuring out the process, making and correcting errors, then eventually gets it. Or, they simply abandon the established, working process and create their own to get work flowing again. Neither of these outcomes are ideal. Be sure to procure documentation about every process with context around details and functions. A documented workflow system effectively kicks down the walls that castle builder Suzie has erected. This will seem like a back burner task…until Suzie has left, then it’s a full on situation.

Fail #2: The Workflow Prevents Manual Error Manipulation

There are many situations in which a person in a workflow or post workflow sees an obvious error but cannot manually fix the error or effectively alert relevant persons about the error. In these situations, the person using the software and the person having to clear up the mess the error caused might just wish for their old pen and paper process. The last thing we want is for your custom software investment to work against you. We will always suggest manual intervention in certain areas of your software development.

Fail #3: Your Workflow Lacks a Transparent Look Into the Sequence of Events

We see this roadblock cause the most damage in employee portals. Every employee loves the convenience of an automated process they can complete on their smart device. The problem arises when they have made a request or filed something that requires follow through…but it never comes. They’re not sure if their request got lost in the series of tubes that is the internet, they’re not sure if someone is working on it, or if they performed their submission incorrectly.

In any workflow in which a sequence of events would be relevant to someone involved, we suggest offering that transparently. It’s an oversimplification, but we love how Pizza Hut created their app; it shows a clear timeline from order to delivery; who’s making your pizza, and when it went out the door. ‘Cause people need to know about the status of their pizza!

Experience in workflow automation is really the only way to avoid these common fails, and we’re proud to say we have plenty of it. Not all software is created equally. The planning and thought that goes into your custom workflow software, is what will make the finished project a success. For more on the Volano process, click here.

3 Ways You’re Killing Productivity

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Every business owner is concerned with productivity. It’s one of the most important metrics a leader can measure and improve upon. It’s usually pretty easy to focus on outside distractions and seek out obvious inefficiencies. It’s not quite so easy to realize when you as leader are the roadblock or the bottleneck. Take a second to reflect on these common ways leaders are killing productivity in the workplace.

You’re Bogging Your Team Down With Tasks That Could Be Automated

Have you embraced technology? We mean really embraced technology. You’ve probably ditched the filing cabinets and ledgers, but there’s so much more. There are endless possibilities when it comes to automation.

When you automate tasks you enhance efficiencies and consistency, and reduce the use of redundant resources. Take a look at each task that is repeated on a daily or weekly basis and at least consider the idea that it could be automated. What would that look like and what would be the return over one, five, or ten years?

Read more on automation here.

You’re Hoarding Information and Responsibility

Information is power, so why do we tend to find all the information closest to the top of the ladder? Sometimes leaders don’t think the information is necessary for the task, they don’t want to take the time to give context, or they might even think giving too much information can be overwhelming.

Stop underestimating your team and start empowering them. First, figure out why you aren’t delegating and sharing information. No time? Maybe you need a centralized information hub. Worried about follow through? Perhaps you need automated work queues and accountability alerts. Doing it yourself is just easier than training someone? We know it’s hard to give up that control, but it’s 100% necessary in order to foster growth and support scalability.

You’re Not Conveying Clear Expectations

Do you ever get frustrated because you can’t seem to get your team to do exactly what it is you want? Well, have you stopped to consider whether or not you’ve made your expectations clear? Communication can be a really funny thing, especially when your main communication medium is email. So much can get lost in translation, and lack of context can be a productivity killer.

Stop assuming your expectations are clear. Stop relying on email as a project management system. Instead, create concrete goals for staff members. Be sure you and your team have a shared understanding of what success looks like with each step. Does this feel like a lot more trouble than it’s worth? Trust us, it’s not. Conveying clear expectations and standards consistently will set the bar going forward.

Could you use a more productive staff? Let us help you help them! It’s what we do; we help leaders find the inefficiencies and productivity blocks in their team (including themselves). Let’s talk about how we can make work flow in your organization.

Let’s Talk About Your Sales Emails

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Custom workflow software is a necessity for any sales team that is not operating optimally, solely with an out of the box CRM…basically all of them. Over the years, we have worked with many sales teams. We’re the guys who create the software that makes sure all of the promises made by a vendor or service provider are followed through on: on-time delivery, security, accurate ordering, automated communications, and a whole bunch of other great stuff that keeps customers happy and coming back.  

Given all of our success working with sales teams and managing our own sales, we thought it would be a nice change of pace to talk about the beginning of the sales cycle, rather than the end, where we spend most of our time. More specifically, we’d like to talk about sales emails! Here’s what we know…

A little effort, please?

We get that there is a diminishing return when you spend too much time optimizing your sales emails with personalization and customization. There really isn’t any practical way to ditch the templates and canned emails, but a little effort can go a long way.

Take your sales email template and add fields within to make customizing each email quick and easy. There are the obvious point of contact fields and company name, but be sure to add specifics about their business challenges and industry insights that add value to your communication.

Get down to it.

Lead with the benefits of your product or service. That is really all these people care about. What can you do for me? What will I get out of speaking with you? What is the value? The sooner you can provide these answers, the better your chance of getting a solid lead.

The proof is in the puddin’.

People want to see results. They want proof that you can and will deliver on whatever it is you’re peddling. Hard numbers and statistics can be really powerful. Not everyone has time to read your case study, so make it short and sweet with a powerful proof point, before and after pictures, or client testimonials.

Use your CTAs wisely.

“Learn More” is getting a little stale, right? Remember up there when we talked about adding specifics and industry insights to your email copy? Use those bits of information to create eye-catching, customized CTAs.

Let’s say Volano wants to work with a trucking company, building their employee portal (which we totally did). We might add a “Let’s Get Truckin’” linked button within our sales email, or a “Portal to Your New Portal” link. Cheesy or professional, these are really simple customizations that grab attention and prove your eye for detail.

We hope this helps our sales team friends out there. Generic emails to huge lists will only get you on the spam list. Taking just a few more small steps to add personalization to your sales emails will prove worth it! Even if fewer emails get sent, a dozen well-written, thoughtfully crafted sales emails can be more impactful than a cold, canned email sent to thousands.

7 Ways to Instill Trust in Your Website Users

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A couple of months ago we launched our interactive division here at Volano Solutions. Every project is different, but there are a few things every client wants: increased revenue, more sales, and customer loyalty. Those are standards in our website project objectives. Whether you have an ecommerce site or your site is simply meant to be informative, there are some elements we consider essential in establishing trust with your users. So, let’s talk about how Volano builds trustworthy websites…

  • Reviews and Testimonials

According to a Bright Local study, almost 90% of consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 39% do so on a regular basis. When you make these reviews readily available, you can establish trust sooner without making your customers dig for the information.

  • Showcasing Clients

Showcase your clients by adding their logos and links to your site. A nice touch would be adding case studies for those really successful projects and relationships. It’s always best to gain consent first.

  • Press Mentions

Be sure to share your positive press mentions. A simple slider with excerpts from articles in which your organization is given props can go a long way in reassuring potential customers and clients that you have a solid reputation for taking care of your customers.

  • Memberships and Awards

Do you have A+ ratings, certificates, memberships, awards, etc.? Be sure to add mention of these on your website. These acknowledgements let your site visitors know what they can expect from you. They are further proof that you can guarantee the level of service they’re looking for.

  • Security Policy

Your customers want to know what measures you’ve taken to ensure their information is secure. Be sure to offer a security policy that includes what systems and tools you use on your site, complete with logos/badges.

  • SSL

An SSL is now a standard online security feature. An SSL is a digital certificate that verifies the authenticity and identity of the merchant or organization. This certificate proves to visitors or online shoppers that the website is secure and reliable.

  • Presentation

Last but certainly not least, presentation is key to gaining trust. You need a professional site with authentic imagery and relevant resources. Additionally–we beg you–please be sure your text is grammatically correct and proofed for spelling errors. Nothing will discredit an organization faster than an unprofessional site.

Not too bad, right? These are all really easy additions to make to your site to instill trust in your visitors. Want to know more about how you can offer your site visitors a safer, more reliable online experience with your brand? Read more about our interactive division here. Then, give us a ring.