Efficiency Archives - Volano Solutions

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.

Real-Time Tracking & Reporting from the Field

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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 (155 downloads)

Work Management Is Not Task Management

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You often hear of people complaining they need a better task management system. That’s why there are so many different apps for task management. But who needs an app for something that is relatively easy to manage with a good, old fashioned pen and paper?

Work management, however, is where people generally need help, but most don’t know the difference between managing tasks and managing work. There are so many differences that we’re going to cover the similarities first, of which there are two.

With both work management and task management, you have something to do and after you take care of it, you check it off the list.

Those two instances are the only similarities between work management and task management. Since work management tends to be a bit more involved, we will delve into its key features.


Work is always part of a multi-step process. In order to begin managing your work, you need to determine the steps and where they fall in the workflow. You also need to define who is responsible for each step.


Pertinent and ancillary information associated with your work will fall into fields. The information in these fields can range from contact information to the date a contract was signed. You define what type of data will be stored in the fields, including: text, numbers, web addresses, geo-coordinates, pick lists, or anything else you can think of.  We have found that many times, particular fields are filled in by the people responsible of certain steps.

Work Queues

Work queues foster the accountability we talk so much about.  They allow people to see what they need to work on and in what order. How does work end up in a particular queue? It can either be directly assigned to a person or can appear based on which team they are assigned to. For example, all of the work in step 1 is directly added to each team member’s queue. Pretty nifty, huh?


Having a history of work completed is essential to good work management. It brings the transparency necessary to know where the bottlenecks are in your process or to answer your clients when they ask, “what’s taking so long?”  It would be short-sighted to not keep a running history of who worked on what and when.


The purpose of capturing fields, tracking steps and recording all other detailed information is to be able to produce reports. Reports are essential for both a high-level and micro-level view of the work. At a high-level, it is important to ensure nothing is falling through the cracks. On a micro-level, you need to be able to answer the questions of who, why and when for each aspect of the work.

Over the past 9 years, we have focused on architecting and implementing custom software that helps businesses manage their work, allowing it to flow through their unique processes.

What Has Workflow Automation Done for Me Lately?…A Lot.

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It’s no secret, we are big fans of automation. We love finding processes of all kinds that can be automated with thoughtfully developed software. It’s very satisfying to work with a client and find those processes that be redesigned to save time and valuable resources. The ROI of this type of software development makes workflow automation a no-brainer. In case you’re still on the fence about your organization’s need for workflow automation, we thought we should share some of the more impactful benefits of workflow automation.

Reduce Errors

It’s the simplest way to reduce errors -reduce the number of decisions a person has to make in a given process. At its core, workflow automation is an interactive checklist wherein the completion of one action, triggers the start of the next action. Everything happens in a predetermined order, making errors a thing of the past. The right software will notify relevant members of the team of late work, missing approvals and overlooked tasks.

Improve Communication

Manual notification of completed tasks is no longer needed. The moving of responsibility to push an action forward is no longer up to teammates. Instead, automated notifications keep every project moving forward. Communication isn’t eliminated, it is fostered. With automated workflow software, notifications and project status updates are designed to keep all members of the team communicating about and working toward the same goals in a central hub.

Foster Employee Success

Workflow automation drastically reduces human error and lag times inherent in unguided processes. Employees are given the tools, information and accountability they need to be successful in their given role.

Reduce Costs and Save Resources

The element of human error in manual processes can have a domino effect and become quite costly. Additionally, the lag time in manual processes can be crippling. When a process is automated, it is optimized and streamlined, saving time and resources.

Provide Scalability

When the day-to-day tasks that burden your workforce can be automated, organizational resources are opened up for other, more dynamic work to be done. These vital resources are now available to drive the success of the organization, rather than continue to slow employees down with mundane, mindless tasks.

Improve Organization

Chats, email and the human memory will only get your organization so far. Organization is essential to growth and success, no matter what data or information we’re talking about. Information needs to be searchable and accessible and automatically presented to employees to move progress forward as quickly as possible.

Real-Time Reports

Paper-based processes can be painfully slow and inaccurate. With automated processes, information is documented and shared in real time. This makes reports immediately actionable, rather than suffering intrinsic lag times that often make information irrelevant by the time it is acted upon.

3 Common Development Roadblocks in Custom Workflow Software

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Our whole schtick is, “We make work flow”. So, it wouldn’t go over too well if our process wasn’t optimized for a smooth client experience. Can you imagine having the people promising to make your life easier guiding you through a total mess of a process? Yeah, that can’t happen.

Every custom software development project is different, because every organization is different. However, we’ve been in this business long enough to identify the common roadblocks in the custom software development process. If you’re thinking about investing in custom software, this is a quick and easy read to help you prepare for success.

Disconnect Between the Decision Makers and the People Actually Using the Software

The decision makers for investments like this are usually not the people who will actually be using the software. That means they are also not the same people facing the everyday pain points that lead to the decision to invest in custom software. Naturally, there is almost always a disconnect here.

Be sure to have a team of people who will be using the software involved in the development process. Ask them to supply you with a list of client-facing pain points, as well as their own. Then, ask them for a wish list -a list of tools or features that would be great to have, but aren’t necessarily must-haves. You might find that some of those wish list items make a lot of sense financially. We often find daily manual processes that can easily be automated, saving large amounts of company resources as time passes.

Desired Features vs Wishlist

Speaking of wish lists, they have a tendency to get a little…out of control. There is a big difference between automating a workflow and deciding what you really wanted looked more like the Star Ship Enterprise. Don’t get us wrong, we love when the creative juices get flowing, brainstorming gets exciting and problems begin to untangle. It’s exciting, and we definitely depend on our clients’ unique insights and industry experience for that to happen. Just be sure to have a firm understanding of what you would like a solution to look and feel like. It’s never too late to add the bells and whistles.

In fact, that’s part of what makes us different at Volano; we don’t enter agreements, we enter relationships. We make sure our clients know software updates are necessary and they’re given the support to know how to maintain their software and get the upgrades they need.

Failure to Properly Integrate and Train

Let’s say you’ve got this beautiful, customized Ferrari and then you realize that no one knows how to drive a stick shift. Don’t invest in custom software and then let it collect dust in the garage! Training and integration of your custom software is vital. There will often be an aversion to new technology or processes in the workplace, but that is easily overcome with the right leadership and encouragement. In true Volano fashion, we have a blog for that, here. Here’s the general outline:

Give Context -Why is this change happening? What benefits can the employees expect? What are the benefits to the organization? How will this change their everyday routine?

Customize TrainingInstead of whizzing through a one-size-fits-all training course, communicate with employees on a one-on-one basis about their specific training needs.

Plant Ambassadors -Target your most tech-savvy go-getters and get them familiar with the technology before you introduce it to the entire team.

Reward Buy-In -Consider gamification of the training process; making it fun, engaging, and exciting. Creating a buzz around the change with rewards is a really effective tool.

Avoiding these common roadblocks is easy; do some internal research, have a vision of the desired solution and don’t sabotage your own investment by not properly integrating or training. Custom software is intended to save resources and optimize processes. We want to do everything we can to make sure the entire process is as smooth as your new workflow.

Answer These 5 Questions to Find Out if Custom Software is for You

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You may have caught the buzz about custom software in small- and medium-size businesses. For a while, this was a luxury only afforded to larger businesses, but today, custom software is a standard for nimble, efficient businesses of all sizes. The evolution of custom software for organizational workflows has made its way into even the smallest of businesses. Firstly, the technology is now more affordable, secondly, the ROI has been proven time and again, and lastly, custom workflow software smoothes out pain points, saving resources and sanity.

A lot of business leaders come to us unsure if they even need custom software. Here are some questions that will help you discover if custom workflow software is right for you and your organization.

Is your team trying to “share” spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets are great for small tasks with virtually no moving parts. They are not great for the efficient storage, organization and utilization of data where more than one person is involved. Simply put, spreadsheets are not designed to replace project management solutions or real databases. The functionality is simply not there.

Do your business systems dictate your processes?

One of the biggest advantages custom software brings to the table is that it works with your processes, rather than dictating them. When you have multiple, out of the box, rigid systems working “together”, your processes become cumbersome and disjointed. Custom workflow software smooths out those bumps and ridges, to make work flow.

Do you manually input data into two or more systems?

This is a time suck and increases the likelihood of entering incorrect information. There is no reason multiple people should be inputting multiple sets of data into multiple systems. Custom software ensures that data needs only to be entered once, and then populates the correct fields and systems seamlessly.

Are You Continuously Recreating Processes and Workflows?

If you and your team are having to continuously recreate the wheel, it’s time to use custom software to create, implement and maintain repeatable processes with work queues that increase accountability and transparency. Your team can work smarter, not harder

Did you accidentally lose track of over 500 weapons in Afghanistan?

So the answer to this one might be “no…?” but we had to work this in. Long story short, the Pentagon created an shoddy, albeit elaborate system to track the weapons they were sending to Afghanistan. Here’s the jist of it (this may sound familiar, only not with guns)…

“It turns out there are three databases meant to track the small arms, which include rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers and shotguns. One is a Defense Department listing of all those shipped from the United States. The second is a Defense Department listing of all those received in Afghanistan. They rely heavily on the serial numbers of the arms. But these numbers must be entered manually, and the two databases — one showing shipments and one showing receipts — are inexplicably not linked together. The results are not pretty.”

The custom software to make your processes and operations seamless is here, it’s affordable, accessible, and it has become the new standard in business. Relentless in the study of business operations and the best ways to leverage technology as your competitive advantage, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Some challenges can be met with existing solutions, while others need to be created from scratch. Together we’ll implement a solution crafted to enhance the efficiency, accountability, accuracy and transparency of your organization as a whole. Let’s start today.

7 Crazy Stats About Office Productivity

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When you think about lost productivity, you might immediately envision the ubiquitous, blue “f”. While Facebook, personal web browsing and general laziness are big time wasters at work, you can’t place all the blame on employees. Leaders, operations and outdated processes are very often also to blame. Check out these stats…

The highest-performing 10% of workers tend to work for 52 minutes followed by a 17-minute break. (Source: DeskTime) Tweet that stat!

So maybe next time you have to break up a water cooler chat about “The craziness that will be the Beyonce Formation Tour presale”, (which, who hasn’t had to this week?) Consider how productive your team has been lately. If you’re not sure, then the water cooler gathering is the least of your worries. On the other hand…

23.4% of workers cited socializing with co-workers as the second leading office distraction. (Source: TrendHunter) Tweet that stat!

Talk about knowing when and how to strike a balance! So you want to give them the autonomy of breaks to increase productivity, but you also have to be able to know when to reel it in. The key is to always have a finger on the pulse of the productivity of your team. That’s leadership.

Happy employees are 12% more productive. (Source: University of Warwick) Tweet that Stat!

How’s your employee recognition program working for ya?

23% of workers believe that time spent in meetings is a waste. (Source: Harris Poll and CareerBuilder) Tweet that stat!

How productive are your meetings? Are you using all of the tools at your disposal to reduce the number of, and time spent in meetings? If you’re having to hold meetings about the same topics, tasks or issues, perhaps an aging process needs to be addressed.

An average of $1,800 per employee, annually is spent on unnecessary emails. (Source: Atlassian ) Tweet that stat!

The majority of organizations we work with try to replace project or workflow management with email. It does not work! Sure, you could eventually get to Texas on a bike, but there are far better mediums to get there, right? That’s the difference between email and custom workflow software -A to B in the most efficient way.

The average worker spends 1.8 hours each day searching for and gathering information. (Source: McKinsey) Tweet that stat!

When is the last time you revisited your processes and how your information is being stored, organized and accessed? Odds are, it’s time to consider investing in a custom database.

As leaders, we can’t always pass the buck when it comes to lost productivity. Sometimes we have to look at the tools, processes and support we’ve made available to them. It’s not always easy to spot an archaic or inefficient process because we get comfortable and stuck in our ways. But, “That’s how we’ve always done it” is a very dangerous mindset.

The 4 Emails that Everyone Loathes and What They Do to Productivity

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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, email is great for a lot of things, but it definitely shouldn’t be any organization’s primary mode of communication. Instead of creating new processes and introducing efficient technologies, we’ve grown dependent on email, which was never intended as a project management or workflow technology. To highlight the pitfalls of email, we’ve identified the four types of emails we all get on a regular basis that make us go…

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The Forward -the email thread with about 127 conversations forwarded to you with little or no direction. You finally get to the bottom of the thread and realize you still have no idea what role you play in all of this. You read it again, and eventually ask the sender for some context. Next comes an overwhelming feeling of annoyance. You’ve read, reread, asked for clarity, and wasted a whole lot of time. The only real message “The Forward” sends is that the sender values their own time and not that of the recipient.

The Emotionally Androgynous -the all caps and exclamations email that has obviously been written by someone who is either extremely angry or excited…or are they? With email, intent and tone are not always obvious. And no, the solution is not to add smiley faces on the end of everything. When messages aren’t crafted with the reader’s perspective in mind, they can be detrimental to office morale, or even create an unprofessional atmosphere in the workplace.

The Article -isn’t it the best when your manager or co-worker sends you an article with no indication why? You’ve been sent an article on the latest ad retargeting best practices. Okay…am I implementing these? Am I giving you feedback on the article? Should I assume any deliverables and if so, what?! It’s annoying. Again, the sender is sending the crystal clear message that they don’t have time to make sure the recipient has all the information they need. Then, more emails go back and forth. An Atlassian report revealed that an average of $1,800 is wasted annually per employee on unnecessary emails.

The Siri -when the person sending you an email seems to not care in the least that their email makes zero sense. The same Atlassian report revealed that poorly written communications can cost your business as much as $4,100 per year, per employee. If your employees or colleagues have told you multiple times they need a translator, maybe let’s not have Siri send your messages?

Again, we realize email is an essential tool today and it’s here to stay, but there are ways to optimize the use of email. Here are a few tips from author and entrepreneur David Silverman aimed at making our email communications better:

Include a call to action. Does your e-mail ask the reader to do anything? If not, why are you sending it?

Be upfront. Is the e-mail’s purpose clear from its subject line and first sentence?

Assume nothing. Verify what you think the audience already knows, because it may not.

Think it through. Are your views or requests clear? Don’t force people to read your mind.

To conclude, there are better, more efficient ways to communicate. Email is now this puzzle piece that we continuously try to make fit into these spaces that is just isn’t supposed to be. It doesn’t fit into the CRM role, or the project management role, or the workflow management role, or the operations role. We’d love to talk with you about the technology that does fit. Contact us today.

Customer Question: Why Does Software Need to be Updated?

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Does it rot? Well, yeah, it does. Like everything else in business, life, the universe -software, the technology and people surrounding it are always changing and evolving. After discussing this with a client, we realized the discussion would lead to the meat of a great post. We want our clients to understand the necessity of software updates.

Software isn’t a set it and forget it solution. In fact, the investment in software is just the beginning of your relationship with it and with your provider -us. Workflow software in particular has to be able to grow with your team, other technology, and industry trends…

Software and Your Organization

Is payroll handled the same way it was 20 years ago? Are your operations the same? Are your marketing initiatives the same? Nope, nope, nope. Your organization is constantly changing. To think you will be running on the same workflow processes in the coming decade (or even five years) is even more unlikely than going back to ledgers and paper files (no offense if you’re still there).

We’ve done total overhauls on workflow software and we’ve done small tweaks. It’s important our clients realize that the creation of their software is really just the beginning of our relationship with them. The best part? The more we work with an organization, the more seamless and holistic their workflow software becomes.

Software and the Technology Surrounding It

Do you remember when your first generation iPad just started sucking? Or when you tried to update an application on your phone and it said you can’t because you need the newest IOS? Or when that Millennial made fun of your Hotmail address?

By definition, software is the programs and other operating information used by a computer. It’s technology within technology that operates with other technologies. Whew! What we’re getting at here is that you and your software aren’t in a vacuum. Your workflow software works with outside technologies. Depending on the purpose of the workflow software, it was can work in conjunction with any number of other technologies like your CRM, email marketing platform, accounting systems, employee or candidate portals, and the list goes on. As these other systems and technologies change, so must your workflow software.

Software and Your Industry Needs

Staying relevant means staying ahead of the curve, or at the very least, being able to keep up. I like to use Blockbuster as an example. When Redbox came out, it completely antiquated their business model. This happens to the best of us in business -someone comes out with a better, cheaper more awesome product. In those situations, what matters is that you’re able to make effective, swift pivots to your products and services. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, it’s fast-paced.

So, what we really want our clients to know, is we’re in it for the long haul. We won’t set you up for a Blockbuster fail. We’ll help you create that nimble, pivot on a dime company you need to be to survive. Let’s talk about how to get started today.

7 Ways to Improve Your Daily Workflow

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We are in an age of hyper-productivity. If you’re not doing five things at once, while ordering your paper towels on Amazon and catching up on Blacklist, then what are you even doing with your life? The problem is, with so much going on, has anyone noticed that not a lot is actually getting done. Our workflow software is ideal for transparency and accountability through processes, but there are some hacks you can add to your everyday routine to help you get more done by working smarter, not harder.

Take Breaks

It may seem counterproductive to take breaks while working, but breaks actually increase productivity. Researchers suggest eating small amounts of protein, taking a walk around the building, or reading a few pages from your latest book. It’s key to take these breaks before your energy is depleted. Schedule your breaks, so you get your recharge before you’re running on empty.

Stay Organized

This used to mean file folders and a place for your stapler. Now, your online workspace is what you have to keep in order, and that can often be harder than keeping your tangible items organized. The mismanagement of information eats up a considerable amount of time and energy. Yes, creating processes to stay organized takes time and discipline, but it’s well worth it!

Leave Work at Work

Burnout is real and it’s more likely to happen if there aren’t strong boundaries between work and your personal life. You have to be able to shut it off, put down the smartphone, and invest in your personal life and relationships. By keeping a healthy work/life balance, you give yourself the opportunity to recharge on a daily basis.

Use Collaboration Tools

Context, accountability and transparency are key pieces of team success. Are the project workflow tools you’re currently using actually being used? Truly being effective? Seamless teamwork doesn’t come naturally to well, just about any of us. We all need the right tools to hold us accountable and encourage transparency.

Step Away From the Email

We check our email far too much throughout the day. Yes, those emails have to be opened and responded to, but when we’re checking our email incessantly, we’re taking our focus away from other tasks, procrastinating and wasting time refocusing time and time again. We suggest checking email once every two hours or in between tasks. Stop the refocusing.

Learn to Say “No”

While we aren’t fans of the ol’, “That’s not my job” we also realize that everyone has a threshold. We can get so caught up in being team players that we take it too far and over extend ourselves. Then comes the burnout, things fall through the cracks and although you started off with the best of intentions, you’re now the problem employee who can’t get work done on time. Knowing your threshold and making transparency part of your everyday workflow can help prevent taking on too much.

Sleep Your Way to the Top

We stole this quip from a great speech by Arianna Huffington. The premise is that once she realized that working 13 hour days and bragging about how little sleep you get actually gets you nowhere, she decided to start putting herself first. She decided to start getting more sleep, taking time to exercise and making it a point to fuel her body with healthier foods. She saw her productivity increase and her work/life balance actually start to balance.