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Four reasons why “not a good time” is the BEST time to switch to data collection software for utility field operations

By Linda Schwefel
November 7, 2022

Making the switch from pen and paper

Maybe you’ve been contemplating making the switch from pen and paper for your utility pole inspections. Or thought about moving from collecting data on optical loss on fiber optic cable using a spreadsheet typed on a laptop on the hood of your car in the middle of nowhere. However, you don’t get any further because this isn’t the right time to upgrade to data collection software for utility field operations.

Stop me if you’ve heard these before (even if in your own head):

“Our team just doesn’t have the time to do the big switch to inspection and data collection software, and with so many teams, divisions, and field operations, it isn’t practical to make a full-scale move.”

“We’re trying to cut back expenses. It’s going to be a hard sell to get leadership to buy into adding another expense when, to their mind, how we’re doing things now still works okay.”

“Our field operations change all the time. How could we make changes using an app without getting someone from IT involved, wasting more time, money, and resources that we don’t have?” 

“My field team isn’t particularly tech savvy. They have a hard enough time keeping up with field inspections they need to do now; you introduce new technology and we’re going to be so far in the hole we won’t ever be able to claw our way out.”

‍If any of these sound familiar, you’re just the person that digital field inspection software was made to help.  Let me tell you why.

Why you shouldn’t delay digitization

Digitization doesn’t have to be all at once, or all or nothing.

It can be overwhelming to contemplate the immediate digital switch of all your data collection processes in one go. The best way is to start with low-hanging fruit: the field operations process that is the most time-consuming, labor-intensive, and onerous for your field inspections team. Let’s pick vegetation management, for example.

Weeds and trees keep growing, and staying on top of it all is a 365-days-a-year undertaking. Using pen and paper, you’re taking measurements and trying to describe the visuals of weed growth. Maybe you’re taking photos with a camera or your phone, and must collate them with the clipboard paper or spreadsheet somehow. Instead, take this one single field data collection software task, and, in about half an hour, create a custom vegetation management app – or use ours from our application gallery. (Another good one for starting on is our utility pole inspection software app.) Have a couple of your most tech-reluctant workers give it a try. And watch and wait for the inspection rate to go up – along with the data quality.

It’s free to try, and inexpensive to subscribe.

Fulcrum has a free 30-day trial for new customers. That’s more than enough time to get a vegetation management or utility pole inspection software usage underway. Once you’ve got a successful pilot launch under your belt with clear ROI (as an example, one of our clients recently reported an ROI equaling a full annual subscription in two weeks), it’s a lot easier to get management buy-in.

Spreadsheets, pens, and paper can’t compete with digital field inspection flexibility.

If you’re using pen and paper, every time there is a new process or a change in an existing process, you’re creating a new form that must be distributed to every person in the field – and good luck making sure everyone is working from the same version. The problem is a little better with spreadsheets, but once again you’re making changes on a document that must be shared with people in the field who must manually download and use it. With a digital platform, you can spend a few minutes or seconds making changes on an existing data collection or field inspection process and push to your workers in the field for instant, 100% adoption. And with drag-and-drop inspection form creation and editing in the Fulcrum platform, making new forms or updating old ones is far simpler and faster than any word doc or spreadsheet could ever be.

Onboarding – both for doing field inspections *and* for using field inspection apps – has never been easier.

Field inspection and data collection software bypass time-consuming onboarding, instead letting your field team download Fulcrum to their phones and get right to work – no training required. Try doing that with a first day inspector using a paper and clipboard! This Day 1 expertise isn’t only for using Fulcrum, either. With a mobile device in hand complete with in-app reference materials, step-by-step instructions, photos and more, your field teams become instant field inspection and data collection experts the moment they sign in.

Electric utility worker performing visual inspection on tower using tablet - data collection software for utility

There’s no time like the present

Not to get all poetic, but contemplate this quote from Voltaire: “The best is the enemy of the good.”

So yes, you’re right – maybe the time isn’t perfect to make the switch.

You’ll always be busy, and find it hard to make time to make a change.

Money is always an issue, and management will usually be reluctant to add a new expense to its budget.

And sometimes it’s just easier to put your head down and keep doing things like you have been. 

But if you’re reading this blog, that means you’re looking for something to make your job easier.

Digitization of your field inspection and data collection processes is that thing.  And the sooner you take the plunge, the less time you’ll have to regret not doing it sooner.  And while the time will never be perfect, it’s definitely a great time to make the jump.

‍Ready to try Fulcrum for yourself? Find out more about Fulcrum for utilities, and sign up for your free trial today!