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Use platform features – not product categories – to choose the best field operations solution

By Linda Schwefel
January 3, 2023

So you’re looking to do some field inspections, field ops, field data collection, field audits, field inventories, or collecting any  information in the field, and are sick of walking around with a tattered notebook and an on again-off again quasi-working pen. Your team has talked it over, and it’s time to make the jump to digital for your field operations. But where to start?

Keyword confusion

We’ll begin with a sample use case: performing fire hydrant inventories and assessments, managing the  field teams performing them, obtaining accurate location data for each record, and creating reports to share with your customers.

Using the Google search term field service management, you’ll probably get results for software that helps managers schedule and dispatch field teams. But does field service management software let you collect data in the field with easily created (and customizable) checklists?

Or how about field inspection management? Is that technology only about inspections? What about data collection, or digital standard operating procedures (SOPs), or geolocation intelligence?

Or maybe you search GIS asset management to get the mapping (geographic information systems) component, but then again, is it then all about the maps? Do you have the ability to easily create checklists to collect data, and share the data in a form that’s palatable to the end client?

Once you’ve done some googling, you’ll discover that there are probably two dozen terms for software offerings that look like they could possibly help with your use case. Unfortunately, there’s no agreed-upon definition for each type of software, the different categories of field inspection-related software often have overlapping use cases, and some platforms in each self-defined category can have startling gaps in functionality when comparing features to platform descriptors.

So , what’s a field ops manager contemplating the switch to digital to do?

Ignore the categories, look for the features

Rather than getting hung up on the titles for different types of software, we recommend that you instead look for the platform that has what you need to do what you want. Going back to our fire hydrant data collection project, you might look up field inspection software, or field inspection management software, or even hydrant inspection software to start, but that should only be the beginning. You will want to drill down into the features it has versus the functionality you need, understanding that even though two (or 10) software platforms might have the same descriptive title, they likely have very different sets of features.

A rose by any other name…

Here at Fulcrum, our most common category description is “field inspection management platform,” but we do a lot more than field inspections. Fulcrum tackles issues like keeping people safe, ensuring quality work, inspecting field assets, plus helping you manage, keep track of, resolve, and analyze just about anything out in the field. Fulcrum has automatic geotagging of every record, and helps to improve worker safety and work quality through easily-followed SOPs. Our digital checklists are out-of-the-box, Day 1 deployable, or able to be customized to a staggering level of complexity. Fulcrum integrates with software you might have in place on the front end, like existing databases and Okta SCIM, as well as those you use on the backend, such as GIS tools. Fulcrum works offline, automatically syncing whenever you get back to a network. Fulcrum lets you task manage issues, assigning follow-on activities and tracking progress through dashboards. And Fulcrum lets anyone report issues that need attention without downloading anything, simply by heading to a website accessed by QR code.

And that’s just scratching the surface – really, how could the term “field inspection platform” ever hope to capture it all?

Once you get the software solution in place that does everything you need, the category description is at best an afterthought. Because, does it matter if a software platform calls itself field inspection software, field management software, field auditing software, or other variation, as long as it helps you get the job done?  To steal (and butcher) a quote from the Bard, a Fulcrum by any other name would smell as sweet – and transform the way your company does field work.

We’re sticking with Fulcrum though – Company with Best-in-Class Field Inspection, Data Collection, Safety and Quality with Automatic Geointelligence, Reporting, Community Reporting, Task/Issue Dashboard and Tracking, Offline Data Collection, and Easy Front- and Back-Office Integration, Inc. just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Looking to automate your field operations to improve field team productivity and operational effectiveness? Start your free trial of Fulcrum today!