Logo preload
close Logo

Why SaaS data collection tools are best for electric utilities

By Linda Schwefel
July 19, 2023

If electric utilities and their contractors need reliable, efficient, and affordable SaaS data collection tools, why do they so often rely on in-house software solutions to manage their field operations?

Few options, customization needs, and sunk costs

The size and scope of work that needed to be done required that electric utilities and contractors turn to technology to help them keep track of their field operations early in the game – likely decades before other industries. The lack of feasible available outside options for data collection was the necessity that drove the creation of in-house systems for data collection, because in-house tech was better than *no* tech.

In addition, the complex nature of electric utilities work also spurred the use of homegrown software solutions as early SaaS digital data collection tools couldn’t meet the industry’s specific customization and functional requirements.

Finally, even now when there are SaaS options that can do far better and more affordably what in-house systems have been doing for years, the thousands and often millions of dollars spent on the homegrown solutions make the notion of abandoning their investments unpalatable.

It’s essential for electric utilities and contractors still relying on in-house data collection tools to question whether sticking with the status quo is truly the best approach – or simply the way things have always been done.

Moving away from in-house solutions

While homegrown data collection tools may be able to get the job done on a surface level, they are almost uniformly a logistical and financial nightmare to maintain. And while these cobbled together platforms served a purpose before the era of powerful SaaS solutions, they’re no longer the best option.

Join us in this six-part series as we explore the inherent problems of in-house software and shed light on why SaaS data collection tools are the best solution for electric utilities and contractors. Our first entry involves time – as in, how in-house solutions take time, and SaaS solutions save it.

Time to Develop

With estimates ranging from 4.5 months to 12 months and more, developing your own in-house data collection app is not for the faint of heart – or for those who are looking for an option that will be ready to go any time soon. It often can seem as if the world is conspiring against efforts to get a software solution completed, with staffing issues, hardware and software snags, and things as mundane as vacations and as catastrophic as equipment failure can take their toll on your timelines.

In addition, starting with a “blank page” of software creation can be problematic in itself – just getting people on the same page on what the solution should include, what features to add, and how it should look can add weeks if not months to timelines.

With SaaS: Rather than starting from scratch, SaaS solutions provide a structure and starting point to create data collection apps while still allowing customization necessary to perform everything you can think of – and more. With Fulcrum, for example, enterprise customers can collaborate with the Fulcrum customer success team to create incredibly complex, task-intensive, integrated data collection processes within a couple of days. Just try to set that deadline with your IT staff!

Time to Train

In-house data collection tools are not known for being particularly user-friendly. New staff, teams, or contractors, and consultants looking to hop on a homegrown platform and get to work will almost certainly be disappointed. As our client, GeoForce Utility Solutions stated in a recent Fulcrum success story, the unique nature of every in-house platform means that anyone working on it will need training, and often extensive training, to start using it: “For many of these in-house applications, we have to sit through training to use their system, sometimes for a day or more.”

With SaaS: Designed to be user-friendly, SaaS data collection tools ensure quicker and easier training, onboarding, and user support, reducing the learning curve and enhancing productivity. Fulcrum, for example, offers in-app and email support for all its tiers, with a priority phone support line for its enterprise customers. Fulcrum also provides an entire series of follow-along videos that show users exactly how to use its data collection tool, helping everyone from the absolute beginner just getting started to the seasoned user looking to get the most out the platform.

Why SaaS data collection tools are best for electrical utilities and contractors – Part 1Time to Use

In addition to the obvious issue that everyone who begins working on the platform will be starting with absolutely zero knowledge or experience with the platform, just get logged on can be an issue, particularly in industries such as electric utilities that regularly face urgent staff ramp-ups to deal with power outages and other emergencies. The in-house system can quickly become overwhelmed by the increased demand and may even be offline itself due to being in the same areas where the extreme weather occurred.

With SaaS: SaaS data collection platforms offer robust network traffic capabilities that an in-house option frankly cannot begin to touch. In addition, having an offsite provider of software functionality can aid in extreme weather events by not having all your eggs in one IT basket where slowdowns and bottlenecks are likely to be the norm rather than the exception in times of increased demand.

Time to make the change to SaaS data collection tools

In summary, opting for SaaS data collection tools is a time-saving game-changer for electric utilities and contractors. Developing your own software is a lengthy process, but SaaS provides a ready-to-use solution, saving you time and effort. Training on in-house tools can be a hassle, whereas SaaS platforms are user-friendly, allowing for quicker onboarding. Additionally, when time is of the essence, SaaS offers seamless logins and reliable performance. Make the smart move to SaaS and unlock valuable time for smoother operations.


Still not convinced? Check out installment no. 2 on our SaaS is best series where we tackle integration – you won’t want to miss it! And if you’re ready to talk to a SaaS data collection tool expert, the Fulcrum team is here to help – sign up for a no-obligation chat to get started!