Here are some under the hood considerations around this
HAS THE SOFTWARE BEEN SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR
REMOTE WORKING CONDITIONS?
Software that can be accessed via a mobile device should
be specifically developed with the working conditions of the
people holding the tablets at jobsites or on service calls in
mind; otherwise, lack of usability will result in a lack of use.
Software developers must understand the working conditions of their users in order to inform that development. The
key to knowing if a software system will work well in the field
is not just knowing if it includes field-based functionality,
but also how that functionality is delivered.
Usability in the field goes beyond the user interface and into
the broader domain of the user experience. Systems should
provide customized overview information for different field
personnel – from PMs to supervisors to technicians and field
staff – delivered in a way that quickly identifies tasks and
problems and easily provides more detail.
HOW WELL DOES THE SOFTWARE CONNECT OFFICE,
FIELD & OTHER TEAM MEMBERS?
Remote staff need more help staying connected since they
cannot typically walk down the hall to exchange information
with colleagues, and they usually have other parties outside
of their organization with whom they must share information
– vendors, subcontractors, engineers, etc.
This question of connectivity and collaboration is particularly important when considering enterprise-wide business
management systems – i.e., ERP software. Historically, ERP
systems were designed with the needs of the office in mind.
As technology has allowed the power of ERP systems to
extend to the field, the challenge has been to connect these
applications to allow everyone the ability to access and process the same data in ways that make the most sense for
their individual roles and responsibilities.
When evaluating the suitability of enterprise software systems for use by a mobile, remote work force, consider the
following aspects of software design to understand how the
developer has addressed each:
• Integration: The data from different applications should
move seamlessly between each other via a common
underlying database in order to effect a true office-to-
• Automation: Information involving tasks, approvals,
and alerts should automatically flow through the
organization, with status visible to all relevant users.
• Communication: The software system should have the
ability to electronically communicate with different team
members to alert them to action or vital job information,
regardless of whether they have licensed access to the
Mechanics of Software Development
Of all the investments a contractor makes to equip a business
for success, software is perhaps the one in which the inner
workings are best hidden. Understandably, the focus is on
features (what the software does) and on function (how easy
it is to access and use). How software accomplishes its utility
is typically an afterthought, if it is considered at all.
However, the way in which a system is built is important since
it impacts its flexibility and longevity. Here are three areas
that should be explored with any potential software vendor:
WHAT TYPE OF DATABASE IS USED & HOW IS IT
Structured Query Language (SQL) is the most commonly
used databases for business applications. SQL is portable,
flexible, easy to learn, and, most importantly, a de facto
standard for enterprise software systems.
An SQL database is key to ensuring that the software system
will be able to easily pass data to and from other software
applications, particularly reporting and business intelligence
packages. Without an SQL database, a significant amount of
customization will likely be required.
ARE WEB SERVICES USED TO INTEGRATE DATA WITH
A common misconception is that cloud-based software complicates integration with other software applications. The
technology standard referred to as web services allows for
two-way data exchange between software systems via existing web protocols, namely HTTP.
With web services, not only can integrations be effected, but
data input from standard spreadsheet programs like Excel
can be set up, which can reduce double entry time and error