The Construction Software Alliance is dedicated to promoting the Best-of-Breed third-party solutions
for Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate (formerly Sage Timberline Office), Sage Estimating, and Sage 100 Contractor (formerly Sage Masterbuilder).

Monday, July 15, 2013

Service Management and the Invisible Cloud

If you are using Service Management in Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate or Sage 100 Contractor, then you know that you have all the pieces you need to run the back office for a service organization. But to get the most out of your investment with Sage Software, your technicians need an easy way to interact with it.

Your field staff is mobile. They are in their service trucks or on your customer’s sites most of their day. Using a laptop, they could use remote desktop to interact with Service Management directly. But there are some major problems with this.

One, Service Management assumes the user has full permissions and knows and understands exactly what they are doing. For this reason alone, most service companies do not want their technicians to monkey around directly in Service Management. They might upset the delicate balance or order that your dispatchers work so hard to maintain.

Two, using Service Management in the field would require a laptop. Although this was a solid option a few years ago, the advent of the tablet has rendered the laptop obsolete for field technicians. Tablets are much less expensive, have a longer battery life, a built-in Internet connection, turn on and off instantly, and don’t require a flat surface to work on.

So if you aren’t going to let your technicians remote into Service Management, you need software that is designed for your technicians to use out in the field. Of course it would be web-based. The web allows your technicians to access the software anywhere on any device that browses the web. As long as the software talks to Service Management, you are good…right?

What’s all this talk about cloud software then? Cloud software means that all or at least most of the software package you are using is hosted by professional data centers in the cloud. Translation: You do not have to install the software on your servers, or worry about hosting the website at all. Why would this be an advantage to you? Because it means you don’t have to buy or maintain a web server and you can rest easy at night knowing if something goes wrong, your cloud service provider is responsible to fix it, not you.

So what is “the invisible cloud”? Cloud-based software is traditionally web-based, but it doesn’t have to be. In reality, the most optimal software solution for mobile work flows, is the software that adapts to maximize the potential on whatever device you are using. If the software abstracts its cloud based nature, so that as far as the user is concerned, it looks, performs, and has features like it is local to their device, then the cloud has been made INVISIBLE.

hh2 Field Service is such a system. The core software is in the cloud (on our servers), we install a synchronization tool on your Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate or Sage 100 Contractor server and it keeps the cloud service up to date.

Like traditional cloud software, we have an awesome web interface. It allows your techs to use the software from any device they wish and changes from the cloud are updated in Service Management, in seconds.

But we have taken it several steps further. Instead of just providing a web interface, we have ALSO provided an exceptional experience using native iPad apps. When you are using the app, synchronization with the cloud is done automatically in the background. Using push notifications, the iPads are notified of new work orders or changes within seconds, and updates on the iPads bounce through the cloud to update Service Management on the fly. If the device goes offline, it queues up the updates, and sends them when the connection is restored.

Why go with a service that renders the cloud invisible? Because you don’t have to worry about the connection or any of the technical details…it just works.

There is better news still. hh2 Field Service has a customer portal coming out this fall, that is a free add-on for all customers. And if you add up our up-front costs and service fees, you will find that we are a tiny fraction of competitors that not only make you host your own software, but lack the device specific capabilities that permeate the hh2 Field Service experience.

If you haven’t seen a demonstration of our software, we invite you to schedule one today. See for yourself the benefits of having your technicians and your dispatchers communicating and cooperating smoother than ever before. Contact us at 1-877-442-9327 or email us at sales@hh2.com to schedule your personalized demonstration today.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Tale of Two Service Contractors


The Benefits of Mobility Solutions for Service Contractors


Fred, a service technician for Legacy Air, wakes up and heads into Starbucks to enjoy his morning coffee with his friend Joe, a service technician for Superior Air.  They both are great at what they do, and they often laugh as they compare notes and share war stories.  But Fred and Joe are going to have a very different day, because one company uses superior technology.

Fred heads into the office to get his stack of paper work orders that was assigned to him previously.  Joe opens his iPad and goes straight to his first work order.

After driving to his first appointment, Fred gets a head start of filling out the paperwork.  The customer shows him the faulty AC unit and it looks like it hasn’t been serviced for a while, so he makes a call to his office to find out.

By this time, Joe is already polishing up his first work order.  He checked for previous service on the unit, diagnosed the problem, checked off the to-do list, recorded the parts and labor, took before and after photos, completed the work order and had the customer sign off on the work…all on his iPad.

Legacy Air dispatch gives Fred the low down on the AC unit.  It seems airflow has been a consistent problem.  After examining the ductwork, Fred realizes that there is not enough return air and there are too many hard right angles impeding the airflow.  Fred decides to install round scoops in the ducts to at least partially solve the problem.  He does the work, airflow is better, the customer is thrilled, but now Joe spends the next 15 minutes finishing the paperwork and getting the customer’s signature.

Superior Joe is now on his third work order. Kelly, from dispatch saw the work order complete just after getting another call in the area.  Because there was time before his next work order, she assigned it to Joe.  Joe’s iPad received the work order within seconds and alerted him to the change in schedule.  Kelly watched Joe change direction on her iPad, which shows her the real time GPS location of all her techs, and updates her whenever they update their status, ask questions, or take photos.

When Joe arrives on site, he looks up the equipment to be serviced on his iPad, looks at the historical work orders, and pulls up the user manual that Kelly attached to the service location months ago.  He takes what he learns and applies it to the job at hand.  After finishing the work order, Joe collects payment on his iPad.

By the end of the day, Fred got three work orders done and Joe got five.  Fred’s work was all recorded on a stack of paper, which he’ll return to his office the following morning.  It could be days before they are properly keyed in and invoices are generated.

Joe and Kelly at Superior Air had better information and were able to use that information to be more efficient.  Joe’s work orders were all billed to the customer within seconds of the order being completed. 

The Morale of Our Story

Fred at Legacy Air is an excellent tech.  But when the information he needs is just out of reach, it limits his ability to be fast and efficient.  Because it takes so long to fill out, file, and key in paperwork, billing is a time-consuming task fraught with opportunities for error.  Plus there are other issues such as handwriting legibility, lost paperwork, and calculation errors that can cost Legacy air a lot of time and money.

Joe at Superior Air is also an excellent tech.  Because his iPad has custom software designed for his Service Management back office software, he has real time access to customer history, equipment history, equipment manuals, pricing, notes…etc.  Getting a solid mobility solution is helping Superior Air handle more business with less staff.  Techs can do more work orders in the day because they have all the information to understand the big picture and make the correct diagnosis the first time.  Since all the work order information is handled digitally, it is a lot easier to stay on top of things in the back office as well.  No more keying in paper written work orders.

If you are a service contractor, are you doing it the “Legacy” way, or the “Superior” way?  If you are doing it the “Legacy” way, then repeat after me… “I will stop the madness, and fundamentally improve the way my company does business.  I will be the catalyst for change and will accept the bonus my boss gives me for bettering the bottom line.  I will blow it on something nice, because I am worth it.”

hh2 Field Service is a mobile solution that keeps your data safe and accessible in the cloud.  We install a synchronization tool and you download the iPad apps.  We can have you set up in a few hours.  Best of all, we are the least expensive and the most elegant, truly usable solution on the market.  Visit us at www.hh2.com for more information.