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3 results your field service organization gets with digital writing for tablets

by Fernando Rynne

April 16 2013

Fernando Rynne is the marketing director at Vision Objects, which makes online handwriting recognition based applications and software development kits.


Fernando Rynn with Vision Objects says Internet providers like Suite Solutions have benefited from digital writing.

In today’s fast-paced, highly competitive business environment, we all know that improving the productivity of mobile workers is critical. This is especially true in field service organizations.

In order to increase productivity and profitability, successful organizations are looking for fast and efficient ways to streamline information workflows by capturing and processing useful data at the point of entry. This is a key area where digital writing can have significant business impact using natural input such as handwriting.

Let me give you an example. Recently, Suite Solutions, a provider of high-speed internet, cable TV, digital satellite TV, and digital phone services to residential apartment and condominium communities, was looking for a way to automate data capture in the field.

Capturing subscriber agreements and service forms during field visits had traditionally been administered using pen and paper forms. This method was highly inefficient and costly due to the need for printed forms. Orders were sometimes lost and paperwork was incomplete. This led to delays.

The case for digital writing

Suite Solutions needed a cost-effective solution that could digitize the data being captured and be simple to train technicians to use. Suite Solutions evaluated multiple device options and applications and decided to equip their field technicians with naturalForms (a data capture tablet app) and Samsung Galaxy tablets.

Suite Solutions’ paper subscriber agreement and service forms were converted to digital versions for use on the Android tablets. The forms maintain the look and feel of the paper forms but contain “smart form” functions such as drop-down option lists, mandatory fields, and validation rules that enable easy, accurate and complete data capture.   

Technicians now use digital writing to complete sales and service forms electronically using natural input methods such as handwriting. The information collected is verified for accuracy and validated at the point of entry. Digital copies are available immediately and sent wirelessly to the Suite Solutions home office and emailed to customers - reducing cycle times by up to 97%.

Technicians can even print a copy of the form directly from naturalForms if requested by the customer.  At properties where wireless and Wi-Fi availability are sometimes unreliable, technicians can still collect data when offline and automatically send the forms when connections are restored.

The Top 3 results

With digital writing, Suite Solutions has been able to streamline its data capture and processing workflows, resulting in these Top 3 improvements:

  1. Improved Productivity, Reduced Cycle Time - Since employing digital writing to naturally collect data in the field, the time to prcess subscriber agreements has been reduced from up to a month with paper forms to same day.
  2. Better Data Quality and Operational Control - With business rule validation built into the forms, technicians must collect required data before they can submit forms for processing. Option lists make collecting the required information efficient and ensure accuracy for complex fields such as equipment types. Customer signatures are designated as a mandatory field and contracts cannot be processed without them.
  3. Ease of Deployment and Rapid User Acceptance - Because the tablet forms have the appearance of the original paper forms, technicians did not have to learn a new app or system. The familiar forms essentially became the app interface. Technicians quickly embraced this new technology and have found that they can enter information faster than with paper forms by using the input method most comfortable for them - stylus or finger handwriting, keypad, or an external Bluetooth keyboard if preferred.   

Any field service organization still collecting data on paper forms should consider the business case for digital writing.

Fernando Rynne is the marketing director at Vision Objects, which makes online handwriting recognition based applications and software development kits.

Are you a tablet industry professional, tablet app publisher, or just a visionary with a strong opinion about tablets? We would like you to contribute a vendor-agnostic analysis piece to our Opinions section. Please contact Michael Singer, Business editor.

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