Mobile solutions are currently being offered to the HVAC contracting industry from every angle, and many have very specific features that come with the latest bells and whistles, which are definitely impressive. Mobile solutions can range from what has become a standard functionality, like service ticket delivery and completion in the field, to very specialized features like digital maintenance forms, credit card processing, GPS tracking, digital flat-rate books, and inventory scanning, to mention a few. While all of these specialized features are attractive and have their benefits, it is critical for HVAC contractors to choose and utilize tools that make the most sense for their business model, and deliver the most bang for their buck.
Most software systems designed for the HVAC industry do include mobile offerings, and the best place to start is to ask your current software vendor to demonstrate their mobile offering to you.
Fundamentally, a mobile offering has to cover the basics of what needs to be achieved in the field, or it may not deliver a true value to the end user. To determine if a product can deliver that value, it is good to look at the process you are seeking to automate in the field. First and foremost is the elimination of hand-written invoices in the field, and from there are other relative aspects like inventory control, capturing payroll hours, utilizing flat-rate solutions codes, creating recommendations/quotes, etc. A quality mobile solution should be able to address and automate every aspect, from the hand-written invoice, or you may not be achieving a true, paperless solution. Having a mobile solution which delivers the maximum amount of automation should eliminate paper invoices in the field, eliminate double entry of data, and minimize reconciliation in the office, from all field transactions.
That being said, before even entertaining the search for a mobile solution, the real question is, how does your current software handle the field automation you are seeking? Most software systems designed for the HVAC industry do include mobile offerings, and the best place to start is to ask your current software vendor to demonstrate their mobile offering to you. If they have something that will meet your needs in the field, then pursuing their offering is the most economic and the path of least resistance. However, if they do not, you may have to look at a company-wide change of the business software, to meet your needs in the field. While this is a big undertaking, it makes perfect sense to those firms seeking true, integrated mobility in the field and may need to be considered as an option.
— David Haycraft is president, Service Automation, Inc.