How mobile solutions can help agencies improve operations during the pandemic
Over the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has created the ultimate disruption across all levels of government. Despite the many challenges it brings, there’s plenty of silver lining in the new opportunities for agencies to re-evaluate key processes — including collecting data such as confirmed cases in a region, contact tracing and health care responsiveness. The need for automated data collection and analysis tools has never been more apparent, yet many state and local governments find themselves restricted by spreadsheets, paper forms and antiquated systems.
Mobile data collection can extend and improve COVID-19 response.
COVID-19 poses a significant disruption for the government sector. It is a natural inflection point for pursuing technologies that can tackle the new requirements and challenges that state and local governments face:
- Contactless/social distancing protocols. With mobile data collection, paper need not change hands. Pens aren’t shared and contact is minimal. The only exchange of information occurs on a smart device, which can easily be cleaned and disinfected — unlike paper forms.
- Tight budgets and decreased spending. Maintaining legacy systems costs millions in taxpayer dollars every year. Many of these aging tools pose serious security risks and are far less robust than their modern, higher value counterparts. If it’s a question of savings, adopting new technology will pay dividends in the long run.
- New data to track and guidelines to follow. From symptom checklists and contract tracing to ever-changing health and safety rules, a mobile data collection solution gives agencies the freedom to pivot on a dime. Even when it seems like guidelines are changing daily, it’s simple and easy to deploy up-to-date forms to a field workforce from anywhere.
- Enforcement of regulations on businesses. Aggregating rules violations with analysis tools such as dashboards can provide crucial insights into trending issues. This enables agencies to pinpoint violation “hotspots,” chart enforcement progress and observe performance metrics directly from the field.
- Inspection of local businesses with discretion. Mobile data collection is a low-touch, noninvasive alternative to a typical inspection. Observing, reporting and analyzing compliance can occur quietly and out of customers’ view. Instead of requiring direct interaction, workflows can do the hard work of processing corrective and preventive actions, forming action plans and sending notifications to all the stakeholders.
Beyond addressing the challenges of COVID-19, mobile data platforms can help advance government operations and efficiencies on a number of fronts:
Improve data collection. With the advent of intelligent mobile apps for data collection, governments have a new option: empowering their field teams with smart devices to automate data capture processes. Unlike complex spreadsheet systems, the software is already familiar to anyone with a mobile device. These apps are intuitive and can effectively mirror existing processes, eschewing the need for change management. Many apps feature conditional logic, which, in addition to speeding forms completion, ensures a minimal learning curve. All employees, regardless of their technical skill level, can leap right into collecting COVID-19 data on the front lines.
Connect critical data across systems. Today’s highly accessible mobile apps are a small-but-critical cog in a much larger system that integrates data analysis, workflow and task management. Through integrations with other software, a mobile solution can push and pull to and from every part of the agency. Because the solution becomes an organic part of existing processes, adoption is intuitive and easy. With an integrated data collection solution, an agency’s work order system, contact tracing software, analysis tools and other systems can immediately populate with data gathered from the field.
Automate manual processes and save time. Workflows direct collected data where it needs to go, fire off next steps and send notifications where needed. In tandem with integrations, they essentially “talk” to other software, ensuring that data, tasks and other collateral reach their destination as quickly as possible. Workflows are also a big reason why these solutions are extremely cost effective, especially when considering the rising cost of maintaining legacy systems. They save countless hours by automatically performing mundane, manual tasks behind the scenes. While the upfront cost may seem like an obstacle during such lean times, the solution pays for itself in the form of long-term savings.
Uncover trends visible and provide key insights. Once agencies have collected and connected their data, they can invest in longer term planning. Analysis tools like business-intelligence dashboards and longitudinal reports home in on specific trends, illuminating issues and allowing agencies to focus on response. Visualizing data as charts and graphs has the added benefit of making it much easier to communicate key touchpoints. Of course, analysis tools aren’t exclusively for long-term metrics — agencies can just as easily customize a real-time daily dashboard that provides all the variables they need at a glance.
The challenges posed by COVID-19 present the perfect opportunity to adopt new tools and tactics. It’s time to turn this disruption into a proving ground with mobile data collection on the front line. The current expectations for governments to deliver risk management, public health and case tracking services amid dramatic changes only further confirms the need for comprehensive solutions. Digitization will soon define the future of government processes.
by Alex Brown