Today we all carry around our smart phones or tablets and marvel at how easy it is to get directions to our favorite restaurant or look up all five of our email accounts. We can review documents and watch video, play Angry Birds and basically have our lives nicely set up in devices with four to 11-inch screens.
But the mobile workforce management for such service industries as maintenance, transport, delivery, cleaning and others has an opportunity to smartly use their smart phones or tablets that will decrease paperwork and a lot of arduous data input, not to mention keeping everyone’s schedule organized without double-booking. Synchroteam is one such company that has perfected the art of scheduling and managing a team of fieldworkers. And the best part, employees can view the solution on their mobile devices.
Synchroteam has been around since 2000 – just as the word Blackberry was becoming something other than a fruit. Prior to Synchroteam’s current iteration in the cloud, Synchroteam provided enterprise-level software to larger companies with thousands of workers in the field helping clients. But with the advent of the cloud, Francois Pichon, CEO of Synchroteam, says he has been able to modify and update the software for small to mid-sized companies. Now the software scales – both in operation and in pricing to businesses of all sizes.
What Does it Look Like?
Synchroteam has a nice user-interface with just a few tabs to work with. The real work takes place in their Configuration tab which is my guess their term for “settings.” This is the tab where you will set up most of your job and report templates, add in users, define job types, configure job report templates and more. Once you do some work here, the actual scheduling and managing becomes much easier. This is where Synchroteam’s short ribbon comes in handy: Job, Schedule, Map and Customers. Each of these tabs offers businesses the chance to organize their fieldworkers and get status reports in real time. In each of these tabs, you also have the opportunity to create a new job which is very convenient. For instance, if you own a plumbing company and get a call from a customer with a plumbing emergency, you can quickly add in the new job (rather than try to find the right tab with that function) as well as get an overview of who is in the field and might be available to tend to the nervous customer.
Synchroteam works best with the following mobile operating systems: Blackberry, Android and iOS – which pretty much covers off of a lot of users. Pricing is simple and affordable. There is one price for their cloud solution – $38 per month and that includes all of the tools, bells and whistles. In addition, there is a 14-day free trial available for those who want to give it a test drive.
When you sign up for Synchroteam you are offered your own website of sorts that you can brand with your own logo. You are also given access to a dashboard that will help determine what jobs have been scheduled, the status of your workers in the field and much more. As stated above, your first task is to go to Configuration tab to enter in information about your team, clients and even customize your reports so that it is aligned with your business needs. You will also add in user permission levels. You may want some of your employees to have permission to create jobs and schedule their colleagues, while others may only have access to jobs they themselves have been scheduled and can click on the status buttons such as “complete,” “in progress” and more on their mobile devices. (By the way, anyone can operate Synchroteam from either a computer or a mobile device – you have the choice. Since most people out in the field are using smart phones, Synchroteam specially designed the solution to be easy to read and operate from a mobile device).
I found that getting started took a bit of time – but it is an investment you should take. Adding in all the information into the Configuration tab is pretty self-explanatory and intuitive and once you are through you will find you will have very little work when it comes to the actual scheduling, reporting and adding in new jobs. I admit that I did peek at the Help section once or twice – which by the way, is very complete. What I liked best is that Synchroteam thinks of everything (which is part of the perks of being in the business for nearly 12 years) – and by going through the Configuation tab and entering in the information, you will may discover aspects you never considered using before on your scheduling solution. For instance, there is a tab for configuring taxes, pricing, different job types, the type of equipment your field employees may use when out on a job, the ability to create a parts and services catalogue and much more.
This feature provides managers with a high level overview of all the jobs in action. Synchroteam says that it does not just list out all the jobs and expect you to figure out the status of each, rather they bucket the job list by status. This tool will help you better prioritize your jobs and help you determine resources for new jobs.
Creating a job and giving it a status is fairly straightforward. In the Job Management tab, all you have to do is click on the ”create job” button and then you can fill in all the necessary information. It is in this dialogue box that you have the opportunity to label your job as in progress, overdue, upcoming, need to be scheduled, etc. The bonus is that if you have a number of jobs in the hopper, Synchroteam has a developed a sophisticated search tool to help you pinpoint the job you need more information on.
Another important aspect of your mobile workforce is being able to schedule and “dispatch” your employees to various job sites — but you need to make sure you don’t double-book any of your employees. As such, Synchroteam provides a complete overview of the day’s (or week’s) operations so that you can instantly see who is booked when and where and for how long. The cool part of this feature is that it is drag and drop. See graph below. To your right are all the jobs that need to be scheduled and you can literally drag and drop those jobs into the schedule corresponding to one of your employees. Once you do that, you will instantly see who is working what job and when and this will help you maintain an even work schedule for your workforce (keeping them busy but happy).
You can keep a database of your customers in Synchroteam. This is key as you schedule jobs. If all your customer information is stored in Configuration, when you go to schedule a job corresponding to a particlular customer, the information (contact info, address, etc.) is already available so the whole process takes only a minute or so.
Now when it comes to inputting your customer info, like many applications, you can manually key in your customer list in Configuration (which is about as fun as paying bills) or you can import your client list from existing applications or spreadsheets. If you have hundreds of clients – the import aspect will be especially helpful.
I liked that there is a small CRM component as it relates to customers – as you schedule jobs for your customers, that gets stored and the next time you access that customer, you can get a history of all the jobs you have done for that particular customer.
I love this feature. So cool. This tool allows you to find out where your employees are at any given time and if you need them to scurry off to another job, you can select the employee nearest to that job site position.
Is it for You?
Like many small business focused apps, Synchroteam will be helpful for certain types of businesses which in this case is the services industry where employees spend most of their time out in the field on specific jobs. Therefore if you own a company with this type of business model, I would say to give Synchroteam a try. The solution is scalable. If you have 10 or 1,000 employees, Synchroteam has merits for both small and large companies. In any case, what Synchroteam really does is cut down on paperwork and helps you better prioritize and organize your employees’ schedules. It also is mobile-device friendly so when you or your employees view the information on a smartphone or tablet, it is easy to decipher and operate.