For better or worse, mobile workforces are here to stay. Connected devices and technologies have enabled workers of services organizations to transact on the road, enhancing productivity and efficiency. Combine these benefits with the cost-saving benefits of a cloud-based solution and you have a winner.
Designing a Mobile Small Business Solution
According to Lee Duis, co-founder of clock.in, the existing marketplace for mobile workforce is dominated by technologies that take months or weeks to deploy and are expensive. Being part of a family that owned a small business, Duis was interested in developing an application that helped small business owners manage their workforce and provided “peace of mind.” “The cost for such an application was unrealistic for most small business owners,” he says.
Prior experience in the enterprise solution space helped the clock.in founders design and architect a “game-changing solution to support extreme future growth.” He applied lean startup principles and had the first minimum viable product out by Spring 2012. clock.in signed its first customer a few weeks later and has been on a growth curve since. After reading through the application specifications, I made the mistake of assuming that clock.in was an HR application. Duis corrected me. “Our application is best suited for a services-oriented organization or any business that has a mobile workforce,” he clarified. “We are seeing heaving adoption in construction, manufacturing, building maintenance industries, health and education.”
Duis lists five key attributes that distinguish clock.in from other, similar solutions in the same space. These are:
- Tracking employee activity via GPS
- Mobile Time Clock, including optional job code integration
- Ability to create custom mobile forms for quick and effective feedback
- Mobile document management, including specific publishing of work documents to remote employees
- Employee engagement via mobile challenges
Mobilizing your Workforce with clock.in
As I mentioned earlier, clock.in is targeted at mobile workforces. It provides a holistic approach to service-based organizations to monitor and track their workforce. This facility includes uploading documents, completing timesheets, and configuring location-based status updates.
The key to understanding clock.in’s functioning is to understand an Activity. Each Activity is a location-based event pertaining to an employee. For example, delivery of an order could be a location-based activity. Similarly, on-location delays can easily be logged into the application for future audits or performance reviews. To simplify this action, clock.in has several Activity categories for users. Each category correlates with specific tasks needed to complete a process. You can also customize categories based on processes. Activity markers are indicators of employee activity at a particular location.
The Intel Map collects intelligence about a specific location on the map. Employees in the field can clock in and clock out at various locations during their workday. Because the application is GPS-enabled, the possibility of employees clocking in at different locations, other than the designated work location, are slim. In addition, they can also generate custom documents and forms such as customer workorders, surveys or document collateral on the spot. They can also perform job-related duties, such as submitting timesheets or suggestions for improvement of a process or product, through the application. clock.in incorporates several role-based management features. For example, in one of the more interesting features of the application, managers can configure challenges for employees. Similarly, managers can also generate custom reports or display a consolidated snapshot of their report activities for review.
As Duis stated earlier, clock.in seems like a perfect fit for organizations that rely on a mobile workforce for efficient and quick service. It can also be used for businesses which has service products. For example, small businesses in the hospitality sector can use the solution (in conjunction with their internal tracking mechanism) to track delivery and pickup of orders. “We have an open platform that allows data integration to occur over commonly-supported web protocols,” says Duis. He adds that their company also provides consulting services for complex custom integration.
That said, clock.in could further enhance its feature set to be more useful for small businesses. For example, the solution document formats are restricted to Office formats and PDF. It might be an idea for the solution to further extend this capability across multiple formats.
The Basics: What Does the Interface Look Like?
The interface is simple, clean, and intuitive. It consists of a left sidebar, which contains the navigation menu, and a central workspace, where you can conduct transactions such as adding or editing details. The dashboard provides a snapshot of activities for your reports as well as individually-configurable details. Login details for each session are saved by the system. This means that you can log back into the same set of screens that you were working on when you logged out.
Supporting your Mobile Workforce
clock.in has a comprehensive knowledge base that lists details about each feature by topic. However, the folks behind clock.in should consider ramping up their support efforts by providing enhanced channels of support, such as social media and live chat.
Is it For You?
As I mentioned earlier, mobile workforces have become the norm rather than the exception. Whatever industry your small business is in, a solution such as clock.in can only enhance productivity and efficiency.