I started to play around with the idea of field service management software back in 2013. Our volume of properties was ever increasing and I’m a big believer that software can drastically improve business operations.
I researched many different software options and I watched a few demos and I told some people what we needed. Ultimately, I didn't find anything that fit at that time. The software systems that could do much of what we needed were designed for large companies with many users, and even their representatives told me it was not worth the cost for the size of our business.
Costs aside, I wasn't even fully confident these systems would meet our unique needs, as most were designed for plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians and the like. Stormwater maintenance providers have a different maintenance process, service frequency and reporting format than these trades, and our software would need to match.
Unfortunately, I did not find something in our price range that met my criteria for how to properly track, process and access unit information and service history for thousands of stormwater BMPs in our care.
Dreaming up stormwater software
I started dreaming up ideas about the perfect software and doing mockups in excel of how it would all be structured based on the specific needs of our industry, our business, our clients and the cities to which we must report.
Essentially, I wanted a database to house all of the fixed BMP unit information like latitude and longitude, location description, type of BMP, city identification number (if known). I wanted the option of entering the manufacturer, model, model number, install date, measurements, filter media type and quantity if any or all of that was known.
In addition to the fixed information for each BMP, we would also need to capture service activity, including the type of work performed, the condition of the unit, the condition of the filter media, the dates of service, repairs, replacements, special notes, recommendations for managers, etc. We would then need to pull up the history on any and every individual BMP at the click of a couple of buttons.
In order to capture this information, we would need to build an easy-to-use mobile service reporting application in which our technicians could input the service information from the field during service for every single BMP at the property. Sometimes there are dozens of BMPs on just one property. This information would then need to automatically feed into a service report that we could send to our clients after each completion of service.
Oh, and there needed to be a scheduling module that accommodated the intricacies of our contracts.
I dreamed about this for a long time.
Moving forward with the project
It wasn’t until summer of 2016 when we decided it was time to pull the trigger and develop our own software system. 2016 was a big year for us, and more properties meant more paperwork and processing. The time was right to invest in software to help us manage our operations.
I shadowed the techs in the field and Christian walked me through the field reporting process. Jesse laid out her workflow process from the point she receives the information from the field department to the time she submits the completed service reports to the manager. Pat put together a Systems Requirement Doc and we shot it off to all the developers certified through the CRM software we already use. From there, I spoke to a couple different companies on the phone and told them all about our goals and ideas on how the system should be laid out, completely unsure of what I was even doing.
I had been bundling these ideas together in my head over the years and I had this dreamy vision that I didn’t even know would make sense or be possible to create. I clearly remember presenting this vision the first time to George, who we eventually hired to work with on this project. Not only did he know exactly what I was talking about when I described my vision, he was also confident he and his team could turn it into reality. This was an amazing feeling for me. Someone was offering to build the very thing I was dreaming up in my head.
I’ll have you know this process has been terrifying for me.
As exciting as it is to be working on bringing what was once just a lonely idea to real life, it is equally scary.
What if it won’t work? What if it isn’t perfect? What if our team hates it? What if I waste the company’s money? What if, what if, what if?
What if I never do it and we continue using the same antiquated process and burn ourselves into the ground? We need to be innovative and resourceful and do the best we can. Terrifying as it might be, the best I can means I mustn’t bow down to fear of what might happen in the pursuit of greater things.
This is going to revolutionize the way we operate at Seventy1.
All quarter I have been working with George and our developer Ricardo to build the BMP database, service reporting app and service scheduling software that we will begin testing in second quarter.
Our mobile service app will save time in the field. Techs will enter service activities and unit conditions directly into the BMP database using easy-to-select checkboxes and dropdown features.
The new system will also save our Client Services Manager an exorbitant amount of time. Rather than manually transcribing the tech's service notes into the document that becomes the service report, our software will process the service information and automatically prepare the service reports at the click of a button. Processing BMP Maintenance Verification forms will take less time as well, as accessing the necessary information that is needed for municipal compliance will be at the tips of our fingers.
In addition to service reporting and BMP tracking, scheduling and contract management will be a breeze.
Most importantly, our clients will continue to receive the same quality of reports and service they’ve come to know and expect from us, and the experience of working with our company will only improve as we continue to develop new systems and refine our operations. Win win all around!