It’s almost 2019, and it’s time for digital transformation. Imagine a world in which your job requires you to go to a commercial building or industrial site to conduct an installation or inspect equipment. After driving there, you take photos on your phone or digital camera and handwrite a report on-site. Then you drive back to the office to download the photos and enter your notes into a database only accessible from your desktop computer. If this sounds crazy that’s because it is – yet it’s still happening – in 2018!  

And this is happening across all sectors – from HVAC contractors to pest control engineers – small businesses with dispersed workforces are looking for better ways to capture and share information. Often this involves digital transformation, which in the minds of many conjures up images of disruptive workplace changes or expensive IT solutions. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it can start with something as commonplace as a mobile app, getting you quickly on the way to transforming your business to do more.

Why the Smart Small Business Goes Mobile

Mobile platforms are easing the burden for small business owners, making it easy to customize an app for your needs. The options are broad, ranging from safety inspection forms, cost estimators, work orders, property condition reports, time sheets, job tracking, permit applications, and more. With a sophisticated platform like GoCanvas you can add photographs, signatures, location/time stamps and even dispatch people to jobs from a shared calendar, so your business is much easier to run.

The data captured is managed via a central cloud platform, freeing you up from worrying about the challenges of IT management and you can be up and running in as little as 24 hours with no IT help whatsoever.

How to Get Started

With the right approach, your business can benefit enormously from digital transformation. And it doesn’t have to be “all in” approach, take your time, be iterative. Here’s how:  

1. Digitize Commonly Used Paperwork

To begin, start with something that you use on a daily basis. Maybe it’s a work order, inspection or a timesheet. Many solutions have a drag and drop builder to customize the app, so it collects the data you want and even creates a PDF output that shows the information laid out just like it has always looked. Commonly used content can also be automatically digitized, which can save time in the long run. Users can simply take a photo of a work order, for example, and send it in. They’ll receive a digitized copy back, which can be reused time and again. Many digital transformation solutions also include thousands of pre-built templates that can be tailored for any business need. 

2. Think About the Information You Need and Want

One of the problems of today’s paper-based information capture is that it allows for mistakes and errors. Maybe a form gets lost on a worksite and never makes it back to the office or missing fields and unreadable text slows down important processes.

As you move to mobile data capture, make a list of what information is needed and what is wanted from that data.

  • Are there certain fields that should be required?
  • Do you need to add a timestamp or insert your own list of materials or pricing?
  • What about a before and after image of work carried out to make it clearer to your customer what was repaired? Do you want to add mobile payments?

All these options and more can be easily added, without any programming knowledge.

3. Get It into Your Workforce Hands

Once you’ve got the mobile app you think you want, get a team to use it and confirm it meets your expectations. Require some modification? No problem. Any changes to the host will refresh the version on each team member’s mobile device. This period will also get your employees excited as they start to see how the app and overall digital transformation makes their life easier.

4. Be Open to Feedback

Once you’ve rolled out your app, encourage your employees to keep providing feedback. Unlike bespoke solutions or even proprietary off-the-shelf software, solutions like GoCanvas are easy to tailor to changing needs. Sometimes the issues might be hardware-based. For example, if a field technician encounters an issue using the smartphone touchscreen with their gloves on but has nowhere to put their gloves, a simple belt clip for their gloves can remedy the situation.

5. Take It to the Next Level

With the reassurance that it’s possible to easily digitize one piece of the workflow and see concrete results, you can extend these tools to other facets of your business.

There are literally thousands of use cases for the mobile digital capture solutions, so it is easy to expand into other workflows or use cases.

Taken one step further, mobile apps also make it easy to learn from your data. Who is performing best? What areas in your business are creating problems and inefficiencies? What does this mean for cash flow? How does this affect the way you allocate resources? Paper-based processes can hinder insights. But trusted data captured real-time in the field, can then be seamlessly analyzed for real-time insights into business performance and trends, so better decisions can be made.

Digital Transformation. Not So Scary!

Want to grow your business, engage better with customers, become more productive, make the workplace safer for employees or accelerate your cash flow? These and many more are high on the mind of small businesses, local government contractors, and even large enterprises, who waste or miss out on millions of dollars every year. But they don’t have to. Identify the pain points that need your attention, find and/or tailor a mobile app and digital transformation solution to address it and see how easy it is to eliminate manual workflows and time-wasting, error-prone paper-based processes. You can be sure your competition is.


James Robins is Chief Marketing Officer of digital transformation platform GoCanvas. For more info, please visit: www.GoCanvas.com