Field employees, such as building inspectors and code enforcers, can reap enormous benefits from using mobile computer devices. By eliminating time-consuming workflows that rely on manual, paper-based processes, mobile devices help inspection agencies improve operations and service delivery, while enabling them to increase revenue and lower costs.
Field Based Employees & the Inefficiencies of Manual Data Tracking
Historically, building inspection and related government field assessment jobs have been paper-driven professions. Processes for scheduling, sorting, form completion and filing are all done manually and can take days.
Inevitably, manual, handwritten processes lead to more human errors, fewer appointments completed daily, and slower inspection completion rates which leads to greater taxpayer dissatisfaction. As the case studies illustrated below will point out, the costs of following old, manual processes can be significantly reduced via introducing tablets and laptops into the workflow.
Improved Productivity Saves Government Agencies Time and Money
Indeed, mobility is transforming inspection workflow. More and more building and safety department inspectors are introducing laptops and tablets to their daily routine and gaining more efficiency in the field.
First, mobile devices give inspectors electronic access to documents such as building code information and parcel and permit history. This eliminates the need to contact office staff for information or tote around piles of paperwork, file folders and unwieldy codebooks.
Mobility also allows inspectors to remotely submit reports, check appointments, identify routes and complete other administrative tasks. Reports and records are electronically created and delivered on the spot, not hours or even days after the fact. Devices such as tablets with integrated cameras can be used to take property photos that can be instantly attached to the inspection record, and integrated mapping software can help map out inspection routes without the need for a separate GPS device.
Laptops and tablets help inspection agencies save money, too. They reduce mileage and time spent traveling back and forth from the office. The Center for Digital Governments (CDG) reports (PDF) that one city’s wireless laptop-based inspection solution helped its code enforcement division increase the number of daily inspections. Another municipality used laptops and electronic ticketing to increase building inspector efficiency by 30 percent, saving the agency approximately $500,000.
A pilot mobility program in San Diego County (PDF) helped the Land Use and Environment Group (LUEG) save $130,000. Inspectors that participated in the project used mobile devices connected via a mobile VPN and were 31 percent more productive than before. They completed more inspections each day, and the agency was able to use less office space and fewer landlines.
Laptop or Tablet?
Can’t decide if your inspection workforce needs laptops or tablets? Think about the features you’ll need, and decide whether the device will need to be used in the office as well as the field. Both laptops and tablets are available with Wi-Fi and 3G capability, screens optimized for outdoor use, ruggedized design and built-in security features such as fingerprint readers.
Tablets also offer integrated front and rear facing cameras as well as pen styluses that allow inspectors to take notes if needed. For those that still can’t decide, convertible tablets feature built-in keyboards and twisting hinges that allow the device to be used as both a tablet and a laptop.
Has your agency started using mobile technology to improve efficiencies in and outside of the office? Tell us about it.
A 2011 survey from NASCIO shows mobile devices and apps are high-priority issues for nearly 60% of state government CIOs. But 24% of CIOs report they’re not prepared to adopt mobile technologies. What’s holding them back? Read this brief to find out how mobility often pays for itself, how to manage device consumerization and why IT teams prioritize citizen-facing mobile apps.