SCENARIO BASED DESIGN FOR FIELD SERVICE DATA COLLECTION
Copyright Harmonisoft Inc.
EZ Inspections and Preservation (www.ezinspections.com)
Methods are developed to allow field service workers to quickly collect and input form data. A scenario-based form design is developed to first present the data collector with several scenarios. Upon choosing one or more of the scenarios, the data collector is then presented with a subset of the complete form fields based on the selected scenario(s). The subset can be completed with minimum scrolling on a device screen, thus reducing the time needed for data collection. In addition, form fields are categorized as required or non-required under the selected scenario(s) with the required fields displayed prominently on the device screen and can be completed quickly, further improving the speed of data collection.
The present paper relates to data collection by field service workers. More particularly, the present paper relates to a scenario-based design that enables fast form data collection, especially on small form factor devices, such as a laptop or tablet computer, or a mobile phone.
Many mobile workers need to use forms to collect data in the field. A form typically consists of one or more groups of questions, with each question having one or more possible answers. When forms are displayed on the screen of a computing device such as a laptop computer, a tablet, or a mobile phone, the layout of the form questions often exceeds the boundaries of the screen. As a result, mobile workers have to scroll vertically or horizontally or both using a positioning device such as a mouse to move to various sections of the form in order to complete all the questions. The scrolling action makes data collection a time consuming process.
There is therefore a need to develop a design to avoid excessive scrolling and positioning of the form on device screens, and enable fast form data collection. One way of achieving this is to design a layout to put all form fields in as small a space as possible. This is not always possible, especially on small form factor screens such as those on mobile phones.
Quite often in a data collection process, the data collector does not need to answer all questions on a form. In a given situation, only a small group of questions are required to get answers. For example, in a property inspection, if a property is found to be occupied, occupancy related questions are required to get answers. An example occupancy related question is who occupies the property. In the meantime, vacancy related questions, such as whether personal property being found on site, is not required to get answers. On the other hand, if the property is found to be vacant, vacancy related questions are required while occupancy questions are not. Very often, a field worker is required to provide answers to these questions correctly and efficiently as the worker needs to complete a high volume of these inspections in a short period of time. Therefore, there is a need to present an efficient way of completing these required questions to the data collector.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Fig. 1 is a screenshot displaying part of a typical form displayed in a laptop computer
Fig. 2 is a screenshot displaying part of a typical form displayed in a smart phone
Fig. 3 is a sketch of the process flow of a conventional form data collection
Fig. 4 is a sketch of the preferred scenario-based process flow for form data collection
Fig. 5 is a sketch of the preferred scenario-based form design with required fields.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENT DESIGN
Objects of the present design include (1) to create designs and methods to allow field service workers to efficiently collect form data, (2) to develop a scenario based process flow for data collection to reduce the amount of time a field service worker needs to complete a form, (3) to develop a method to allow field service worker to enter required data elements with priority so the time spent to complete a form is further reduced. Details of the design are described below.
A scenario-based method is developed to enable fast form data collection by field service workers. A typical form consists of one or more groups of questions. Each question may have one or more possible answers. A question may be presented as one of many form controls, such as textbox, dropdown, checkbox or radio button. Field service worker enters data into the form using a computing device, such as a laptop or a mobile phone. When entering data, field service worker moves the cursor on the screen of the computing device to each of the questions on the form, and enters an answer by either typing into the text area or selecting from the available answers built into the form control.
In the present preferred implementation, a form is divided into several ¡®scenarios¡¯. Under each scenario, only part of the form needs to be filled out. Field service worker is presented with the scenarios first, and is asked to select one or more of the scenarios based on the particular situation under investigation. After the scenario(s) is chosen, only the relevant questions of the form are then presented to the worker, while the rest of the form is omitted.
Under each scenario, in addition to defining the relevant questions, the required questions are also defined. A required question is one that the worker must provide an answer under the given scenario. After a scenario has been chosen by the worker, the required questions are grouped together and displayed at a location of the form that is most convenient for the worker to fill in answers. The grouping and presentation of these required questions are dynamically generated based on the worker¡¯s selection of scenario(s).
Turning to Fig. 1, the figure is a screenshot of a typical form presented in a desktop or laptop computer. Fig. 2 shows a typical form presented in a mobile phone.
Fig. 3 is a sketch of the conventional process flow when a data collection worker completes a form. The worker finds a work order and opens the form associated with the work order. The worker is presented with the form questions, and completes the form by filling out the form questions, either entering text or selecting from the available answers.
Fig. 4 depicts a sketch of the present preferred scenario-based process flow to complete a form. In this preferred process flow, the data collection worker finds a work order and is first presented with a set of scenarios to choose from. Upon choosing one or more scenarios, a subset of the form is created based on the chosen scenario(s), and presented to the worker. The worker completes the subset of the form quickly with minimum scrolling.
Fig. 5 depicts a sketch of another preferred implementation of the present design. In this preferred process flow, the data collection worker finds a work order and is first presented with a set of scenarios to choose from. Upon choosing one or more scenarios, a subset of the form is created based on the chosen scenario(s), and presented to the worker. The subset of the form is further divided into required and non-required fields, with the required fields displayed prominently on the form. The worker completes the required fields of the subset of the form quickly with minimum scrolling. The worker can optionally complete non-required fields when there is a need.
Fig. 1 Screenshot displaying part of a typical form displayed on a laptop computer
Fig. 2 Screenshot displaying part of a typical form displayed in a smart phone
Fig. 3 Conventional process flow for form data collection
Fig. 4 Preferred scenario-based process flow for form data collection
Fig. 5 Preferred scenario-based process flow with required fields for form data collection
About the Author
Yan Zang is the founder and president of Harmonisoft Inc., which owns and operates EZ Inspections and Preservation, the leading cloud and mobile-based inspection and property preservation software system. EZ was launched in 2005 and grew to serve 40,000 users in multiple field service industries and process over 8 million work orders a year.
Before founding Harmonisoft, Yan spent eight years in the Silicon Valley, serving in engineering and management positions in multiple high-tech companies in the fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer software.
Yan graduated from Peking University in Beijing, China, and received his M.S. from Rutgers University in New Jersey, and his Ph. D. from Stanford University in California.
Contact Yan at email@example.com. For more related topics, check out EZinspections.com articles on inspection software and property preservation management system.