There is a need for most water entities to centralize data, and more easily load, share, analyze, and report data. Locus Technologies’ customizable software makes scheduling and collecting routine water samples is made easy by using Locus Mobile and EIM. Below is a list of frequent challenges that customers have encountered during their water sampling process and how they can be solved using the right tools from Locus. or better communications.
Challenge 1: Finding a flexible sampling planning tool
Planning tools need to allow flexibility in terms of different sampling intervals and date ranges, different field and analytical parameters, and account for location grouping. Using a well-designed application can pull together all of this detailed information and can provide a summary view of the individual samples. A manager can easily view sample status, and whether the sample is complete, in process, or planned. A well-designed application can also generate the chain of custody (COC), and lab and sample shipping date information and labels per sample, which is a huge time saver. This type of sample tracking detail seemed to be very useful to many conference attendees to help ensure they are in regulatory compliance with required sampling frequencies. A key feature to look for is an application that is flexible enough that it can allow one-time, unplanned sample events such as water main breaks, customer complaints and schedule changes, and can handle complex multi-year routine sampling with ease. As a plus, it’s easy for you or your manager to know where you stand at any time.
Challenge 2: Eliminating data entry errors caused by hand data entry
Data entry errors and fixing bad data when it was transcribed from field notes to Excel or other programs is a persistent problem with the old way of doing things. Your company needs a better way to streamline the error prone data collection process. Many clients are interested in an alternative to the pencil/paper/clipboard method and had goals to move to tablet or smartphone for data collection. The universal wish list for mobile field applications included:
- Easy to use and set up
- Built in data validation to catch data entry errors at the source
- Direct upload to a data system so the end of the day all the daily samples were in the system with the push of a button
- Prepopulating locations especially for large water systems
- Complete field instructions for samplers on what to collect and where to collect it to eliminate missed samples
- Smart tracking to know on a daily/weekly basis, what samples were collected and what samples were still outstanding
- Integrated with sample planning tools (See challenge 1) to automate the sampling instructions and track the data collection activities vs plan
Challenge 3: Getting the most out of their software, especially regarding updates
Everyone is aware that software updates all the time. Sometimes its security enhancements and sometime feature enhancements or bug fixes. A source of frustration is getting a software update and not knowing what was updated or how best to incorporate a new feature/enhancement into their established process. There was also concern for impact to an established routine with field crews that were used to the existing way of doing things. Even if a functionality improved the workflow, enhancements are only valuable to a user if they understand how to use them and how to incorporate them into their existing process.
Some suggestions from the attendees included:
- Concurrent documentation updates with software updates
- “Quick start” guides for new functionality
- Online training on the new functionality with recording for later viewing
- Heads up on what is coming in the next several months so they can do strategic planning (sharing the roadmap)
- Sandbox environment to test the enhancements before going in production so they can plan how to incorporate the features into their process and train field crews
Mobile applications, which appear very simple to the users, are in reality complex software and require careful integration with the receiving database for a range of complex use cases. This makes rolling out new mobile features challenging for both the developers and the users. Enhanced customer/developer communication along with a sandbox environment can go a long way towards solving some of the inherent issues with rapid innovations and updates associated with cloud and mobile software.
Software tools are available and can solve a lot of the common data management challenges, but know what you want, know the problem you are trying to solve and know it will take some time and effort, but the end result will significantly improve your business processes. Though these challenges are present when choosing a software, Locus Technologies has the experts to help you hurdle the challenges to find the solution that is best for your business.