Utility companies and large enterprises with mobile workforces have for years had access to robust mobile workforce service management tools to manage and organize their remote workforces. But small businesses, which also frequently have to manage and organize mobile workforces, have had fewer options. Synchroteam, an established vendor of enterprise mobility workforce service management software, has declared its mission to change that.
To achieve its mission, Synchroteam is taking its full-fledged enterprise solution to the cloud.
"Traditionally, smaller businesses with mobile workforces have been underserved in this space," said François Pichon, founder and chief executive officer of Synchroteam. "But today, there are millions of SMB-level companies that have employees in the field who require mobile phone software to help them complete their jobs in the field."
Pichon acknowledged that a few companies offer similar services for small businesses but that they often provide limited functionality. "With our new cloud-based solution, businesses from 50 to 500 employees can enjoy a robust and feature-rich product with all the flexibility and scalability one can garner from an online model," he said.
Pichon, who worked in the U.S. for NCR, AT&T and 3Com before returning to his native France to found Synchroteam in 2000, explained that for years, Synchroteam has worked with large utilities and other large enterprises to provide tailor-made, on-premises mobile workforce solutions. Many of these firms relied on a host of small subcontractors in the field. And while the firms could track and manage their own workers in the field, the subcontractors couldn't afford the solution.
Two years ago, Pichon set out to create a cloud-based solution to make it much more accessible and affordable. Pichon said Synchroteam was so pleased with the results, it decided to abandon its installation-based approach and offer its solution solely through the cloud.
"The solution became even better than the enterprise software, so we decided to rethink everything and do only a single version: a cloud version," Pichon said. "Today, the solution we built to equip subcontractors is the one we also propose to large accounts. We wrote everything for small and medium businesses, but today this solution has become the solution we propose to every kind of customer."
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He added, "Many years ago, big companies had a huge advantage with this kind of solution to be able to schedule and give customers a view to what they'd done. Today, smaller companies have the same advantage as the large ones."
The software consists of two complementary modules: a Web-based management interface to supervise and organize field activities and a mobile app freely available for Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Mobile.
The Web interface gives users the capability to schedule, change and cancel field assignments based on an employee's proximity and skill level. It can also be used to ascertain the location of each worker in the field through a map tool, and to receive status updates and reports from both internal teams and customers.
Some of the tools for the Web interface are optional. For instance, the solution has the capability to use the GPS feature of a worker's device to show a map of exactly where a worker traveled in a given period. Synchroteam operates in many countries, including some in which collection of such data is not legal or requires the worker's consent, so availability of that option depends upon an organization's location.
The mobile app gives users the ability to access schedules and job responsibilities as well as other pertinent information, transmit status updates to managers and supervisors and submit reports that can be enriched with external data such as bar codes, serialized parts, photos and signature.
Optionally, as determined by the organization, mobile devices can be used to create a job in the field. As an example, Pichon described a pool worker who is out on the job and gets approached by a potential customer who sees the truck and inquires about getting his own pool cleaned.
To support the flexibility required by mobile workers, who often have to work in areas with poor or non-existent signal, the app is accessible even when offline, and it also stores everything that happens while offline and syncs with the back office when the connection is restored.
"Everything is entirely Web-based – with the exception of the client we put on mobile devices," Pichon explained. "We know one aspect of this kind of solution is that people who will use it are not technical or IT people. When you have the application, you do not have to care about whether you're connected on the network. You can use it even if you are working in a basement or some other location where you cannot connect to the network."
Synchroteam also uses its international base to add to its flexibility. Pichon said the solution was built to support multiple languages from the ground up, to the point that a back office supervisor could schedule a job in English and a mobile worker for the same organization could read the job in Spanish, French, Arabic or another language.
"It's not designed for IT people, it's designed for people who are working, whose activity is not to use our solution but to do their work," Pichon said. "We are sure with our product they will be able to better organize and track their activities."
Pricing starts at €28 ($38) per month. The price is based on the euro, so it may fluctuate somewhat for American customers based on the exchange rates. Additionally, a free trial of the service is available.