Online Work Order System?
April 5, 2011 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any experience with an online work order system?

My company does business telephone services and through random happenstance we now have service offices in Texas, California, and New Mexico. The only administrative office is in Texas, we take all the service requests from customers, create all work orders and dispatch technicians.

Currently this involves: batch faxing the next day's work orders at the end of each day to each tech, calling and faxing any last minute current day work orders (usually we are faxing them to whatever customer site the tech is currently at), the tech handwrites their notes on the paper copy and faxes them back at the end of the day.

This is driving me freaking batty. I KNOW there is a better way, google pulls up a lot of different companies but I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts/recommendations, etc. on any particular set-up.

Let's assume we are planning on buying all the techs a tablet computer to carry around with them. I want a system that allows us to enter the work order and assign it to someone, they can see their work orders, type up all their notes and mark it as completed or as needing a follow-up, those sorts of things. It does not need to allow for customers to enter their own work orders, we don't need or want that really.
posted by magnetsphere to Technology (11 answers total)
Salesforce is kind of the go-to solution for this, but it's a bit pricey.
posted by empath at 2:03 PM on April 5, 2011

A purpose-built web application might be your best bet here, and really shouldn't be hard/expensive to have implemented.

I say web-based, so it's not a critical to get all the techs the same tablet device - you dont want to be stuck if suddenly your preferred platform goes away, and your techs could use their own laptops / smart phones (provided you also consider small-screens in your development process.)

Basically your home office would just fill in the appropriate form on the website, specify techs, etc and that all goes into the database behind the scenes. The techs log in and get their job list for the day/week/whatever, On site, they just bring up the job form, make their notes in it which is fed into the database for review by the home office or for followup / review / billing / etc.
posted by jjb at 2:09 PM on April 5, 2011

Wow, that was terribly written, sorry!
posted by jjb at 2:11 PM on April 5, 2011 certainly is a go-to solution for scenarios like this. Most enterprise-class solutions (or what gets sold as an enterprise class solution ☺) for this kind of order to cash mobility workflow will cost quite a bit of money to conceptualize, design/buy and deploy.

…Purely from a mobility workflow perspective - I saw demos from a company called Syclo for work order management some months back. This was quite sophisticated. Their modules have wide usage in Oil and Gas sector. The product may not be a good fit for you (they integrate with bigger erp vendors), but the website/product may give you thoughts/ideas for how to execute yours. There are several other products in the mobility workflow space.

The key question is, once you take the order, what business application are you going to use at the back end to execute against those work orders? If you are a large enough company and if you have the influence, it may be worthwhile to implement a smaller ERP or business application for your order to cash function rather than custom build the web application ground up.

Re - the device you want to use - Tablets are obviously a choice. Many companies choose something somewhat more ruggedized to deal with the wear and tear. Motorola used to rule in this space. RIM is increasingly chasing this and will likely give you a better deal. A lot of people think Android based devices are the future (the actual Android devices apparently havent yet met the promise of the OS). Think about your future needs, ease of finding and retaining development talent to build/maintain your applications and the vendor’s ability/willingness to keep up with the changes.

For something simpler/faster/cheaper, JJB seems to have the right idea.

Good luck! You have an interesting problem to solve ☺
posted by justlooking at 2:33 PM on April 5, 2011

Response by poster: For the record, we have only 5 techs spread out over those three states so we are definitely a small company. This is why salesforce causes me pause, just because they seem to be designed for something larger and with bigger needs than we have and priced accordingly.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:58 PM on April 5, 2011

I bet Zendesk would meet your needs. Multiple techs with a leader who takes work orders and distributes them to the techs.
posted by Wild_Eep at 3:17 PM on April 5, 2011

My organization uses a system from here. It involves around 50 different geographic sites, and a number of functions. It seems to work pretty well. I am sure that it costs us a lot but not sure how much.
posted by Danf at 3:20 PM on April 5, 2011

I'll second ZenDesk and mention Web Help Desk as an option many universities use. If you have sysadmin skills, a well-maintained webserver, and time on your hands, RequestTracker is an awesome free/open source solution.

But given how simple your needs are, you might be able to just use HiveMinder, which is a group todo list solution from the makers of RequestTracker. You can create todos with notes, assign them to techs, have the tech add comments to the history of the todo, and either close out the item or assign it to someone else for completion.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:36 PM on April 5, 2011

I installed and loved TasksPro at my old job. (I still miss it.)
posted by epersonae at 5:02 PM on April 5, 2011

Upon further review, Zendesk ($29/month per user), with an iPad+3G ($629 each up front, plus $25/month for a 3G data plan via ATT or Verizon) for each tech, would do exactly what you have in mind. Techs would be able to use the Zendesk iPad app (free)

You set up some free email accounts at Google Apps for Your Domain, link the accounts to Zendesk, and you're good to go.

It's not cheap ($630 + ~$60/month per tech), but it's completely do-able.

(I'm not a salesman for Zendesk. In fact, I've only been using it for two weeks, and I'm just. that. impressed.)
posted by Wild_Eep at 6:05 PM on April 5, 2011

I work for a very large organization and we have used RT with great success. It's free. FREE!! It's worth checking out.
posted by loquat at 8:02 PM on April 5, 2011

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