April 25, 2023
Despite so many businesses moving to remote work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still many industries that require in-person activity and a mobile workforce — oil and gas, plumbing, home repairs and installation, deliveries, landscaping, utilities, home health, etc.
These types of businesses can’t accomplish everything in the office. They need hands in the field or on the rigs to execute their business model. However, having most of your revenue generating activity happening in the field can make it difficult to have an up-to-date view of your business.
The solution? Mobile integrations.
You can connect the work being done in the field on mobile devices to your core systems. All the activity captured in your workforce’s smartphones, tablets, or laptops can become actionable with custom built mobile application integrations.
How Do Mobile Integrations Work?
Although the word is fairly descriptive, if you don’t have a technical background, you might not feel like you have a firm understanding of how a mobile app integration works.
Simply put, a mobile integration connects one system to another system and removes all manual data transfer efforts. The idea is that data should flow seamlessly between system A, B, and C.
More technically, the data from systems A and B are almost always organized in different ways. (Think about your favorite mobile app’s functionality and user experience versus the desktop version.) To seamlessly exchange data between systems A and B, the data needs to be organized, cleaned, sorted, filtered, formatted, and a workflow needs to be created.
This data transformation and mapping all happens behind the scenes — there’s no human interaction required once the mobile integration is built. An API (application programming interface) connects the two systems in the backend without going through the frontend user interface.
Most of the popular software products have an API in the backend you can use. They don’t always advertise it, however. Sometimes you need to reach out to the development team or pay extra to license the API.
QuickBooks, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics AX, Oracle ERP, SAP, and Salesforce all have APIs that can help you connect to your mobile workforce. These are common applications for mobile integrations because they are the heart of many businesses. If you can integrate these with your other software tools, you gain transparency and clarity in your business’ data.
Mobile integrations can be built to either push or call APIs. When an integration is built to call the API, system B will essentially “ask” system A if there is any new information it needs. The call can happen as frequently and infrequently as you’d like, but it’s important to remember that the more calls made, the more resources you’ll use, which leads to increased cost.
When an integration is built to push, system A will notify system B whenever the data that it’s looking for is available. System A would then initiate the data transfer accordingly. Your engineering team should perform an analysis on your business case to help determine the best architecture for your mobile integration.
Examples of Mobile Integrations
Below are some of the most common examples of mobile integrations we build at EnterBridge:
- Connecting a CRM (HubSpot, SalesForce, PipeDrive, Monday) to an ERP system (Quickbooks, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics AX, Oracle, SAP) to automate the order creation process.
- Connecting a delivery/logistics system to an ERP system to automate inventory tracking and revenue recognition.
- Connecting mobile form submissions to a vehicle management system to provide visibility and to expedite driver vehicle inspection reports.
- Connecting an inventory management system to a CRM enabling sales reps to know in real time how much inventory is available for sale.
- Integrating with a third-party logistics company so shipment data/tracking is available in your customer service system.
Although we frequently implement these types of integrations, the options are limitless on how systems can be integrated together. The integration process gives you increased visibility across your business and optimized business processes.
Let’s explore three specific example integrations more in-depth.
Because there’s so much you can do with integrations, I decided to choose three examples that give you an idea of the range mobile integrations has. It can help large and small businesses alike from healthcare to e-Commerce and everything in between. However, we’re going to focus on just three types of businesses for now: manufacturing, door-to-door sales, and transportation.
You run a solar panel manufacturing business that sells directly to consumers. You have a team of people who deliver the solar panels to your customers.
You use a mobile software to track deliveries and NetSuite to track inventory and sales.
With a mobile integration, you can connect your delivery tracking software to NetSuite so as soon as an invoice is paid by your customer, your delivery team is dispatched. Once the delivery is made, your team updates the delivery tracking software, and your NetSuite inventory is updated all before your team pulls out of the customer’s driveway.
Next, a delivery receipt is sent to your customer along with a link to a form to provide feedback. What used to require several human touch points (manually dispatching the delivery team, delayed inventory update, etc.) is now completely orchestrated through a mobile integration.
If the systems weren’t integrated, it would be easy to promise items to customers that you thought were available in your inventory but actually aren’t, resulting in delays and unsatisfied customers. This integration also ensures that you don’t deliver a solar panel to a customer who hasn’t paid. It removes all chances for human error in the process, saves you time and money, and enables your team to make more sales and improve the customer experience.
You run a pest control company and sell primarily via door-to-door sales.
As soon as a rep closes a deal on the SalesForce mobile app, a mobile integration could automatically invoice your customer, create an order in NetSuite, and send a notification to your operations team so they can schedule service.
Without an integration, this process would move much slower. Your sales rep would have to download a report from SalesForce every day, manually key in the orders to NetSuite, notify the operations team via email or internal chat message, and manually create an invoice for your customer.
With all this manual data entry, there is an increased risk for error that could result in under or overcharging your customer, scheduling the wrong service, or long delays in delivery due to your operations team not being notified.
With an integration, the entire business process can be orchestrated (automatically populate the order, invoice the customer, notify ops team) resulting in a zero percent error rate, highly engaged and motivated employees, and significant improvements in the customer experience.
You manage a fleet of semi-trucks, and you must collect information from your drivers’ inspection reports from wherever they are in the country.
Many of these inspection reports are done on paper and stored in filing cabinets at disparate locations throughout the country (or they’re lost along the way). With a mobile integration, you can use web-based forms on a phone or tablet to easily gather the inspection information, instantly attach pictures to each report, and store in the cloud for easy access. This greatly simplifies the process if you were ever audited by the Department of Transportation and lowers your chances of severe fines for safety compliance infractions.
Additionally, certain responses on the mobile form can trigger workflows — a submitted broken e-brake can put the vehicle in “out-of-service” status, order the new part, and put in a work order for replacement service. Soon, that vehicle will be repaired and back on the road, with minimal delays and no compliance infractions.
Benefits of Mobile Integration
With all these capabilities, there’s no shortage of benefits for adding mobile integrations to your company. A few key advantages include:
Increased productivity — Especially when paired with automation, mobile applications help your team complete their work quicker and more efficiently.
Solves specific pain points — Creating custom applications helps you solve specific pain points for your field teams so they can do their job without the headache of technology that doesn’t match their needs.
Provides better business insights — You can use data from both your office and field staff to see how well your operations are running and measure data companywide instead of in location-based segments. You can always feel confident that you’re making accurate promises to your customers and you know exactly what’s happening at every worksite. No more wondering, “What happened today that’s going to be a problem tomorrow?”
Manage all your tools from one place — Mobile integrations can all come back to a central platform or software that you control. Instead of having to check on five or six different systems, you can pull all their data into one “source of truth.”
Execute business processes without human intervention — Mobile integrations take the hassle off your team so they experience less burnout, there are no errors, and they have more time for strategy and selling.
Business processes that are scalable – In many cases if you rely on manual business processes your company’s growth will be capped. On the flip side, orchestrating a business process using mobile integration is a competitive advantage that enables growth.
Empower Your Workforce
Mobile integrations are an easy way to empower your workforce and support your business. They bring together field and office teams, so the entire company runs smoothly and continues moving toward your goals.