Not Just Table Stakes: Mobile Strategy is a Must-Have and Value-Add

January 16, 2024
6 min read

FastField CEO Jeff Stay on how to orchestrate robust mobile strategies

Desktop tools abound for business operations, but what if the “office” is in the field? For companies with workers at construction sites or solar installation locations, or who perform home services like plumbing, a desktop solution isn’t enough — they need mobile tools to connect all parts of the business.

In a world that’s increasingly remote, what’s the best way to connect with your teams, get visibility and real-time access into what’s happening, and keep everything running efficiently and securely? For Jeff Stay, VP of Product Management, Mobile at Quickbase, the solution is mobile technologies that keep the back-office and remote workers in constant contact, with real-time bidirectional information flow.

“If you don’t have a mobile strategy,” says Stay, “you’re going to fall behind.” We recently chatted with Stay about why mobile is a critical solution for certain businesses, how information remains secure over mobile, and the role AI will increasingly play in improving these tools.

Quickbase: Companies need to communicate with their workers in any environment. But what’s mission-critical about a mobile solution, especially for certain businesses?

Jeff: It’s about gathering data in real time, which gives you the ability to identify, document, and mitigate potential safety and compliance issues. It’s about scheduling resources and keeping them on track, and escalating issues as they’re identified — and in some cases, even avoiding those issues altogether. If you’re performing procedures in the field, it’s essential to know immediately whether any equipment needs maintenance, an incident needs to be reported, or a work order needs to be created, for example.

Instead of everyone working independently in the field with limited visibility in the back office, it can all happen in real-time, at the job site. That’s especially the case for folks with a remote workforce that performs services or operations outside the office. A mobile solution is the way to connect with that team, and have awareness of where they are and what they’re working on. It also provides a global view of critical data collected at the jobsite, providing a view into project status and important metrics for the business.

Is there a competitive advantage to having a mobile solution?

Absolutely. With real-time data collection, companies can have more awareness of what's happening so that they can respond quickly and keep things on track and within budget.

They can keep their people happy by quickly dealing with issues that are getting escalated, and resolving those quickly. So as an advantage, your workforce is more efficient and your budgets are not being blown by delayed issue response.

Your people are safer, too, because you can catch and mitigate issues much faster. With communication seamlessly moving between the office and the field, you can have a system to track progress and performance, and even how to effectively train people in the field. You can also have awareness of who's completed their training for compliance purposes.

Does a mobile solution replace the desktop software that many companies already use?

No, companies need both. The combination of mobile and desktop creates an entire solution. You have back office workers at desks performing critical job functions. And you've got folks in the field — that's their office. They’re performing repairs, maintenance, audits, inspections, checklists. Or they're out with construction crews, analyzing the quality of work, identifying or raising issues and documenting them.

Someone in the back office might be analyzing all this data collection and deciding, “Hey, we need dashboards, we need to generate KPIs from all these data sets that will help us manage the business or manage a project.” With all the reports coming in from the field, they can identify, for example, that a certain region is prone to certain issues in aggregate.

So it's just a different set of capabilities and features that need to exist within the desktop world versus the mobile world.

During the pandemic, many companies had to quickly ramp up more security around off-premise technologies. How do you handle security issues on mobile devices, while keeping the information flowing?

Part of it is where you store the data. With our product, most of the data is housed in the cloud. So the device becomes a collection mechanism, but we don't have the entire data repository sitting on a phone. With that said, device security is extremely important and data needs to be protected when in transit and at rest. The same security principles apply to mobile as they do with desktop.

The devices themselves are an important consideration. “Bring your own device” is very popular these days, but there's a significant cost to keeping all these mobile phones up-to-date and secure. You’re sacrificing some security controls around those personal devices.

There’s a balance of understanding that workers want flexibility, while companies don't want extra costs but want to manage risk. One solution is mobile device management solutions that can help control what gets installed and who has access.

Your solution is already cutting-edge. How are you also looking to leverage AI to benefit customers?

In some ways, AI is a black box, and the challenge we face is that it’s the shiny new thing. But the shiny new thing might be different than what we specifically need for our product or business. I’ve challenged our organization to keep that in mind, and to look at AI through a lens of how it can enhance our product to increase productivity and provide solutions that we humans may not be thinking about. Let's make sure it will be beneficial to our customers as a feature set.

From a product perspective, lots of interesting capabilities will come out of it, but it’s very much green fields right now. Certainly people are scrambling to find a differentiator in their products and AI is a capability that could bring that.

One way we’ve been using AI is to generate forms based on industry use cases. We provide prompts to a generative AI engine that says: here's generally what I'm looking for, please construct a mobile form solution that matches my needs. It’s an assistant, a companion to what we’re doing as humans, but it won’t replace everything as a be-all-end-all solution. It’s a very interesting, new frontier to explore. I anticipate we will be leveraging it in a big way in the future.