Digital data capture: what telecoms engineers need to know

Share this on social media:

While the services provided by the telecoms industry are becoming ever more advanced, the same cannot necessarily be said for the day-to-day processes used by those who make the technological advancement for customers possible. 

Building and maintaining a modern telecoms infrastructure requires the hard work of countless field-based professionals, such as engineers, installers, maintence teams and more, many of whom still rely on outdated paper-based processes to capture crucial data about the work they’ve completed and the state of the infrastructure itself. 

However, we believe that a reliance on paper can have a detrimental impact on both productivity and compliance, while also making it harder for businesses to act quickly on any issues identified during inspections and to simultaneously analyse data collected from across departments. 

Moving away from analogue to digital forms of data capture, such as mobile data capture apps, is a simple change that could offer network owners and operators, service providers and other businesses in the telecoms industry a host of potential benefits that could help to overhaul their operations.

Fibre engineers could save time on site

Paper-based processes generally take more time to complete than digital ones. Forms need to be designed, filled in, returned to the office, the data copied over to a computer database and manually filed. Digitise those processes and you can use, for example, drag-and-drop form designers to speed up the initial design processes, use mobile signatures to get customer sign-off via a tablet or smartphone, and import that data directly to a cloud-based database, and even capture information like photographs and videos on the move which are automatically filed and stored.

In practice, this means that field-based workers can complete and file all their necessary paperwork on the move, and without the extra administrative burden of duplicating information back at the office. And because all data is stored in the cloud, they can access and fill out key information and documents on their mobile devices. In turn, this enables them to move more efficiently between appointments, and complete more jobs. 

Meanwhile, using digital job dispatching tools can enable businesses to create and schedule jobs, and send real-time updates and notifications to workers out in the field whilst jobs are being completed, enabling a far more dynamic and responsive approach to allocating resources.

Improve infrastructure accuracy

Reducing errors and inaccuracies is a key challenge for any business, but particularly for compliance-heavy businesses which rely on field workers moving from job to job and dealing with important infrastructure. There is always a risk of paper documents completed on a job being incomplete or lost – and in turn, this could contravene professional standards, health and safety regulations and even put customers in danger. 

These risks can be dramatically alleviated by replicating forms and reports digitally, enabling workers to complete them in real-time via an app on a mobile device. With the information captured and stored automatically on a central cloud-based platform, paper forms cannot be completed incorrectly or lost on the way back to the office. Barcode and QR code scanning can be incorporated for automatic data capture and cross-referencing with your own database, if you need to look up product or asset information.

Enhance health and safety compliance

Regulatory compliance and health and safety requirements should be key considerations day-today for any employee and employer, but can require the use of cumbersome forms and checklists to maintain. By digitising these processes, workers can not only speed up and streamline compliance processes; they can also reduce incidences of error. Meanwhile, health and safety checklists and handbooks can be saved digitally and centrally, enabling them to be updated and rolled out to all employees and contractors rapidly. Furthermore, problems and ‘near misses’ can be easily reported, enabling the business to learn from mistakes in a streamlined way.

Reduce business costs

The costs associated with printing and storing paper documents can be surprisingly high – and of course, the more your business grows, the more space you need. Shifting to paperless processes is a simple and straightforward means of slashing your filing and  stationery requirements.

Then there is the cash flow to consider. Paperless processes enable real-time notifications when jobs are completed, and automatic generation of digital invoices. All of this encourages faster payment, and reduces the risk of missed or inaccurate invoices.

Increase performance intelligence

Because paperless processes consolidate your business data into seamless digital formats, they open up new possibilities for feeding your information into tools such as Microsoft’s Power BI, Qkliview and other business intelligence tools. From there, you can create dynamic dashboards, tracking the performance of different areas of your business and ultimately enabling smarter, more strategic decisions.

Offering the opportunity to streamline administrative processes, improve health and safety compliance, enhance reporting capabilities, and inform long-term strategy, it’s clear that digital data capture solutions are worth serious consideration for telecoms businesses looking to refine their operations. 

Colin Yates is chief support officer at WorkMobile