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30 November 2021

How to Keep Field Service App Integrations from Feeling Like a Bad Marriage

Business Advice | 5 minute read
MI Solutions founder, Kevin Smith

Author: Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith is the founder and director of MI Solutions Ltd. Founded in 1999, MI Solution is a business software specialist and Xero certified advisory company. MI Solution offers a wide range of services including software recommendations, installation, training and support/maintenance.

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Integrating job management software and accounting software can feel a bit like a bad marriage if, like a marriage, the relationship between the two parties isn’t nurtured.

First, you’ve got the proposal, that honeymoon period when everyone is optimistic, loving and happy that two entities are merging. Then there’s the wedding, the great excitement, it’s finally happening! But what happens when the guests disappear and you’ve got to figure out life together...on your own?

While we haven’t figured out a roadmap to the perfect marriage, we’ve created one that nurtures the marriage of your field service management software and your accounting software. First, we analyse the data needed for the integration. Then, we manage the integration process. Finally, we set our clients up for reporting so that they can always make data driven decisions.

Step 1: Data

Magnifying glass looking at data

Ah data. Overwhelming, isn’t it? Not to worry, just take it in bite sized chunks and approach it with the mindset that reducing administrative tasks is your primary goal.

Then, carry out detailed research that examines all of the paperwork and Excel sheets that currently house your data. Look at each one and ask yourself, “do we need the data included in this report? Does anyone even read this report?” By clearing out the reports/data that are never used, you’ll not only save time with the integration, but you’ll also clear up a mess of numbers that no one needs.

In this step, we assess:

  1. What data needs to be collected
  2. The source of the data e.g. customer, supplier, employees, accounts, etc.
  3. The person responsible for entering the data
  4. The communication and approval paths necessary to capture accurate data

This will ensure that you are not short of critical data needed to run the system in the future. You do not want to hear a colleague say after six months, “it would be nice to know the warranty date on all 1,500 machines”.

Step 2: Process

Arrow with two crosses either side representing process

Let's admit it, field staff, sales and accounts personnel deal with some conflict day to day! They each want to work independently and have their own agenda. For example, if the technical department sets up the integration and ignores sales and accounts you will end up with an excellent stock and site management system that is unworkable by accounts and sales.

So, you will need help to pull all the department processes together:

  1. Map the process flows
  2. Identify databases to be maintained i.e. customers, suppliers, stock, order, etc.
  3. Map accounting general ledger codes in both systems to ensure adequate reporting
  4. Map VAT/tax codes in both systems

Doing this will eliminate data duplication, reduce communication needs and limit errors.

80% of quality issues are a result of missing or poor information. For example, if a salesperson notes, “the customer needs two separate panels,” and this information is not communicated clearly to technical and accounts, it will cost you money and reputation.

Step 3: Reporting

Reporting bar graph in circle

I’ve seen many businesses, colouring in Excel sheets to produce reports. Then, the moment they’re printed, no one reads them. Sound familiar?

My advice is to avoid running reports in Excel. Instead, clearly identify which data you want to access in real-time and move it to your dashboards. For example, you may want to look at live jobs, profit and loss, purchase orders needing approval, etc.

To choose these reports, think about:

  1. Which statutory reports are needed e.g., revenue
  2. Which administration reports are needed e.g., payroll, invoicing etc.
  3. Which management reports are needed

This will ensure you have reporting to cover statutory requirements and up-to-date reports to make timely management decisions. If you have to export to Excel and start adding data and colouring in sheets, you have missed something.

Let’s take a typical client of mine, a mechanical engineering services company with 20 employees plus subcontractors. They have large projects as well as maintenance callouts and they also maintain stock. They were using Xero and colouring in Excel sheets to manage jobs, stock, client charges, timesheet and call outs. Admin staff were overworked and stressed.

We set up Xero and integrated simPRO for this client. This included setup, training and ongoing support. Using our guidance, the company has both systems working together, resulting in a smooth workflow and a happy customer.

Just to note, we only provide app marriage counselling not marriage counselling...You're on your own there!

Want to learn more? Contact MI Solutions today.

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