One of the greatest unforeseen benefits of using a mobile reporting app to collect data on the field is getting more than you bargained for. When we create a mobile reporting app, it usually automatically captures a lot of the metadata (time, location, date, person collecting etc). As this information does not need adding in, we have found that reporters (what we call people who complete apps) find the content is quick to capture, leaving them with spare time on their hands.
We noticed on London 2012 that we had separate teams collecting hazard, safety, environmental, accessibility, security, advertising and other issues on site visits. They were generally all visiting sites of relevance to everyone, so we decided to try and insert some additional questions across functions into apps. These were kept quite simple “Do you see any issues with [other function]” but we found that this uncovered a multitude of issues and intelligence. Just by asking people an additional question we were picking up notices to highlight potential issues. While no function wanted to wholesale outsource their specialist data collection, by inserting more and more assistance into the app itself we moved the reporters from specialists to generalists who could bring back information about any topic for any function. This saved huge amounts of travel time and increased the amount of data coming in from the field a huge amount.
For any organisation considering deploying mobile reporting tools, as part of our initial design process we now always ask the question “could we gather anything else that would be useful to another function”. This usually prompts someone to go away and talk across functions, which even if the answer is no (unusual) it promotes people within an organisation to communicate that they are collecting data on site which is always helpful.