“The positive feedback we receive from our clients confirms all our hard work has paid off…We’re also delighted to be partnering with Ballard Chalmers whose experience, knowledge and all-round professionalism is a perfect fit for our business.”
Managing Director, AppCan
AppCan is a software company, whose directors have worked within the utility construction industry for over three decades. In 2013 they recognised a gap in the market for a mobile application connected to a central system which would allow documents to be distributed and data collected (through digital forms) from field workers.
AppCan wanted to make a simple, cost-effective product that could be easily customised to meet the needs of any business with field workers. The product had to be easy to use by non-technical people, whilst also being quick to implement and secure to protect.
AppCan needed a partner to work with them on the development, support and administration of their system. Ballard Chalmers was selected as that partner.
The system itself is a multitenant cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) system that hosts the customer websites used for:
- Uploading documents and assigning them to users
- Configuring custom app/forms to define what data columns are needed from a list of standard column types: such as Select, Text, Currency, Photo and Signature
- Managing users
- Reporting on data collected by mobile users
- Exporting data collected by mobile users
The technology behind the AppCan solution is:
- NET Web applications on Azure App Services: For customer-specific web sites and the central administration web site
- NET Web API on Azure App Services: APIs used by mobile devices for sharing data
- Azure File Service: Cloud-based file system for storing documents and images
- SQL Azure: Cloud-based databases hold the master data for the system
- Objective C for the native IOS mobile applications
The system is designed as a serverless Azure application, so there is no need to patch or manage servers. It is designed to auto-scale out to multiple physical servers as load increases, with SQL Azure that can be scaled up and down as load dictates.
Support: The support hours began on go-live of the system with hours purchased on account and called off as they are used. The support is flexible and uncomplicated, being used for fixes, as well as updates, routine maintenance and system health checks.
Azure Hosting, Licensing & Managed Service: Software licenses including Azure services were purchased through Ballard Chalmers and the estimates on costs for Azure usage were outlined using the Azure Pricing models. Some of the services (such as Logic Apps and Service Bus) are charged based on usage and costs flex with the load on the platform, reducing costs during slower periods.
Easily configured to suit your business, AppCan is a cost-effective way of gathering and managing fieldwork data.
Since its launch, the AppCan central hub and the mobile devices it supports have been deployed for use by thousands of users across many organisations. Now there is no need for field workers to take plans, job orders and other documents with them in paper form. There is no need for them to complete paper forms on-site and send them back to the office for manual data entry. All of this can be done electronically using a handheld mobile device. There is no reason to even have network connectivity while on-site, as the device will automatically synchronise with the central servers when it is online. The system can also be used to broadcast critical alerts to the mobile devices of selected users.
The app has proven itself in many situations including the following examples:
Making document management easier: No reason to take heavy manuals and drawings on site.
On-site timesheet management: A timesheet capture app/form was configured to allow workers to enter time spent on a job and verify by GPS that they were on site when they said they were.
Managing procedures and safety issues: Updates to procedures and known safety issues can be sent as documents or alerts to field workers. Confirmation that the worker has seen the information can be confirmed through read-receipts.
Site surveys: A survey data collector app was configured to allow field workers to complete on-site surveys complete electronically, including taking pictures of the site as well as completing data in the form. The survey results are then stored centrally for exporting to CSV and conversion to PDF format for use in the business.
Boyd Neal, Managing Director of AppCan said, “We spent a lot of time and care getting the Mobile and Web interfaces right for our users before bringing this product to market. Working at the coal-face of Utility Operations for so many years taught us everything we needed to cater for when building the platform. It’s a product we were unable to find when we needed it most, and we’re very proud of the result. The positive feedback we receive from our clients confirms all our hard work has paid off, and it’s nice to know we’ve been able to put something back into an industry that looked after us for so many years too. We’re also delighted to be partnering with Ballard Chalmers whose experience, knowledge and all-round professionalism is a perfect fit for our business.”
Andrew Chalmers, Ballard Chalmers’ Managing Director, added, “Cloud and Mobile-based SaaS represent the future of corporate software systems, offering great benefits including no upfront hardware or software costs to the end client and low systems administration overhead. Ballard Chalmers, as an Azure Cloud Service Provider and Azure-focussed software engineering experts, is helping drive the move to cloud-based SaaS and solutions hosted on Microsoft Azure, re-engineering platforms for Azure, migrating applications to Azure, and designing and building enterprise cloud applications from scratch. And AppCan is a great example of this.”