In offices and shops around the country, whiteboards are a tool of choice for field service management contractors of all sizes.
They contain task lists, notes, announcements, and—often—strange sets of doodles. Perhaps most commonly, though, they’re used as a scheduling tool.
Each business has its own strategy for organizing, presenting, and updating the schedule. Routes might be color coded or numbered. Different service types might live on different boards or be combined in a single one. The schedule might be changed at the end of every week or month.
All these approaches are possible using a physical whiteboard.
The problem, of course, is that whiteboards have lots of limitations, especially compared to other tools on the market today.
In 2021, a staggering number of contractors still weren’t using technology to run their businesses. For those willing to make the jump in 2022, this almost guarantees a leg up on the competition.
So what’s holding growth-minded contractors back?
There are plenty of reasons business owners feel nervous about making the shift to technology. Lack of time, fear of staff frustration, tight budgets, and anxiety about finding the right solution can contribute to an overall wariness.
The best software, though, takes all these concerns into account and offers a product that’s intuitive, easy to use, and quick to implement. With Aspire’s Crew Control, for example, you can be up and running in 60 seconds or less, which is part of why the software reviewer and selection platform Capterra has named it best for ease of use and best value.
For those using a physical whiteboard, it could be time to make the jump to a digital system that keeps everything you love about your current processes—and takes them a step further. Almost like a virtual whiteboard.
What’s so great about whiteboards?
Whiteboards appeal to users because they offer a blank canvas that can be built upon, edited, and erased at any time. But what exactly is it that they do particularly well?
They’re flexible. Whiteboards allow you to write whatever you want, wherever you want. That means you can create a system that works for your specific business needs, no matter how unique or unusual they may be.
They’re visible (usually). If you’re using whiteboards to create and display schedules, they’re probably in a place where people can see them. If they’re in a common area, any of your employees can walk over and take a look.
They’re dynamic. If you’ve been in the field service industry for very long, you know how often things change. With a whiteboard, you’re able to erase and rewrite jobs when they need to move to a different spot.
They’re organized. Finally, many contractors have whiteboard systems they’re extremely proud of. They’ve spent years finding the best way to put information on the schedule so it maximizes available space and is easy for staff to read.
What do whiteboards and software have in common?
Now that we’ve broken down the features that make whiteboards work well, let’s see what they have in common with software that serves a similar purpose.
Both can be accessed by multiple people.
While a physical whiteboard can be seen by anyone walking by, a digital schedule can be seen by anyone with a computer. In fact, cloud-based software is even more accessible because it allows schedules to be shared and accessed on any internet-enabled device.
Both can be organized visually.
Just as whiteboards can be customized with colored pens, magnets, and other accessories, the best digital schedules are designed for readability as well as functionality. Jobs can be color coded, tagged, or descriptively titled.
Both can be changed.
As we’ve said, a crucial feature of any scheduling tool is the ability to update it quickly. With a whiteboard, this means erasing and rewriting. With scheduling software, it means deleting jobs or individual events, moving events, or adjusting recurring job details.
How can software replace whiteboard schedules?
Moving your scheduling system from the physical to the digital world may seem scary, but making the change can open up a world of new possibilities. Here’s a few examples of how software can improve your scheduling process, without losing the benefits of having a whiteboard.
Cloud-based software can be accessed from any internet-enabled device. This means that with a program like Crew Control, team members can clock in and out from the field, add notes and images to jobs, and communicate with office staff.
Scheduling systems that rely on physical products like binders or whiteboards can only be in one place at a time. They don’t automatically update on an employee’s phone when someone makes a change to the day’s schedule from a computer miles away.
Software lets you manage multiple areas of your business in a central location.
When you’re creating or making a change to the schedule, you may have a question about a customer’s service history or want to reference a complaint a different client made regarding a similar project. Instead of hunting for a specific file or memo, software allows you to look up a customer’s record and find the answers you’re looking for.
One of the whiteboard system’s biggest weaknesses is that once it’s been erased, information is gone forever. (Unless you have a photographic memory.)
When your schedule is made using cloud-based software, though, you can go back as far as you need (or as the program allows) to look at past data. This can be helpful when reviewing performance for the year or if you want to replicate past work.
If they’re designed well, scheduling programs should make your life easier.
They should be straightforward, intuitive, fast, and flexible. And most important, they should allow you to make changes with ease.
When you choose a good software solution, changes can happen in seconds and don’t rely on the same kind of tedious effort that erasing and rewriting on a whiteboard does. Updates can be made in real time and shared among staff in the office and crew members in the field.
In the same way that software lets you look into the past, it also lets you look forward,
You can schedule jobs in advance, and they’ll automatically show up once their date rolls around. No more keeping a separate master list of upcoming work and hoping everything makes it onto the schedule.
Crew Control, for example, allows users to plan one-time or recurring jobs using a drag-and-drop editor, automate route optimization, create templates for similar types of work, view jobs on a map, or bulk schedule particular types of service.
Finally, the software you use should let you communicate with staff from the field without having to rely on phone calls or text messages.
With a program like Crew Control, you can upload photos and videos or add text memos to jobs. This can help managers provide detailed instructions for crews or give crews a way to convey issues directly to managers using their smartphones.
Crew members can also receive notifications about scheduling changes in real-time, and managers can keep track of hours worked using virtual timesheets automatically connected to the schedule.
Is there software out there that doesn’t offer the right benefits?
As you may have guessed, not all software solutions are created equal.
Some of them are too rigid, poorly designed, or overly complicated and difficult to learn. They try to make you conform your process to how the software’s set up, when instead it should be the other way around.
Chances are, this is why you haven’t taken the plunge yet. What you need is a platform that keeps everything you appreciate about your current scheduling process and gets rid of the rest.
The best systems help you save time by providing tools for employee scheduling, project management, resource management, pricing, and invoicing all in one place to streamline your workflow. Whether you're struggling with staffing shortages or looking to condense Excel spreadsheets and whiteboards into one management system, crew scheduling software like Crew Control can help.
Crew Control could be the virtual whiteboard you’ve been looking for. Interested in learning more? Check it out for yourself with a 14-day free trial (no credit card required).