Mobile data capture via a SharePoint App creates a cost-effective management control tool


The Adactus Housing Group simplified its fire-safety inspections and improved the quality of the resulting data by switching from a paper-based system to one using smartphones and a SharePoint App. In the process Adactus gained a cost-effective, powerful, and open-ended tool for general property management. The data-gathering team – non-technical caretakers – like the App because it saves them time. As well as enjoying more accurate and timely data, Adactus has better control over its property portfolio. It can easily adapt its SharePoint App to gather data on any aspect of property management. The project took just three months and cost less than £10,000.

The challenge of paper-based data capture

Many organisations are still using paper-based forms to capture vital information. Data recorded on paper is not easily accessible, hard to analyse, and prone to error, especially if the staff who complete the forms are not specialists. Paper-based data is also slow-moving: it relies on physical transfers to pass from one person to the next.

The Adactus Housing Group faced exactly this problem. It owns 150 properties with communal areas, and manages a team of roving caretakers who have to report back on the fire-safety checks at each communal area. The traditional method was to complete paper forms for each property, and return them to the admin office. If a caretaker took a vacation, there could be a two-week delay between survey and document filing.  

Agile development creates user-friendly interface

Adactus asked Parabola Software to develop a mobile solution that would be easy for caretakers to manage. Although Parabola could see that this was a relatively simple job for Microsoft SharePoint App, the challenge lay in devising a user interface that would appeal to such a non-technical audience. So they stripped back the sequence of fire-safety tests to the basics and redesigned it in such a way that the forms are clear, logical, and foolproof.

Easy to use interface

Parabola's developers went further: they encouraged Adactus to make more use of its SharePoint App – to learn more about the status of its property portfolio by capturing additional property-management information at the same time.

Parabola, which has long practised Agile software development, keeps its clients involved the development loop because that delivers solutions that users are at ease with. At each iteration, the sequence and the interface were refined till everyone was happy that the process was indeed simple and foolproof.

From briefing to go-live in just three months

Agile development doesn't have to take long. From start to finish, the project took just three months, only one month of which was devoted to application development. Adactus found the process quick, painless, and very cost-effective. Working with Parabola was easy.

"The Parabola App was an easy choice for us," says Gary Heaton, Head of Property Services at Adactus, "because we didn't have to buy special equipment or software licences. It took less than a month to develop and cost far less than proprietary mobile-workforce solutions."

Time-saving technology for non-technical users

An initially sceptical caretaking team took to the new technology rapidly. In the words of one caretaker: "Usually you introduce these new things and they take more time. This actually saves me time."

Mobile Caretaker with the App

Since the SharePoint App is device neutral, caretakers can use almost any smartphone or PC. Better still, they no longer have to return to head office to hand in their paperwork. Data  is available to Adactus management as soon as the property visits are complete.

As  Adactus's , Gary Heaton explains: "This App puts us in control of our fire-safety checks and helps us stay compliant. The software guides our caretaker team step-by-step through the checking process. When the visit's over, we can immediately tell if anything's been overlooked, and if the caretaker found any problems."

A cost-effective route to better control

For an investment of less than £10,000, Adactus has taken control of its fire-safety obligations, its roving caretaking team, and the communal areas properties. Adactus knows where its caretakers are and how long they take to perform the visits because they check-in via the App when they arrive at a property. The data also reveals much more about the properties. Simple data analysis shows, for example, which properties need more maintenance and which caretakers may need better supervision.

Since the App went live, Adactus has requested new fields to capture data on other activities such as cleaning levels. It has also extended the use of the data to provide further management analysis. 

By working with Parabola, Adactus achieved much more than it set out to do. It doesn't just have certainty over its ability to meet its fire-safety obligations, it now has a cost-effective, powerful, and extensible tool to support its property management.