FMI gathers data with handheld PCs



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1 April 2005 | 0

Field Management Ireland (FMI), a specialist in field marketing services, is using a mobile-aware application from Rococo called MobileFrontier Survey to improve the management of its workforce and its service delivery to customers.

FMI performs a number of field-marketing services for customers who are typically in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) area. These services include carrying out questionnaire-based customer surveys, distributing marketing material such as posters around retail outlets, and researching the amount of clients’ product available in retail outlets.

Often these campaigns are organised on a country-wide basis and a large team of people is recruited, trained and set to work on a particular project. According to Laura Drumgoole, head of Information Solutions at FMI, who was responsible for implementing the Rococo application in the company, the traditional method of recording the results of such campaigns was paper based.




‘Until about six or seven years ago, our people would record all the findings on paper forms and post them into us,’ she said. ‘We would then enter the data into our systems, categorise and sort it and prepare a report for our customers.’ Nowadays, however, that
data-capture and transmission back to headquarters has been automated. FMI’s field operatives are equipped with HP iPaq handheld computers which can access the Rococo MobileFrontier Survey software which allows the field operatives to be sent details of their assignments: where and when to go and what questions need to be answered.

The necessary information is transmitted to the operatives over the Internet. Although wireless transmission to the iPaq’s is technically possible, in practice most people download their assignments via standard dialup, according to Drumgoole. Some of the projects that FMI carries out for clients, such as questionnaire-based research, are very data intensive and require the filed operatives to transmit a lot of data back to the company head office.

The number of field operatives and the amount and structure of the data that has to be sent back for analysis mean that using an e-mail based system for communication between headquarters and the field would be cumbersome and time-consuming, according to Drumgoole. Instead, it is much better to have a specific application within which both the field operatives and the data analysts work to streamline the communication.

‘The work we do is all about people,’ said Drumgoole. ‘The work sounds simple but the skill is in co-ordinating all the activities, recruiting and training the staff, getting them on the payroll and then briefing them on what they have to do.’

Working within the application, the operatives can download their assignments, gather the data where necessary and transmit it back to headquarters where it is compiled into specific reports for FMI’s clients. The Rococo software also simplifies the management of
the field staff. ‘Each time our people log into the server, we can see exactly what they’ve done to date,’ said Drumgoole.

Turnaround is much faster than with a paper based system. For example, a client might ask that a survey be taken on a Friday. Using the Rococo application, the data could be gathered and sent to headquarters, where it is then categorised and fed into a separated reporting application so that the client receives the information they need first thing Monday morning.

Drumgoole said that FMI was formerly part of a larger multinational group and has been using a similar product since 1999. However, she points out that the Irish office had limited input into the development of that application which was an in-house design
developed by the company itself. Although it was adequate at the time, it was not customised for the Irish market and had various inappropriate features such as American ZIP codes which are unnecessary here.

By contrast, FMI worked very closely with Rococo on the development of MobileFrontier Survey and the experience was mutually beneficial. ‘We had experience of what a product such as this should do,’ she said. ‘We knew what we wanted and they knew how to develop it.’

She added: ‘We needed a solution that would scale with the business, allowing us to streamline data collection and increase the speed and accuracy of the data. We chose to work with Rococo because they are the leading wireless solution providers in Ireland and they really understood the positive impact that this software will have on our business.’


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