Nintex Mobile helped us tame a brontosaurus: SharePoint mobile collaboration for field workers

A stakeholder management use case

Many of our clients in the oil and gas, mining and forestry industries face a challenge when it comes to their information management landscape. Some of the information these companies care most about is far removed from head offices in the hands of a disconnected field worker or external stakeholder, not in a carefully constructed and maintained SharePoint environment where it can be stored, manipulated and properly archived. Often this gap is addressed by a litany of paper forms, which inevitably are lost, stained, torn, improperly filled out, or simply disappear before they are entered into the safe embrace of a SharePoint list. 

Ever since Nintex Mobile was released, we saw its potential to bridge this gap and have been waiting for an opportunity to implement a solution for our clients.

This opportunity came when one of our clients needed a solution that would enable it to manage comments and concerns from their external community stakeholders. They currently had no system to manage these comments. Instead, this information was in a spreadsheet on someone’s desktop. We were engaged to support some custom development around an Adobe form. We quickly recognized that a Nintex Form was a far superior option, but we had to dig into the requirements before making a sound judgment.

Key to the initiative was the tight timeline. This was an overdue need and the client was highly motivated to proceed as quickly as possible. Because Nintex Mobile forms are built on SharePoint lists using the same familiar interface as browser-based Nintex forms, our team was able to demo a rough prototype of what a Nintex Mobile form experience would be like within 24 hours of receiving the request. 

Exploring the requirements further, we uncovered that this mobile information capture was only the beginning of an ongoing follow up and investigation process that touched many different stakeholder areas. The mobile form was just the tip of the iceberg, or tail bone of the dinosaur as our team has come to refer to it. 

Nintex Mobile forms are a re-formatted version of a desktop Nintex form, so we were able to quickly replicate the form for desktop without a duplication of effort as well as add additional desktop-only sections for the follow up and investigation processes. A Nintex workflow was employed to remind various stakeholders to look at the form based on different choice fields and escalate certain cases based on a calculated risk rating.

The first phase of this project has been completed, and community engagement workers are using tablet devices in a rural environment to better understand their community stakeholders’ needs. The information is stored in a familiar SharePoint list, which means the second part of the engagement–which involves reporting, graphing and displaying this data–is already in progress.

Key features in the finished form solution

  • Form can be filled out offline and synced with SharePoint when back in range of a wireless connection
  • Using a tabbed Nintex desktop form, the administrator can view the incident data from the mobile form as well as track the follow up process
  • The form generates a unique identifier offline with the user’s name as well as the date and time they filled out the form
  • Using calculated fields, the form generates a weighted score based on an inventory of questions
  • You can take photos right from the tablet that accompanies the form and attach them to the list item, capturing signatures and evidence at the same time
  • Several key fields kick off a workflow to notify different individuals within the business when a user includes information relevant to a certain department
  • It’s simple to use, which was important because we had no idea how comfortable each user would be with a tablet
  • We went from the rough concept to prototype in 24 hours and to a piloted mobile form in three weeks!

Considerations and future applications of this technology

Given that this is an extension of a SharePoint list, the data can be entered in many ways (from the mobile form, from the desktop form), and you can even open it up to more public stakeholders. Nintex allows you to publish a form to the web, so you can connect with your broader stakeholder community while keeping the data secure in your SharePoint environment.

As with any project, these kinds of solutions  are best designed with the full information pathway in mind. We call it “excavating the dinosaur” because while the project seemed like a small thing at the beginning–“just a tail bone”–it turned out to be attached to a much larger business process, or the “full brontosaurus.” Understanding where this data flows and eventually lives, be that a SharePoint solution or other line of business application, will help you tailor your front end data collection to the system that will house it.

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