Swapping Spreadsheets for Smartphones
It’s a fact: in an increasingly mobile world, spreadsheets are no longer the best tools for conducting inspections. Here’s how Antares developed a mobile audit application for a leading equipment hire company.
When it comes to protecting against expensive business risks, your internal audit team is your best line of defence. If an auditor misses an issue or is unable to capture all relevant data, the consequences are significant. And while auditors have used spreadsheets for decades, many see mobile audit applications – which are more accurate and thorough – as the way forward.
But swapping from spreadsheets to smartphones isn’t always easy. Internal audits are highly specialised. Every auditor approaches audits differently – even when they’re on the same team. Some work sequentially, while others jump between sections. The challenge, then, is to improve speed and accuracy, without limiting an auditor’s ability to work productively.
This well-known equipment hire company has 160 branches across Australia and New Zealand. With a commitment to outstanding service and quality, each branch must maintain high standards of appearance, cleanliness, safety and equipment. The company’s internal audit team visits each branch three times per year to ensure these standards are upheld.
Auditors conduct branch audits using a 40-page printed spreadsheet. When complete, they re-key the data into Excel and submit to the audit manager. The audit manager combines all 160 spreadsheets into a single spreadsheet to compare results, which takes days.
With almost 500 internal audits taking place each year, the company struggled to:
- Keep audit data accurate
- Capture all available information – i.e. photos of broken equipment
- Control audit spreadsheet versions
The company needed a better system for conducting internal audits. But it also wanted a solution that could go beyond solving data capture and consolidation headaches. It hoped to use audit data to inform training and procurement decisions, and answer questions like:
- What is the average return on maintenance cost over time?
- What is the ideal maintenance interval for each piece of equipment?
- Who are our most cost-effective suppliers?
- How can we get smarter about equipment procurement?
- Which competencies do employees have at each branch?
- Which trainings are required at each branch?
With efforts to mobilise its entire workforce underway, a mobile audit application was the obvious answer.
The company engaged Antares to develop a solution. As a long-time client, it trusted Antares’ expertise and ability to build solutions that deliver value.
Working with the audit manager, Antares transformed the audit spreadsheet into a mobile application. Its team ran workshops to understand how auditors conduct audits and the challenges they face. Then, over several months, it built a three-part Microsoft Azure solution:
- Web-based audit templates – replaced spreadsheet templates with a flexible, web-based application for creating templates, calculating rules and enabling barcode and QR code scanning.
- Universal Windows Platform (UWP) – selected for its ability to build applications that run on Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile without being re-written for each. Leverages cloud capabilities including single sign on and Cortana for speech recognition, while maximising the value of client’s existing Windows investments.
- Microsoft Power BI – added analytics functionality to unlock real-time business insights. For deeper analytics, Power BI pulls information from the audit application and the client’s data warehouse.
Audit data is stored in a central location, which eliminates time-consuming spreadsheet consolidation. And while all branches have Wi-Fi, the application supports offline use to safeguard against wireless black spots. Most importantly, the platform is flexible and can be used to create any mobile or desktop audit.
While it is early days, client feedback has been positive. Auditors say the application is intuitive, supports their preferred ways of working, and captures meaningful, relevant data. At the same time, the audit manager expects to save weeks consolidating spreadsheets each year.
Antares anticipates that the solution will support informed decision-making. With access to powerful analytics in real-time, managers will have greater insight into individual branch performance. They will also have an improved ability to use audit data to guide training and procurement decisions.
Looking forward, the company plans to extend the solution across the business, starting with OH&S assessments and facility inspections.
There’s more to a successful IT project than choosing the right technologies. Understanding your audience matters too. Whether mobilising audit processes or implementing analytics software, return on investment depends on lasting user adoption. It’s one reason why Antares strives to be as good with your people as we are with your IT systems. For more information, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.