Sound data is critical for a number of reasons. You may need data to make marketing decisions based on survey data. Or perhaps a crucial business decision needs more data from the site in order to be adequately considered. Maybe you’re conducting independent research – all of these scenarios rely on accurate data.
The good news is that we no longer need to rely on paper, filing cabinets, and dedicated admin employees to capture and process this data. There are countless digital solutions out there that now offer a reasonable alternative to the old ways.
Whatever your reason for capturing data digitally, this article will help you along your journey.
Why Data Collection Software Is Crucial
Here are a few examples to expand on the idea that data collection software is necessary in our modern world.
It’s audit time. People run around. Tension levels skyrocket. The auditors are on their way, and even digging through every dusty filing cabinet on site didn’t turn up the safety file for March. Will the resulting violations cost jobs?
Next example – production is at an all-time low. There’s a bottleneck in the system. We all know where it is; we work with this stuff daily. So we scheduled a meeting with the CEO to get the offending machine replaced. He says no. It’s an expensive machine, and there’s no tangible proof that it’ll produce a return.
Now we’re forced to do complicated math to build an irrefutable case to replace this machine and get production levels soaring again. This takes time – time we don’t have.
One final example. A safety railing has given way on site. An employee fell and now finds himself in the hospital. The company faces a formal investigation, and somewhere in the stack of un-tended incident reports lies the incident report that would have saved all of this grief. The safety officer was too busy running around and writing permits to tend to the growing stack of grimy paper.
There’s a better way.
Through data lies the answers to these genuine issues. With the right data collection tool, gathering the necessary information for the audit can be done with a few button clicks. Building a case for a new machine entails simply pulling the real numbers from the system and matching that to revenue.
And finally, automated alerts or push notifications could get that safety rail fixed before it gives way entirely.
Data is critically important in the modern workplace. It’s up to us to do our diligence and ensure we have the correct systems for our unique business model.
Does Data Collection Software Adhere To Data Privacy Laws?
Your system will likely capture the personal information of your employees and customers at some point. So we have to ask ourselves… is that data adequately protected?
Data privacy laws have jumped up everywhere over the last decade or so. Heavy fines can be applied if you break any of these laws. Taking the GDPR as an example, the penalties could be as high as €20 000 000 or 4% of your annual revenue in extreme cases.
Before you commit to data-collecting software, make sure you’re covered in terms of your local privacy laws.
On a side note, you don’t have to be a European business to be targeted by the GDPR. If you collect any data on European citizens, you could get into hot water. Besides that point, nine states in the US already have comprehensive data protection laws. (Bloomberg law, June 2023).
If you’re ever in doubt, please consult a legal professional on what you can and can’t do.
Does Your Data Collection Tool Work Offline?
You don’t need an internet connection to use paper. The same should apply to your chosen data-capturing tool.
You may think you only need this feature if your teams work in remote locations. The thing is, even cities have dead spots. And who knows when a usually reliable connection could go down, halting your team’s daily duties.
It was an innovative feature when data capture solutions first included offline capability. These days, however, it’s become a necessity. Don’t settle for a solution that doesn’t offer it.
Is Your Solution Customisable To Your Needs?
Different industries have different standards, requirements and methods. To save yourself the trouble of finding an industry-specific solution for each branch of your business, why not look for a fully adaptable data collection tool?
Some are great and enable you to build apps from scratch, while others are more rigid. All of these have one thing in common, though – you’ll have to work within the confines of the system.
No one solution is unlimited in its customizability. Test each one thoroughly to find the balance that best works for you.
Support And Training Standards
One final thing before we head into our list. If you ever hit a glitch or roadblock, you’ll need to rely on the support you have available to you. You cannot settle for sub-standard support. And you don’t have to!
Many businesses have caring, competent, in-house support teams that genuinely care about doing their jobs well.
One warning sign to look out for is when a business charges for support. It’s not something we should commoditise – it’s a service you should have a right to.
Another warning sign is outsourced support teams. Sure, these guys may be competent at their job. Usually, however, they don’t care much for the reputation of the company they’re assisting, so you may find yourself on the other end of a terrible customer experience.
With these points in mind, let’s get to the meat of this article.
4 Solid Data Collection Apps For Different Scenarios
We’re all looking for something quite specific, and each of our businesses operates slightly differently.
With that in mind, these tools are all good options, and this list is in no specific order. Which ones you try and test will depend on your requirements first.
We’d be at fault if we didn’t list ourselves first, right? This will be an unbiased overview of Appenate, however. We do have shortcomings – every solution does. ‘Perfect’ does not exist.
So, with all the self-awareness we can muster, here’s a realistic look at what you can expect from Appenate concerning the above points.
What Is Appenate?
Appenate is a drag-and-drop mobile app builder for internal applications. We have add-ons available for external data capture, but they’re more geared towards customers or contractors. It’s not something you can use for public-facing applications.
Our platform also includes a tasking system, custom integrations via a webhook, and automated processes with our Process Step Field.
We have customers across many industries, including oil & gas, manufacturing, construction, and more. Even weird ones – a mortuary once used us to relocate coffins that washed away in a flood, and a consultant uses us as a kind of PDP (personal daily planner) for his staff.
We also offer some best-in-class white-label options if you want to start a business with our software.
Let’s dig into the finer details below.
Is Appenate Customisable?
The short answer is yes, very much so. Appenate is a blank canvas with 23 different fields to drag onto your form. Each of these fields, in turn, are also customisable. This does create a new limitless pool of opportunities within industrial-type applications.
Our limitations come in when attempting to create public-facing applications. It’s simply not feasible with Appenate.
Within your business, however, you can create incident report apps, maintenance checklists, work order forms, etc. Every internal business process can have its own app with Appenate – you can make as many as you need.
Does Appenate Work Offline?
Big yes. Certain features won’t function offline, but most have backups, so you can still capture comprehensive information in the remotest of locations.
Most of our features are offline-capable, so your apps will work fine. The data is kept safe locally and uploaded to the cloud when an internet connection becomes available.
Does Appenate Adhere To Data Privacy Laws?
We have ‘GDPR-ready’ features. The onus is still on you to make these work, but the point is, yes, Appenate can comply with data privacy laws.
This is achieved by marking personal info fields as sensitive data. In the unfortunate (and somewhat unlikely) event that a breach does occur, these fields will scramble the data, making it unreadable and unusable to the attacker.
We also run penetration testing every so often to ensure all our gaps are covered.
Is Appenate Easy To Use?
This question has two answers. Yes and no.
Is the mobile client easy to use? Yes. It’s dead simple. If you’ve ever used an app, you can probably use Appenate.
Is the backend app builder easy to use? Not particularly. It’s all drag-and-drop, so it’s a simple mechanic that’s easy to understand. However, navigating the different fields and what they can and can’t be used for will take some time.
It’s no more complicated than learning any other new software, though. So it is within the capability of most modern employees.
Could you build a simple data capture form in 5 minutes? Of course. Will this form cover all loopholes and adapt to the situation? Probably not. Appenate is vast and can be complex – but this is what makes it one of the most potent solutions of its kind.
Does Appenate Offer Free Support And Training?
Yes, on both. We have a dedicated support team that specialises in keeping customers happy.
We also have a dedicated in-house training team ready to assist you with any new concepts within Appenate that you’re looking to learn.
Final Thoughts On Appenate
If you want to optimise your internal workflows with native mobile apps, Appenate is some of the best software you can get. It all starts with running a single app for your employees – but you could end up running your entire enterprise on Appenate.
We’ve seen some amazing things be done on Appenate – things we didn’t even think were possible. So who knows where the limits lie?
Give it a go and see – maybe it’s the right tool for you.
If you want something a little lighter (and free), Google Forms may be for you. Be warned; it’s not fit if you want to use it on-site in an industrial setting.
It could work, but that would require a fair bit of innovation.
We use Google Forms to conduct surveys or gather information for case studies. It’s pretty good at that – once you have an online form set up, it’s easy to share it with whomever you want.
What Is Google Forms?
Google Forms is an online form-creator tool. It’s easy to use and has a wide range of applications. You could use it for independent research, site inspections, or other lightweight uses.
It’s a nifty tool, and you can’t go wrong by giving it a try and at least learning how to use it (so you have a solution for that odd rainy day).
Is Google Forms Customisable?
Yes, but you’ll mainly deal with text fields. So you can type in whatever you want and gather valuable data. You won’t, however, be able to utilise powerful device features like QR scans, NFC tags and that sort of thing.
It’s a fantastic product but won’t fit every industrial situation. We’ve found it more useful for marketing teams to gather customer or prospect data.
Does Google Forms Work Offline?
It doesn’t. You need to be connected to the internet to use a Google Form. That said, forms can be accessed on mobile as well.
Does Google Forms Adhere To Data Privacy Laws?
By default, Google Forms doesn’t adhere to laws like the GDPR – but getting it there is pretty simple. So the short answer is yes, but…
We won’t go too in-depth here, but if you’d like to learn more, here’s a helpful blog post to guide the way.
Are Google Forms Easy To Use?
Yes, we find it relatively easy.
There were a few hitches in the beginning. I’m not the most computer-savvy person, but I quickly got the hang of it and found creating forms dead simple. It’s more the manual nature of making your forms that gets to me.
Most form creation relies on good old manual entry, so this isn’t a negative point – just the status quo.
Does Google Forms Offer Free Support And Training?
From what I can see, they don’t. That said, your Google Ads agent will be happy to help you out, I’m sure (if you have one).
The thing is, you don’t need support in this case. It’s a straightforward tool that you could use for years without ever needing to log a ticket.
It’s also a widely used tool, so you’ll most likely find the answers you need with a quick web search. So, moot point, in this case?
Final Thoughts On Google Forms
If you want to do surveys within a group of owned contacts (such as employees or your customer base), go no further. Google Forms is the tool for you.
If you want to create work apps, I wouldn’t advise this as a solution. It’s not built for that kind of thing. You could make it work – but there are better options out there.
Finally, this may not be the right tool if you’re looking to conduct public surveys. You could use it to create drafts of your surveys, but you’re better off going to a specific provider for this kind of thing. Survey Monkey comes to mind.
Teamscope is a customisable tool perfect for collecting research data and conducting surveys. It allows you to create forms you can use on Windows, Android and iOS. And it even works offline.
Is Teamscope Customisable?
Yes – you can build any digital data collection form you can imagine. It is better suited for the medical industry than industrial applications, however.
Two other nice perks are its excellent data visualisation and the ability to create external-facing surveys.
Does Teamscope Work Offline?
Teamscope does work offline on the app, giving researchers in remote locations a nice little edge. Their online forms would still require an internet connection (obviously).
Does Teamscope Adhere To Data Privacy Laws?
Teamscope is GDPR, HIPAA and GCP compliant, so you can rest easy knowing that your patient and survey data is well protected.
Is Teamscope Easy To Use?
The drag-and-drop interface is simple to pick up and navigate. Depending on your needs, it can get more complex, but for the most part, you shouldn’t have any problems getting comfortable with their app.
Does Teamscope Offer Free Support And Training?
We can’t quite tell whether they offer free training – it doesn’t look all that necessary since the software isn’t very complicated. Their reviews indicate great support, so you’re in good hands with Teamscope.
Final Thoughts On Teamscope
It’s a niche product that does exceptionally well in that capacity. If you need both capture patient information and conduct surveys, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better tool.
Kobo Toolbox is a little bit different. Operating as a non-profit, their mission is to provide access to data collection tools for the non-profit sector.
What Is Kobo Toolbox?
Kobo Toolbox is a data collection tool designed explicitly for humanitarian-type organisations to aid in digitalisation and research.
They also offer on-premise servers to large enterprises – something we also offer. The difference is that Kobo Toolbox will actually come and install your servers for you! This is not the norm in this industry.
This installation will come at a cost – still impressive, though.
Is Kobo Toolbox Customisable?
Yes, but it is limited. It’s very much geared towards simple data collection – so you can set up various question forms. You don’t get task management or complex fields like process step, NFC-enabled or things like that.
Does Kobo Toolbox Work Offline?
Yes, on the app, it does. You can also capture responses on the web, though. Naturally, your participant would need to be online for that.
Overall, the offline functionality seems good enough to use via the mobile app in remote locations.
Does Kobo Toolbox Adhere To Data Privacy Laws?
You can get access to Data Processing Agreements (DPAs), which are fully compliant with laws like GDPR. So yes, Kobo Toolbox is GDPR-ready.
Is Kobo Toolbox Easy To Use?
They do focus on ease of use, and it looks straightforward. As with anything, there will be a learning curve – made easier by free access to learning materials on their website.
Does Kobo Toolbox Offer Free Support And Training?
As an open-source platform, plenty of community support and documentation is available online. They do offer specialist support, but it comes at a cost. So if you need that sort of thing, remember to budget for it.
Final Thoughts On Kobo Toolbox
The work they do is honourable. And if you’re looking to support a non-profit and even get a little something in return (reliable data capture), give them a look.
More Stuff To Keep In Mind When Choosing
There we have it – four solutions that could be a good fit for you. Appenate is probably the most flexible of these if I’m honest. However, if you require external data capture or the ability to do public surveys, the relevant entries on this list are some of the best you’ll get.
This may only be the beginning of your search, and there are more things you need to keep in mind as you go.
Do you already use some software, and you’re simply looking for something to fill your gaps? Ensure that the software you choose offers easy integration into your current stack.
Pre-built integrations are fine and all, but can be limited. As an example here, we offer a REST API that can be used to integrate into any web service via a webhook and exposed API. So if you’re looking for ultimate flexibility, make sure your tool of choice offers something similar.
The initial setup is the first thing to note when it comes to hidden costs. Every tool will require some hours to get going – so while this may not be a direct monetary cost, keep in mind that hours also cost money.
Make sure your tool of choice offers good support and doesn’t charge you for support or training since this causes even more hidden costs.
Also, keep in mind that some solutions may require specific devices. This would be an infrequent case, but ensure the software works on your current devices before going further.
Times have changed. The days when a board of executives decided the roadmap for a software product are gone. Mostly.
Appenate has always believed in user-led development. What point is a shiny new feature if it doesn’t serve real people and their genuine problems? That’s why all we do is based on your feedback.
Make sure that – whatever software you use in the end – they follow a similar procedure and give you a voice.
We’ve already mentioned the hidden cost of setting up a new solution. That’s part of the reason we offer 90 days of Appenate for just $90 (for 15 premium users). This ends up saving you 80%+ off those three months.
We believe that this helps mitigate the setup cost and get your core team rolling and your solution smoothed out. All so you can realise a good return right from the start.
We’re not the only ones nor the first ones to offer something like this. So keep a lookout for these types of offers; they can help motivate solutions for your seniors. Or, in case you are a senior, it can help speed up the financial decision you have to make by lowering the initial costs.
The Most Important Thing Is Flexibility
Migrating to a new solution is just about always an unpleasant experience. Friendly staff and a positive attitude can make a big difference – but no one enjoys a migration.
Keep this in mind when considering the different solutions on the market. If your solution is rigid and doesn’t listen to the customers, you might need another migration before you know it.
Do your research, and try to forecast different scenarios and how your chosen tool will fit into these. Be as thorough as you can. Prevention is always better than cure – if you’ll excuse the cliche.
Try Appenate For Free
If you’d like to try Appenate and see what we can offer you, sign up for a free trial here. You’ll get 15 days to test us and even have a representative help you through these initial days (all free).
After that, we can keep saving you money with the $90 deal. Special offers aside, our standard pricing makes us one of the most affordable solutions in the market. Some competitors charge 4x what we do, and that’s no exaggeration.
Whatever you decide, we sincerely hope you find the tool that fits your needs and makes your life much easier.