At an onsite last week I talked with a client that's interested in making their workforce more mobile and responsible for processing work order requests. In the course of discussing the pros and cons of various tablets, netbooks, and smart phones, some concerns were raised: how difficult would the data entry demands be on a work force that in some cases, are not early adopters for new IT technology? How long would it take maintenance technicians to type out what was done to complete the job? What about the technicians' concerns for spelling errors? These were all valid concerns by the management team, but it didn’t change their vision that as a department they needed to improve the data and information on their work orders.
As I listened I started to think: Could Voice Dictation be the answer?
Currently in this department of about 70 technicians, the Action Taken field is not consistently filled in with good details regarding the work performed (this district is not unique in that regard). This means the automatic emails to customers are vague or confusing at times. Anything that could help facilitate this process would be beneficial for the customers, staff, and management.
While visiting about these concerns, I showed the team how they could use the little microphone icon when the Iphone keypad was visible, to dictate descriptions in any open text/notes field.
I could see the wheels turning as the team started thinking about the implications of this voice dictation feature. "So you mean they won't have to type in what they did to complete a job? They could just speak it into the description?"
That is correct. And while the voice dictation feature for both Apple and Android devices are not perfect, they do offer a viable alternative to typing in Action Taken descriptions. You have to get used to dictating punctuation, but once you get in the habit of that, it works pretty well. On my Iphone 5, I was able to dictate a few Action Taken descriptions without many errors:
- "Found and replaced bad blower motor. Added Freon. Replaced service valve caps. Checked operation. Unit operating properly." (no errors)
- “Checked unit. Found frozen up and broken belt. Fog (*Thawed*) unit and replaced belt.” (one error)
Now the first time I dictated the initials of a name: C. Goodman, it showed up as "see. Goodman". However, when I spoke "capital C period Goodman", the text showed up properly as "C. Goodman".
Noisy conditions are another consideration for how well voice dictation works. When I tested it on my commute home with the window rolled down, again it worked surprisingly well.
No doubt there will be a learning curve and probably a few humorous translations along the way for anyone that embraces this new feature. But voice dictation offers exciting possibilities. And as the user becomes more familiar with the nuances of this feature, and as technology improves, it will should make the data entry requirements on maintenance technicians easier.
Are you or someone at your institution already leveraging voice dictation technology? Please share your experiences with us by commenting on this blog or posting to our discussion board.