An earlier version of this article appeared on Field Technologies Online.

Why do we make it so hard for the 2.7 billion deskless workers in the world to have meaningful workflows? Although they comprise the majority of the workforce, nearly all workflow tools are designed with deskbound workers in mind.

For those working in the field, the only portal they have to the digital wonderland is often their own mobile phone. No double-decker large-screen monitors. No unlimited storage devices. No printer. And no IT support down the hall.

But somehow, these field workers still manage to build, maintain, and enhance the world’s infrastructure. Imagine what they could accomplish if they had workflow tools that were designed specifically for them – not just with the functionality they need, but with an appropriate user experience.

And imagine if these deskless workers had tools that were truly designed for the way they work, built expressly with mobile end-users in mind. Systems that easily integrate with all of your company’s existing applications.

Above all, imagine that these tools could be customized to match the precise needs of your specific workflow – and could be updated anywhere and at any time, whenever there's new information or new ideas.

And what if all that customization could be done quickly and easily by non-technical personnel? IT no longer needs to be a bottleneck standing between a need identified by techs in the field and a new solution to boost productivity, improve customer satisfaction, and bolster employee morale.

And while you’re imagining your field operations firing on all cylinders, imagine the difference you’ll make in the world. Maybe you’re installing and maintaining fiber-to-the-home and bringing the power of unlimited communications bandwidth to businesses and individuals. Or perhaps you’re building out charging systems for EVs and helping to take a bite out of climate change. Your impact will be enhanced as a result of empowering your field operations while you also help your own bottom line.

This isn’t just a fantasy. It’s a reality today, and it all boils down to one critical aspect of your digital toolset: customizability.

Why Customization Matters

If customization has been the “holy grail” for enterprise software, no-code development tools are the key to unlocking that elusive treasure.

In the old days, when you were ready for a new software solution, the first step was to make a “build or buy” decision – were you going to create a custom solution or go with an off-the-shelf option? Custom software development (whether you did it in-house or paid a third-party to create something for you) took a long time to create, and required specialized skills to develop and to make any subsequent changes. It also carried a hefty price tag. Off-the-shelf options could be deployed more quickly and less expensively – but offered very little flexibility and even less room to grow and evolve.

But with the advent of no-code environments, a new hybrid approach has emerged. You can now find solutions that offer the best of all worlds:

  • Rapid deployment and payback of your investment
  • Flexibility to tailor the solution to your specific needs
  • The ability to implement changes quickly – and without specialized development skill sets

There are other benefits of a no-code environment as well:

  • Because you’re not constrained by the bottlenecks of an overworked, understaffed internal IT department or by the sticker shock of expensive outside developer resources, you’re able to control your own destiny. If you can envision something you need, you can build it – even if you’ve never written a line of code before.
  • When you can accelerate time to value, something almost magical happens. You’re not just saving money on development costs, but you create an environment that fosters exploration and experimentation. When the barriers for trying something new collapse, your workers are much more inclined to suggest new ideas, try them out, and adopt the ones that move the needle for your business objectives.
  • Agility and resiliency become habits across your workforce, not just buzzwords. We’ve all learned a lot about how the world can change overnight – as a result of pandemics, natural disasters, geopolitical instability, and supply chain disruptions. Although many companies have found ways to cope with these disruptions, their corporate culture usually remains stuck in a mindset that treats them as ultra-rare events that will probably never happen again. Reality, however, says otherwise. And having the right tools that facilitate customization – however much and however often you need to make changes – is an essential step toward creating a corporate culture that’s aligned with a “new normal” that’s constantly changing.

Putting Theory Into Practice

So what does this kind of hybrid solution look like? Zinier’s Studio Z makes it easy to build solutions to meet your unique needs (and to continuously update your solution whenever your needs change). A typical solution will be developed using a combination of our Solution Builder, Task Builder, and Recommendation Builder.

  • Solution Builder enables you to create applications (ZiniApps) for two types of end-users: web apps for those in an office environment and mobile apps for technicians in the field. Your solutions can support virtually any business requirements. A few examples of common office-centric ZiniApps include scheduling & dispatch, asset tracking, and parts & inventory management. ZiniApps designed for mobile field techs include remote assistance, field inventory, and chat and real-time support functionality.
  • Task Builder provides you with a robust collection of ready-made “task recipes” that you can easily combine to meet your exacting requirements. These tasks can be created and modified without requiring you to write a single line of code. Using a no-code task builder module, any member of an operations team can mix and match a wide range of pre-built task recipes to define a highly specific workflow. For example, a telecom system installer might piece together recipes for mounting a certain piece of equipment, putting a particular cable arrangement in place, performing a specific network test, capturing details about the asset that’s just been placed, and automatically generating a detailed close-out package.
  • Finally, Recommendation Builder transforms manual and repetitive back office tasks into real-time and dynamic insights, enabling field technicians to make informed choices and complete tasks more efficiently and confidently.

The net result is to not only improve operational efficiency, but also to reduce or eliminate human error by streamlining tasks that had previously been performed manually. By combining business logic and constraints with data reflecting the past history of a specific piece of equipment or the experience of individual field techs, the tool can generate recommendations that can be customized to be either passive informational updates or active decision points that trigger additional steps in a process.

The advent of no-code tools will usher in a new era of democratized customization. Combine that with the speed and payback of off-the-shelf solutions and the flexibility of on-the-fly development, and it’s not hard to see that the deskless workforce will experience a giant step forward – in productivity, job satisfaction, and creating value for the world’s infrastructure.

In today’s digital world, there are some things we take for granted. Customization is one of the basics we expect from our products and services. You wouldn’t buy a car that could only drive at, say, 45 MPH, take it or leave it. An oven that could only bake things at 350 degrees would be a nonstarter. Or a cable TV offering that only had one channel? No thanks. But when it comes to field software tools, the customization revolution is overdue – but it’s finally starting.

The right solutions start with the ability to easily create and continually update workflows so that you can better harness and optimize your field operations. Where does it go from there? It’s exciting to imagine what will happen when 2.7 billion deskless workers can quickly and easily customize the tools they need to empower themselves.

To dig deeper into how no-code customization works, click here for a few examples of how no-code customization can help you uplevel your field service operations.

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