How EDI empowers its workforce in the field, in the office, and at home

For consulting companies such as EDI Environmental Dynamics Inc. (EDI), interactions among employees and customers are the direct drivers of value, and helping them collaborate has a tangible impact on the bottom line. However, connecting people from the field to work-from-home spaces to the office is no easy task.

EDI, an environmental consulting company that helps organizations assess environmental impacts and meet government regulations, has eight offices across Western and Northern Canada. Frontline workers account for 80% of its total employees, ranging from biologists and scientists to safety inspectors and project managers. EDI’s success is directly linked to its remote workforce’s ability to work effectively in the field and to collaborate with coworkers and clients across Western Canada. With the help of Google Workspace and AppSheet, EDI is enabling its mobile workforce to function more efficiently and collaboratively than ever before.

Bringing efficiency to its frontline workers

Just four years ago, much of EDI’s field work was still being tracked with pen and paper, resulting in frequent challenges, from error-prone data retention to inefficient collaboration. Luckily, EDI was able to address this using AppSheet, Google Cloud’s no-code application development platform. 

With AppSheet, EDI has replaced the majority of its pen-and-paper processes with tailored apps. As EDI’s Director of IT, Dennis Thideman explains, “AppSheet allows us to be much more responsive to our field needs. Using it, we can spin up a basic industrial application, share it with our field workers, and have them adjust their workflows—all in just a few hours. Doing that from scratch might take weeks or months.”

For EDI, there are a couple of features that make AppSheet shine. First, AppSheet is platform-agnostic, meaning it works on most devices and most operating systems, so any employee can access their AppSheet apps. Secondly, because 90% of EDI’s projects involve working in remote areas, they can leverage AppSheet’s Offline Mode, allowing workers to collect data on their mobile devices in the field and have it automatically download when they reconnect to the internet. 

Eliminating the challenges associated with pen and paper has resulted in even more benefits than EDI leaders originally anticipated: namely, employees work faster across an unexpectedly wide range of use cases. For example, governmental regulations require EDI to complete a pre-trip safety evaluation before heading into the field. Before using AppSheet, this evaluation would take upwards of four hours to complete. By streamlining the process with an AppSheet app, EDI employees have reduced that time down to one hour. EDI averages over 850 evaluations every year, and they’ve realized over 2,550 hours in annual savings—savings that can be passed on to clients and allow staff to focus more time on other tasks. This is just one of more than 35 mission-critical applications that EDI has built with AppSheet.

Time savings is a huge benefit, but as Logan Thideman, an IT manager at EDI, explains “At the end of the day, we realized that the biggest benefits of AppSheet aren’t about time savings as much as they are about high-quality data.” Collecting and analyzing good data is critical to EDI’s operations, as most data collected in the field can never be replicated. For example, if a water quality sample for a certain day is lost (which can happen easily when using pen and paper), that information can never be retrieved again. AppSheet makes data collection easy. Employees are much less likely to lose a smart device than they are a paper form, and any data entered would be immediately uploaded to a Google Sheet or SQL database when they return from the field, meaning data is always backed up in the cloud. From there, information can quickly be analyzed by coworkers, passed on to the client, or shared with government agencies to ensure proper compliance.

Overall, EDI found that the more they could enable their field workers with AppSheet apps, the more those employees could focus on providing quality research and recommendations to their clients and gain a stronger competitive advantage in the market.

Enhancing collaboration everywhere

Enabling collaboration in remote environments can be difficult, but Google Workspace has made this easy for EDI. Google Workspace lets employees effortlessly share documents and work together in real time. Given its ease of use for mobile workers, Google Meet has become all-important and is used as EDI’s tool of choice for face-to-face collaboration. It became even more essential when COVID-19 arrived. As Dennis Thideman explains, “Google Meet allowed us to adapt to the COVID-19 environment quickly as we were already conversant with it. In just two days, we were able to transition our employees from office to home because of it.” By leveraging Google Meet and the rest of the Google Workspace platform, EDI employees are able to remain productive, regardless of where they’re working.

Google Workspace also makes it easy to collaborate with customers. Because many of EDI’s customers leverage Microsoft Office tools such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, EDI still needs to use them. Google Workspace makes it easy to continue using Microsoft products in its environment, allowing employees to store Microsoft Office files on Google Drive and open, edit and save them using Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. 

AppSheet and Google Workspace’s deep integrations also make collaboration easy. Employees can update data in Google Sheets, save images and reports to Drive, and update Calendar events all from AppSheet apps. Together, the two platforms simplify many of the activities that consumed so much time in the past.

An empowered workforce

Empowering employees has been at the core of EDI’s success, and Google Workspace and AppSheet have given EDI a clear advantage. Collaboration has become easier and more agile using Google Workspace. Robust AppSheet apps have been built to streamline mission-critical processes. For unique project requirements, simple AppSheet apps are built in a matter of hours. As Dennis Thideman summarizes, Google Workspace and AppSheet “make managing a distributed, deskless workforce much simpler, giving EDI better growth opportunities and a competitive edge in the marketplace.”

Learn more about Google Workspace and AppSheet.

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