Pat Barber: Blog
Thursday 16th August 2012
Are smartphone apps the holy grail as far as inventories are concerned?
The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks decided to take a look. We investigated several smartphone apps for preparing inventories and found that many apps have their merits, but can only be as a good as the person inputting the information.
Some apps do not allow any flexibility to enable the user to format the detail on the report. An inventory is by its nature a very detailed document. Short statements and lists of items are not good enough for use as firm evidence in any dispute. Speed and perceived efficiency is often rated as more important than full detail in inventory production.
Our research shows that inventory clerks, landlords or agents who use smartphone apps do not always find them faster than traditional methods.
For a busy inventory company, carrying out several new inventory compilations each day, smartphone apps may not fulfil their needs. Other disadvantages of smartphone apps are their cost.
Most companies charge a fee for downloading the app, then a separate fee – usually around £5 per report – to store inventories and check out reports. Another fee is charged each time the clerk wants to access their report, for amendments etc.
However, smartphone apps can be an excellent choice for some clerks. Smartphones are reactive and adaptable. An inventory or report can be input and emailed instantly to both the clerk’s main office and the client.
Apps make insertion of photographs fast and easy, and while the AIIC does not recommend that inventories are top-heavy with photographic content, the inclusion of relevant photographic evidence is extremely useful as an illustration of a particular item or area. Inclusion of photographs is also a good marketing tool, making an inventory and check-out report appear more attractive to the client.
Smartphone apps automatically date and time photographs and embed them into the document, saving time spent at the property and back at their office.
Smartphones are a popular tool and user friendly, and with so many apps to choose from, clerks are spoilt for choice. Smartphones are easy to carry – less equipment per job, negating the need for separate dictating machines and digital cameras. Everything you need is in one nice neat little unit and smartphones have a multitude of uses, many of which are vital to a working clerk.
The good news is that some inventory companies are producing some excellent inventories with the aid of smartphone apps: they have the right balance of detail, supported by photography and video. There is no doubt that the role of technology in inventory production is here to stay, bringing big benefits of time-saving and improved efficiency.
But remember that, as with all inventory methods, the devil is in the detail.
Pat Barber is chair of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks
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