The use of inspection software to log and record the events of a physical inspection have ballooned in recent years. Remote Virtual Inspection software, which allows a supervisor to conduct the inspection from a remote site, matured quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic. The enticement of cheap alternatives to expensive software has not escaped the area of inspection software. Many businesses and organizations have considered the functionality of Microsoft Teams and have opted to use it as a platform for Remote Virtual Inspections. After all, Microsoft Teams is relatively ubiquitous and inexpensive. The cost of the software and the abundance of add-ons available for it may mislead a majority of businesses and organizations into believing that it could be used to run an inspection. Now, while it may be possible to link a set of pictures and videos into a rudimentary form that can be called an inspection, it would be best to limit the use of Teams for what it was created for, that of video-conferencing and enterprise collaboration.
Where Microsoft Teams Excels
Microsoft Teams was made for the purpose of interactive enterprise communications. Communicating across a multitude of different devices for organizations are one of the key features for those looking to use this platform for video conferencing. Many add-ons have been created for Microsoft Teams using the Power Apps app to expand its capabilities beyond that of video conferencing. Apps have now been developed to create and perform virtual inspections. This is not a programming platform however, and its limitations as a reporting platform bear this out. To use it as a tool for a remote inspection is an afterthought, to be sure. Just as a bicycle with a small motor attached to it could never be considered a permanent vehicle when comparing it to a car; using Microsoft Teams to run an inspection on a project would only display its shortcomings. As an inspection tool, it is wholly inadequate to manage an inspection project that includes many forms of documentation including video and PDFs. While the apps that have been created have checklists; they are not sophisticated enough to organize a complicated project requiring more than a few steps.
How Microsoft Teams Fails at Remote Virtual Inspections
Trying to make a program perform multiple tasks is not a new idea. Microsoft Teams’ flexibility would seem to allow it to be usable for a variety of tasks. So an extension into Remote Inspections would seem to be a good fit. Two downloadable add-on apps have already been made to perform these inspections: the “Inspection App” used for performing an inspection, and the “Manage Inspections App” used for supervising one. While these apps will allow you to conduct a basic inspection and allow for the filling of forms; their lack of features are reflected in less than satisfactory outcomes.
Microsoft Teams is Disconnected
The fact that the “Inspection App” and “Manage Inspection App” are two different apps should be the first clue that there is a lack of necessary integration when trying to use Microsoft Teams for Remote Visual inspections. While these two programs both connect through the use of Teams, it does not mean that there is a seamless connection between the two apps. Teams is only helpful for making the data transferrable. The difference between a unified, cohesive program written to account for the different roles of the inspector and the crew with a program that has different add-on apps for each job is vast. These tools are far too limited in scope and functionality. They were only made to create simple reports and group a few tasks. This is not robust enough to allow for complicated projects, which often have many sub-projects and multiple status levels used to denote completeness.
Inspection Management Software Not Enhanced Video Conferencing
To be a complete product, good Remote Virtual Inspection software requires the ability to deal with various issues other than the direct running of the inspection. Besides the remote collaboration between people, which takes place via videoconferencing, the software must deal with the various levels of authority assigned to different people in a larger project or organization. Therefore modules dealing with user permissions regarding access to areas within a single project and the completed reports have to be built into the application. Software designed for the enterprise should also be able to work with potentially many lower level inspection managers who report to lead supervisors. In addition to the security controls, the software must also have the ability to work with multiple types of media including video and various document formats like Word, Excel, and PDF’s. These features are not listed in the documentation in Microsoft Teams or the apps.
CloudVisit Remote Virtual Inspection
CloudVisit’s Remote Virtual Inspection software was designed for big jobs. It was designed to simplify and streamline all of the project management and inspection tools that go into a large project. A manager can create an inspection plan and move the details into a checklist that can be connected through live video as well as uploaded images. While a large project may contain many multimedia elements, an inspector using CloudVisit’s Remote Access will have the option of creating smaller annotated videos that correspond to what that particular segment needs to show. An electrical inspector for a building; for example, will not need to see various unrelated elements of the job to certify a part of a project. For that reason it is also easy to use for smaller projects. The versatility lies in being able to facilitate the progression of all types of jobs.
One of the issues with an add-on product application is that it is an afterthought. If Microsoft Teams undergoes a major upgrade, there is a reasonable chance that these apps may have to be thoroughly rewritten to continue working within Teams. There is also the issue of upgrades of any type on these apps. Often, working as a niche app; it will not have the market share to sponsor the research and development required to keep it fresh and up-to-date. So, if there is a project that needs to be managed, one should definitely look to other products such as CloudVisit’s Remote Access, rather than wasting time and energy in order to save a few dollars.