Work smarter with new and improved forms
I’m very excited to introduce the Q2 2021 release of TAS Online. As we shared during our Virtual User Conference a few weeks ago, the Q2 release is focused on form improvements. The old saying ‘Garbage In / Garbage Out’ applies extremely well to the field of real estate analytics. This release is giving you the tools to make sure that there is no ‘Garbage In’.
We completely rewrote our forms from scratch and added the ability for them to be fully dynamic based on user values. In addition, forms can now have advanced data validations that inform the user of potential issues as they enter the data. What does this mean to you? You now have the the tools to make data collection as fast as possible and free of errors so you can spend your valuable time analyzing the data and securing the best real estate.
Information form improvements
Let’s start with a simple example that demonstrates how to apply conditional formatting to the value of a data field within an information form. For this example, I’m going to apply a conditional value to rent per square foot if it is higher than our company average of $30 per square foot. To do this, let’s open TAS Management Studio and view the form designer for the specific information form that we want to modify. In the image below, you will notice a new set of buttons that are highlighted in yellow that allow you to set data conditions.
Clicking the data conditions button will launch the new Form Condition Builder that allows you to build data conditions. In the below image, I’m simply applying a style when the value of fRentalRate is greater than 30.
When I open the information form in TAS Online, I now see the following:
You can see that the Rent Per Sq Ft is formatted differently and you will also notice a new 'Fast forward' icon on the tab. This represents a new feature that we added for quickly jumping to information that is important. We know some of our client have extremely large information forms. As such, our users asked us to give them the ability to quickly jump to particular data elements. If you click on the tab you will see the following “Quick Jump”:
When you click on the Quick Jump, the form will scroll to the data element and flash it in orange as shown in the image below:
The above examples were very simple but I hope it gets you thinking about how you can apply these tools to simplify your workflows and focus your users on specific data elements that need attention. However, the true power of the Q2 release lies in our improvements to Edit and Add forms.
Edit and add form improvements
We had two main goals for improving our edit forms:
Goal 1: No one likes to collect data so let’s give our users tools to ensure the data they are entering is free of errors. If there is a possible data issue, let’s inform them instantly so they can verify the data is correct while they are still on site. Nothing is worse than having to revisit a location because you made a mistake entering a data value or entered data that is not consistent with previous data elements.
To accomplish this goal, we introduced new data validation warnings and errors. Data warnings allow you to save the data once you validate it is correct, while a data error makes you fix the issue. The image below shows a simple data warning that forces the user to verify data that appears to be an extreme value.
The system can also be configured to perform complex cross field data validations. For example, the following error is shown when the facility is open, offers a car wash, but has no car wash sales volume entered. These types of errors are easy to make when you are in the field collecting data. It’s nice to know that the system has your back and can verify the consistency of the data you entered.
We also added indicators on each tab when there is a data warning or error on the tab. This makes it easy for end users to know if the data is ready to be saved or if they need to make some further adjustments to the data.
Goal 2: Let’s make our forms smart so they can adapt to data values as they are entered and only show relevant data fields based on previous answers. For example, if we are surveying a convenience store that does not have a QSR, the system should hide all the QSR related data elements so the end user can focus on collecting the relevant data and not have to scroll through a bunch of elements that do not apply.
The below images show an extremely simple example that shows/hides the visibility of a text box based on the value the user selects in a drop down. The first image shows there is no question asked when the user selects a chain name from the drop down. When the user selects Other from the drop down, the text box is shown where they can enter text. This same set of functionality can be extended to show/hide entire tabs, sections, or any number of individual data elements. In addition, the data for the data elements that are hidden can be kept in its current state or set to an administrator specified data value to ensure data consistency.
While not a new feature, it is important to note that TAS can maintain a full audit trail of all data changes which allows you to see who made the change, the previous values, and can let you revert the change if you feel it was a mistake.
With all the improvements made in the Q2 release, you can now setup your forms to ensure mistakes never make it into the system. We occasionally talk to prospects and clients that do not enable their users to make data changes because they do not trust their users to enter valid data. We hope that this release removes that concern and that you now feel empowered to have your field based employees collect and validate data. Speaking from 20+ years of experience in building predictive models, you will obtain significant improved predictive accuracy in your models once you include field verified data such as site and situational characteristics.