The CONSULTANT'S Mobile Office: Scanner Pro

If you are doing consulting work there is a very good chance that you are onsite at client locations more than you are in the office. There's a good reason for this. You can learn an awful lot by walking around and seeing what's going on. You can learn the truth from frontline employees and managers, rather than the distilled version that often comes from the business owner.

So being on site is usually a good thing, but it requires a different approach to work. At your desk information and resources are just a click or two away. Cloud apps and mobile devices have given us access to everything in the client file for a long time now. But increasingly these same tools are allowing us to get stuff INTO the client file just as easily.

The quicker items can get into the file the faster they are available for future reference. And the less likely it is that they'll still be on a desk or at the bottom of an inbox when you need to lay your hands on them. When clients hand me paper I try to get rid of it as quickly as possible. One of the tools that I use every day is an iPhone app called Scanner Pro by Readdle. Here are the two things I like about it.

1. Auto page capture. You don't have to press the shutter button or line up the page to fill the frame. Just hold the camera over the page and the app senses page edges and snaps the pic when it's ready. I recently went through a 20 page board packet in about 90 seconds, without even removing the staple.

2. Workflows. Scanner Pro will automatically upload a copy of the pdf to the cloud service of your choice. But the real power comes from workflows. Scanner Pro allows you to setup multiple workflows to do things like save to specific cloud services, email files, rename them or send off to apps like Evernote or OneNote.

In practice here is what it looks like in three different scenarios. 

Meeting notes: I keep meeting notes in a day book/journal. Using Scanner Pro I can take a picture of my notes. Using a workflow the pdf is automatically renamed using my standard naming convention. At the same time the client name is added. And the last step in the workflow it is to send the pdf Evernote and file it away in the appropriate notebook. This beats scanning it at the office, dragging it over to Evernote, assigning the notebook and cleaning up the filename.

Client docs: While I'm onsite people hand me things. I'm not Tony Stark. I have to take them. But I don't like to hold onto them any longer than I have to. I usually just try to find a nearby flat surface, pull out my iPhone, and run through a similar workflow in Scanner Pro. The only difference is that sometimes I follow up with a second workflow that emails a copy of the email back to the client, just in case they want a copy. This happened the other day when a manager produced a copy of a process the owner hadn't seen before. Not only did I have it for my records, the owner now had it for his.

Bills: We partner with contractors and other service providers on big client projects. When I meet with these providers and they give me a contract or invoice requiring payment I scan the document with Scanner Pro and run a workflow that automatically emails the pdf to our company inbox. And then I'm [almost] done. From there my assistant schedules the bill for payment, I approve it and the payment goes out electronically.

The best thing about apps like this is they are pretty much always available. It doesn't matter whether you're scanning restaurant receipts or a client's whiteboard. With Scanner Pro you have the ability to get high quality pdf's into the file before you step out of the room.