Field Service Applications Challenges for Oil Field Services Companies
We hear many stories about Oil Field Service companies not extending their ERP system to the field effectively. Often they go down the path of developing a custom application that takes longer than expected to deploy, costs more than it should, and becomes a burden to maintain. Some companies may even license an application from a friendly competitor; while others are stuck with paper. In this post, I’ll explore some of the common field functions, issues and alternatives.
I’ll start by illustrating from personal experience a “run away” application development experience with a “downstream” service company. After joining this firm, I was informed by the CEO that the private equity team had selected an out of town consulting firm to develop a tablet application for the company; and that the project was already behind schedule. The application initially started as a fairly simple time capture and service ticket application to replace paper forms. Yet, it wasn’t until two years after I left the firm that the application was finally being field tested.
This had occurred for a number of reasons, including a poorly defined scope, a technology vendor with no experience with this type of application, and a hardware specific software code. Sprinkle in meddling by the private equity firm, along with poor project management by the technology vendor, and it is no surprise that this company took years and several million dollars to deploy a tablet application that was obsolete on the first day of active use.
At Rand Group, we believe a smarter alternative is to extend functionality from your existing ERP application to the tablet Surface device, or other mobile device. So what are the most common features in field service today?
Service Call or Job Ticket
One of the fundamental requirements for field service is moving from paper forms to electronic capture (e.g. for customer signatures, etc.). This enables real time capture of data, thereby speeding up transaction processing; and providing more granular data which is better for analytics and profit optimization. This is not only good for you but also for the customer.
With a remote and mobile work force, this time capture capability is very important in order to maintain efficiency so staff members are not required to report back to base. Many firms also want to include an expense reporting solution in conjunction with time capture so that expenses are captured in a timely manner and staff are reimbursed quickly, resulting in higher morale and better compliance with company policy.
Site Safety Briefings
Every company’s safety director and operations’ manager wants this feature. The industry requires a safety first mindset and being able to document a site safety assessment, safety briefing or lunchbox talk is important in any good safety program.
Asset or Equipment Management
Being able to record the movement of assets is important for revenue cutoff and recognition; and being able to document the location and status of equipment helps prevent revenue leakage for leased equipment. With this capability, potentially every mobile worker becomes a fixed asset auditor, easily able to note the status, condition and location of assets.
A recent study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers found that only 25% of energy industry companies consider cyber security when they deploy mobile applications. The fact that oil and gas companies are investing significant capital, while trying to quickly establish operations in a new basin or play, makes them vulnerable to cyber breaches due to gaps in security. Recall the recent theft of card data at Target. The root cause of this event was due to a support vendor’s lack of security. By extending the existing ERP functionality to the tablet some cyber vulnerabilities can be avoided. (You can read more about how to protect your business from cyber security attacks in this post.)
We believe our clients benefit from a lower total cost of ownership by extending capabilities of their existing Dynamics applications compared to those that buy and “bolt on”, or build custom solutions. An integrated solution always trumps free standing separate applications. If you’re interested in seeing how Rand Group uses Microsoft Dynamics GP, CRM, NAV or AX applications to give firms a rapid extension of capabilities to their field organization, feel free to contact me.
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