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Your Field Mobility Tool Isn’t Broken: 3 Steps to Ensure Its Success
On August 4, 2017 / By Katy Wyrick

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An image fromt the oil and gas industry of an oil worker in a canola field using a tablet PC.

Many Oil & Gas services companies still opt to use a manual process for scheduling service delivery, gathering field data, and translating that data into various systems. But in today’s day and age there are abundant options to perform the same activities in a more accurate and efficient way.

A field mobility tool is an application installed on handheld devices, such as a tablet or smartphone, that enables the field Technicians to capture, send and receive data that is used by several departments across the Company. Yes, the tool is geared towards and primarily used by field technicians going to customer sites, performing a job, and finalizing invoice information – but the process doesn’t end there. Once the job is done, how does the captured data impact the rest of the organization?

There are consistent pain points we see across the services industry that can be addressed and resolved when introducing the right, fit-for-purpose mobility tool. The tool will introduce vast benefits that impact all aspects of the company, if selected and implemented the right way.

Common Pain Points & Benefits of a Mobility Tool

Internet Connectivity
Issue:
Most commonly, Oil and Gas services companies and their personnel travel to desolate or off-shore field locations where internet connectivity is sparse or non-existent. This disconnect is the most disruptive issue and impacts real-time, daily activities. Without communication between the field personnel, back office coordinators and integrated systems, the process takes much longer to complete. As a result, the field users find their own “creative” ways to get the job done.

Benefits:
By implementing a field mobility solution, the dispatcher has the ability to view a technician’s availability and schedule jobs accordingly, a completely automated process. When technicians receive job notifications electronically, they can review details including job specifications, location, pricing and parts needed to complete the service. A standard scheduling system also allows for quicker scheduling time and reduced mis-bookings.

But what if no internet is available once the technician arrives onsite? No problem! The mobility tool will store the job information offline, which can be reviewed with the customer prior to beginning work. Once the work is complete, the technician can update the electronic field ticket to reflect actual time and materials used capture the customer signature and submit the ticket for invoicing. A copy of the field ticket can even be sent to the customers email straight from the handheld. Data can be collected offline and will immediately sync with integrated systems the next time the device is connected to the internet.

Of course, many customers in the industry do still require paper field tickets with job details. Even without internet connectivity, the mobility tool can directly connect to printers on-site or in the technician’s vehicle and print the updated information and signatures.

Information Gathering
Issue:
In the world of hand-written field tickets, a Dispatcher will quickly jot down job details on paper field tickets, but complete and accurate customer information is rarely collected. And is that a coffee stain? When the Dispatcher is in a hurry or half-headedly filling in the paper form, information is sloppy, incomplete and often illegible. Additionally, many services companies do not have standardized templates for pricing from a price book and collecting customer requirements.

Benefit:
By implementing a field mobility solution, the end users are required to provide all necessary information up front. Price books can drive job pricing, based on area of operation and required job details will always be provided. This will ensure all information required for customer billing is captured and sent to the invoicing group upon job completion and the data is actually legible! Accounts Receivable clerks spend much of their time reviewing field tickets and reaching out the field technician for guidance; but most of all, they are coordinating the invoice details with the customer. When all information is available and the customer signature is provided, there is not much a client can dispute. Ultimately, this leads to decreased Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) and personnel overhead expenses.

Integration with ERP
Issue:
A field mobility tool is a standalone solution that incorporates the scheduling, pricing and field information gathering processes. When a field ticket is sent to the back office, the accounting staff must re-input the information from the mobility tool to the accounting system. This is a dual effort and an unnecessary use of time. Maintaining a dual effort input process is feasible, but it’s not ideal, and increases the risk of human error and overall process timeline.

Benefit:
Building an interface between the field mobility and accounting system is not something that happens overnight but, with the correct ERP system and Third-Party Integrator, the long-term benefits are well worth it. Such integration would give the company the ability to further reduce DSO by removing the need to enter data in multiple databases and would reduce customer disputes, often due to human error. Overall, an automated and streamlined Order to Cash process reduces the Company’s DSO and SG&A, and increases process efficiency and customer satisfaction/retention.

How to Ensure Success
1. Select a Fit-for-Purpose Tool
Many companies will select a tool that is demonstrated as a fully-functional and robust solution. What we often find is the company is over-promised and under-prepared to take on the implementation on their own. Conducting a full field mobility system selection is critical to ensure a successful implementation. Reviewing several options, comparing functionality to Company requirements, and performing a Total Cost of Ownership comparative analysis (TCO) give the Company the information needed to make the most fitting long-term decision.

2. Identify the Right Resources
Along with engaging the right consulting company to perform a system selection, a Company should asses the appropriate Project Managers to guide the implementation. The worst approach a company can take is not planning the implementation steps, resources, budget and timeline. Internal resources and Third Party integrators should be discussed and determined early in the planning stage to delegate responsibilities and expectations, and to reduce unknown factors and downstream issues.

3. Engage the End Users
Focus on change management and get all users involved to buy into the project before it begins. Choose key resources who are respected by their colleagues and hardworking individuals. Interview and understand what makes their jobs more difficult (see above for their answers) and determine how the implementation would benefit their job. If stakeholders are engaged from the beginning of the project and are included throughout the duration of the project, their coworkers will understand the reasoning, giving them the ability to see the benefit. Although not all end users will buy in so quickly, introducing the idea early and reiterating the long-term benefits with increase user buy in.

Many companies are living in the Stone Age of manual field processes. There are plenty of failure anecdotes to deter companies from making the plunge into digital. However, the reality of the benefits of digital are easily realized when the tool is selected and implemented correctly. When the current manual process is compared against the long-term benefits of the right field mobility tool, the answer is simple.

Trenegy is a non-traditional management consulting company that helps companies identify the best fit-for-purpose field mobility solutions and implement based on the company’s unique business model. For more information, contact info@trenegy.com.