In this episode of the Five Questions for a Field Service Expert Podcast, we chat with Susan Louis and Bryce Cramer, senior managers at Enaxis Consulting. We chat with them about digital transformation in the oil and gas industry, where to start, and how mobility factors into the equation. The episode runs about 28 minutes.
If you prefer, you can read the full transcript below.
Mobile Reach: [00:00:08] Welcome to the Five Questions for a Field Service Expert Podcast. This is the show for field service professionals where we dig into the big questions about field service delivery and management. Every episode we ask a field service expert five questions that can help you do your job better. Today, we’re lucky enough to have two field service experts and technologists with us. Susan Lewis and Bryce Cramer are both at Enaxis Consulting in Houston, Texas. Susan, Bryce, how are you guys today?
Susan Lewis: [00:00:40] Doing well how are you?
Mobile Reach: [00:00:43] Doing very well, thank you.
Mobile Reach: [00:00:44] It’s great to have you on the phone today.
Bryce Cramer: [00:00:47] Thanks for the invite.
Mobile Reach: [00:00:49] Sure thing. So just a quick note on Susan Rice. Susan is actually a very experienced technology consultant she focuses on IT strategy and data analytics solutions. She runs projects for large oil and gas companies and government agencies. Actually, she’s recently managed the implementation of a cloud-based field service solution for a global user base which allows that customer to capture data in real time and do analysis on the data leading to operational efficiencies and ultimately improving their capacity to service their customers. Before doing great work at Enaxis. Susan was at Deloitte focusing mainly on cloud solutions and deployments for the public sector.
Mobile Reach: [00:01:33] Bryce is also a very seasoned professional. He has 20 years of experience as an enterprise architect and project manager focusing on the petroleum and transportation sectors, mostly, other industries as well. He leads strategic technology planning business process improvements and a lot of asset management work actually for a broad set of enterprises. Prior to Enaxis, Bryce was an enterprise architect at Occidental Petroleum, the third largest gas exploration and production company in the great state of Texas. So, again, great to have you guys on the phone today. Thanks for spending a few minutes with us to talk about your field service and mobile expertise.
Bryce Cramer: [00:02:19] Thank you are excited to join.
Mobile Reach: [00:02:21] So we have five questions for you both as we do for all of our of our field service experts. Are you guys ready to go?
Susan Lewis: [00:02:28] We are.
Mobile Reach: [00:02:29] Good deal. So, Bryce, let me start with you on question one, actually. There’s this phrase digital transformation and everybody says it and everybody means something different, right. It gets a lot of use. What does digital transformation mean for the energy sector as you see it, and in fact in oil and gas, specifically, how would you interpret the phrase digital transformation?
Bryce Cramer: [00:02:56] Digital transformation for her is a buzzword these days that you hear a lot about. And I think it does mean different things to different people for sure. And oil and gas is an industry that is very slow to adopt a lot of things. And particularly around technology. It doesn’t directly translate to how to drill a hole for example. And it’s a cash-rich industry that as long as things are going well then there isn’t a lot of appetite to change how things are operating. Which is how things were going a decade or so ago. Then the oil and gas industry had a big crash here a few years ago and did a lot of cutbacks. And they were really asking employees to do more with less type of things where a lot of employees were cut and the remaining employees were asked to do twice as much work. And now that the oil industry has recovered a bit, I think the oil and gas industry recognizes that there’s an opportunity now to address that rather than asking employees to do twice as much work. Oil and gas is really now just starting to embrace digital transformation to realize that they are capable of working smarter rather than twice as hard. So what we’re seeing at Enaxis is a lot of our customers are really embracing the idea of digital transformation to figure out ways to make their business more efficient to hedge their bets if you will against the next downturn. And how can oil and gas change its operating model to work more efficiently with a more intelligent workforce? Where we’re not as reliant on just spending money and hiring more people to do more work.
Susan Lewis: [00:05:07] And that definitely means modernizing some of the processes, some of the technologies that you use. Earlier you will free to use as many people as you wanted. But I don’t think that people are interested in that anymore, that kind of business model, and you want a lot of visibility and tracking, or a more modern approach to how you fundamentally do your business. So that has actually led to a lot of transformation and changes in the industry.
Bryce Cramer: [00:05:39] Some of the examples that we’re seeing is companies are investing in more data science as well. Recognizing that business is about collecting data. And how do you collect data? And once you’ve collected that data, what are you going to do with it. And realizing that there are efficiencies to be gained and opportunities to be addressed if you are able to more efficiently collect data and more in real time be able to make decisions on the data. And how do you present that and do analysis on it and it starts with how do you collect the data.
Mobile Reach: [00:06:30] That makes a ton of sense. Actually, that’s a perfect segue to my second question. You’re talking about data scientists talking about the collection and the analysis of data. And that’s all a good sort of first step that gets you on the beach. But once you’ve landed on the beach, when oil and gas companies want to approach digital transformation, where might they look first to do that? Should they focus on processes related to customers, for example, should they focus on service delivery and field techs? Should they should they look at something else? How do you recommend an organization get started?
Susan Lewis: [00:07:10] I don’t think there is a right answer to that question. They are being pushed in different directions and requests might come in from anywhere. Our specific projects in the past have been field service related. So customers are asking for more visibility, more and more organized technologies, being able to track where and technicians are, right? I think they have the similar experience that Amazon and other companies out there. So why not in field service, right? So field service has helped push that. I don’t think you will see a benefit unless you make that happen because those changes happen in the whole ecosystem. So you may start with customers in field service is that you need to make sure it is reflected in the rest of the supply chain as well.
Bryce Cramer: [00:08:00] And I would say it’s really important that digital transformation, while it’s kind of a buzzword, I think of digital transformation as more of a mindset or a culture of that company. And if a company is going to look into digital transformation there needs to be a review from the top down and really understand is what is the vision of the company and what do they hope to achieve and really working to get alignment within the organization. So from a digital transformation perspective, I would say it requires leadership to really sit down and have some heart-to-heart conversations within the organization and then ensure that that vision is effectively communicated to the organization. The digital transformation again is a mindset and an approach for how you solve problems. It’s not a methodology saying first I will do this and I will do that. It’s more of culturally, how are we going to solve problems? And so it’s important that initially companies really understand is what is the strategy and what is the vision that we’re hoping to achieve. And most companies like to make money. And as a result, that means the customer is involved. So the digital transformation really means to have a mindset of how am I going to make my customers happier. And with happier customers, in theory, you can make more money. So many companies are very focused on how do I improve business process and have a mindset that is like borrowing a term from the 80s of trickle-down economics, that if I build better processes internally then my customers will reap the benefits and we will be able to service our customers faster and more efficiently. But that misses the point about ensuring, How do your customers feel about doing business with you?
Bryce Cramer: [00:10:24] And where are your touch points with your customers? And where are the areas of high risk when you’re dealing with a customer for example of that? If you map out if you do a customer journey exercise and there are 10 steps in that in that map for example. But step number three is the critical one. And if you mess up step number three you’ll have unhappy customers and maybe it stops right there, right? So it’s very important for companies to understand what are those points of that entire journey and ensure that your products and services really reach out to that and can deliver what the customer’s expecting.
Mobile Reach: [00:11:15] So if we focus a little more on another area of expertise you both share. Let’s talk about the mobility aspect of digital transformation for a moment. What are some of the best practices really for incorporating mobile into field service delivery?
Susan Lewis: [00:11:37] One of my projects was on a cloud solution for a global user base, right? And one of the reasons they wanted to do mobile deployments was to enable real-time analytics to have faster data tracking more efficient processes initially before they had implemented this cloud solution. The field service technician would have to wait until they were done with their jobs, then come back to the office for a lot of paperwork and then get invoicing done. So, it is a slow turnaround, the whole process took a lot of time, right? Mobile deployment meant things can happen real time and management could see what is going on.
Susan Lewis: [00:12:18] You can track data as you alluded to in the beginning some of the objectives of modernizing and transforming your business, right, get real-time analytics. So that was one of the reasons for a mobile deployment and there are quite a few lessons learned from my previous project. One of the things that we hear a lot about is don’t boil the ocean, bite off what you can chew. So, we did provide a platform to do that which as you said was a field service implementation. We did an agile-like approach. We didn’t follow everything in true agile fashion, but we focused on let’s not document all of the requirements at once because the needs and the priorities kept changing. Then let’s focus on identifying user stories and features that will provide the most value to a customer. Let’s build that into a solution and deploy it. See how that goes with an iterative approach. And that I felt has been very successful and has helped the project and the users become very successful in that mobile deployment solution. I mean there are lots of lessons learned but I think I’m going agile for this was really really helped the project succeed. There are other aspects as well that Bryce was talking about like culture is big, right? So having good sponsorship and the projects sponsor talking to people, encouraging them, helping them understand what benefits each user group will see from each of these deployments also helped set the scene. Have you seen anything else that I’ve not mentioned, Bryce?
Bryce Cramer: [00:14:09] I think in our conversations are our last two projects were very different. You had more clarity and then executive sponsorship and a better vision.
Bryce Cramer: [00:14:24] And your last project for us is in my project there was executive sponsorship with the vision of what they are hoping to achieve was not always clear and what was interesting about that project that it wasn’t a digital transformation project as such.
Bryce Cramer: [00:14:49] But they were changing their fundamentally changing their business process into where field technicians were interacting directly with customers. And it was a transformative project in that regard. And in hindsight, if we could have recognized that sooner and ensured that we were designing for the benefit of the customer better and having more clarity then we would have realized a lot more benefits. We still realize a lot of benefits. We achieved one of our core objectives which was to get invoices out the door faster and we certainly did that. On some of the first releases, we were already seeing a 30 percent increase.
Bryce Cramer: [00:15:50] And so you know the staged to increase that even faster still. But I think we would have gotten even a higher adoption at a faster adoption if we would have taken more customer-first approach.
Susan Lewis: [00:16:08] And I think that these mobile deployments you have, the user experience is a big deal right? My project sponsor would always open up these cool apps that he had just seen other people talk about and use. He was like I want our user experience to look like that.
Susan Lewis: [00:16:23] I want our mobile app to be to be responsive like this or have the many features show up like this. You know, he had good ideas that he was able to encourage his team to support. He was a good visionary, that definitely helped us.
Bryce Cramer: [00:16:45] I just want to reiterate I think a major point that both of our projects came to that we didn’t necessarily start with that in mind is there was interesting that we both came to an agile project management methodology. In this day and age, everybody wants everything fast and right now. And nobody is exactly sure what they want to build when they first walk into the conference room and we’re having that first conversation. They have a feeling about what it is that they want, but no one’s exactly sure what they want. So being able to set up an agile management methodology from the front end I think was a big advantage for us. And it sounds like your project that was the same.
Susan Lewis: [00:17:44] Yes definitely.
Mobile Reach: [00:17:46] I would imagine that that’s a huge benefit knowing that oftentimes people are walking you know across a stream and not being able to see where the next rock exactly is and they sort of need to feel for it as they go as they move ahead you know through the through the process. Let’s talk a little bit about preparation now in terms of performing as well as an organization is designed to perform deploying mobile solutions that enable field processes has a major implication on field service organization. How should a field service work prepare for a mobile deployment specifically? Any recommendations there?
Bryce Cramer: [00:18:30] You certainly want some design UI / UX element. I think you want to ensure that your requirements gathering process is sound so that you know what it is that you’re building and can prioritize what it is that it needs to get built. There also needs to be a big organizational change component because ultimately you’re changing the way these technicians and the way the customers are interacting with the company. So, everybody needs to be prepared for that change and engaged early on. I like the analogy that you just used a moment ago. I think were lots of different ways of walking through a stream and not quite knowing where to place your foot next. If you are using that analogy, if you blindfolded somebody and asked them to walk 30 steps forward and ten steps and they didn’t encounter a river that would be that they weren’t expecting that would be terrifying, right> But ahead of time, if you could let them know that you know in 10 steps you are going to step in some water. And I promise you, it’s a sandy bottom and you know you won’t have firm footing but it’s solid footing and you’ll get through it. Hey, at the end you’re going to get to the other side and there’s going to be tasty snacks for you when you get to the other side. For example, like to be able to tell people in advance what’s going to happen and that it will be uncomfortable. But hey will get through it and they will be better off for it, in the end, is a big component. But specifically around mobile is doing a lot of work around how is the interface going to look and how are the applications going to behave. Are they going to perform well in their individual environments? If the technicians aren’t going to have constant cellular service, for example. Or whether they will not. And what types of devices are they going to be using needs to be factored in? So all of these basic components behind the scenes that is like plumbing if you will, that is as long as everything’s working nobody thinks about the plumbing. But as soon as it starts working everybody complains. I was just in a conversation with somebody a day or two ago and somebody posed the question that how long if I if I hit submit on this button how little How long will people sit there and wait for a progress bar. And somebody suggested Yeah it’s 20 seconds that’s too long and everybody in the room burst into laughter. Like 20 seconds, that’s that’s the worst case scenario, 20 seconds. If I have to wait for more than five seconds, I’m already going to stop and move on, right? So ensuring that you have those base level of expectations that the mobile applications can perform well in a situation where they are a key consideration to ensure that the input from a field technicians perspective there often do not have reliable Wi-Fi or reliable cellular service. The application still needs to perform as designed and having used Mobile Reach before. I think that was one of the really big strengths with Mobile Reach is that it works in an offline mode really, really well and downloads all the required information ahead of time so that even if the technicians are offline it still performs it exactly as if they were online and performs very very fast how they expect. And I think from a technician’s user experience and that’s a key thing to make sure that people understand and design for.
Susan Lewis: [00:22:55] Outside of the technology, what we need to think about is I don’t think it is a stretch for the actual people the technicians to start using mobile applications. Everybody, I believe, would have experience with smartphones and the like at home or things like that, other avenues, right? What we need to have them understand is what’s in it for me? That’s the big organizational change aspect of things. What how do I benefit from using this mobile solution? Why should I use it? Preparing them for that, for this new way of tracking their work, that would be another aspect or another way to prepare for a successful mobile deployment. At the end of the day, I think digital transformation is not really an IT function. It has to be a business driven process or activity and that’s when we succeed, mobile deployment or not.
Mobile Reach: [00:24:02] Sound advice, and I actually could not agree more. And Susan, let’s actually wrap on that note with one last question for you, this is question number five. How have you seen a mobile field service solution augment the analytics and reporting side of an organization? Are these capabilities ultimately being productized and sold as value add solutions or are they being used internally or some other way? What do you what do you see there?
Susan Lewis: [00:24:33] Visibility, visibility, visibility. That is what they want when they’re trying to track all of these in real time to digitize and transform their business practices, right? I mentioned Amazon before you can track logistics. Has your item shipped? Where is it? Is it coming today? Is it coming tomorrow? What’s going on? Is it delayed and to be able to get visibility. At some point, my project sponsor on a previous project did want the customers to be able to track the parts that needed to be shipped out to their location for the service technician to be able to service or install. They wanted to be able to understand how far out the service technician was and things like that. So visibility into all of that was definitely upon us. And mobile applications help with that geolocation and things like that. But they also wanted a lot of internal tracking to be able to make management decisions to be able to see which geographies have a lot of service requests coming in. Where should we place our technicians? Where should be hiring new technicians? Which are key issues? What types of service requests are coming in? So what training or certifications are most valuable for our technicians? Are we missing a piece of the pie by not going after certain types of business because we are lacking skills or other things as certifications and things like that in certain areas? You don’t get all of this visibility unless you’re able to track that kind of data real-time or not. So having the visibility, being able to track all of this definitely helped the project’s sponsor make all of these decisions and be able to service the customers better. I would say the analytics was a big portion of why we even wanted to deploy the solution and its mobile specked at the client location.
Bryce Cramer: [00:26:36] I would agree with that to say that analytics and reporting are all about collecting data. And you have to be able to collect data faster and more accurate than ever before. And mobility and IoT solutions are two of the key inputs to any successful analytics and reporting program is increasing the fidelity of the data. You want data faster and you want better quality data. And so you need to be able to design mobile solutions that people want to use if you want better data. As the old saying goes bad data in is bad data out.
Bryce Cramer: [00:27:27] So if you want if you want good data in, then you have to design mobile solutions that your user base, your customer base or end users, like to use, that’s fun to use. That they are willing to participate and it’s not viewed as slowing them down. Your customer base views the apps as a joy to use if you will. That they like using it.
Mobile Reach: [00:28:01] That’s awesome insights and I think you’re speaking to a range of issues that I think we’ve all become accustomed to as professionals if not consumers. Again the worlds converge. Susan and Bryce, thank you so much, both of you, for sharing your expertise with us. It was a terrific conversation. I’m sure our listeners learned a lot.
Susan Lewis: [00:28:23] Thank you for having us.
Bryce Cramer: [00:28:23] Thank you, we enjoyed it.
[00:28:27] You can learn more about Enaxis Consulting at http://www.enaxisconsulting.com.