By Marty Hilsenteger, CEO and founder of Singletouch
Optimizing business processes is essential in today's competitive environment. Unfortunately, the oil and gas industry lags other sectors in its adoption of technology solutions that could help streamline these processes.
This has been attributed to various factors, including an aging workforce that is hesitant to adopt technology and a perceived lack of solutions on the market that cater to the specific needs of the oil and gas industry. Regardless of the reasons, however, maximizing the time on tools is difficult, even at high-performance oil and gas companies. Time must also be spent on administration and reporting, in transit, on gathering or putting away tools … time that is never accurately captured on timesheets.
Contractors working in the O&G field exist in a highly transactional environment, a situation they share with other contractors, where the length of the job is set, a budget is determined, and reporting and invoicing expectations are contractually obligated. In each of these jobs, there are materials, services, labor, subsistence and direct job-expense budgets that need to be estimated, tracked, accounted for and reported in real time. Antiquated business processes make accomplishing these tasks infinitely more challenging, and needlessly so. There are enough challenges to successful contracting in this industry; handling business processes doesn't need to be added to the list.
For all contractors, including those that work in the O&G sector, overcoming the built-in challenges of transient job sites, multiple customers, managing sub-contractors, producing accurate estimates and avoiding paperwork bottlenecks can seem like an unavoidable and unwinnable challenge. This is not the case. A shift, first in attitude and then in processes, can easily alleviate traditional headaches like delayed billing due to missing or slow-to-be-filed paperwork, miscalculations due to transcription errors, and unnecessary effort calculating job status, comparing it with the estimate and figuring out why there might be a deviation.
Because of the lag behind other industries, the O&G industry has for far too long relied on pen and paper, timesheets and memory to track important data. Using these methods, transcription errors, inaccurate estimates, overspending and other undesirable effects are unavoidable. Ramshackle reporting using disparate spreadsheets, paper records and a clunky process where data from the field is manually captured and then transcribed into multiple systems is not only ineffective but costly, slowing down the invoicing and payment process, hindering cash flow and making it far more difficult to accurately quote jobs in the future, let alone report to clients during the job.
There is a better way.
Technology platforms can be used by O&G companies to maximize time on tools and streamline estimating, reporting and accounting. Using the right software, companies can capture data in the field and instantaneously route it into back-office systems, thus eliminating paperwork headaches and speeding up the processes of billing and payroll. Having instantaneous access to job data provides accurate, real-time and actionable information that not only provides them with insight into their own processes but also facilitates complete accountability to their customers, a distinct competitive advantage.
These are tangible business benefits, ones that will be realized almost immediately upon deployment. The fear of technology should not impede you from making the right decision for your business. Even if the sector as a whole hasn't yet cottoned on to the benefits of the right technology solution, you've got an opportunity to be an early adopter in your industry and reap the benefits before your competitors do.
There may be some readers who are not using technology in their personal or professional lives and for whom the prospect of it seems daunting. Rather than focus on the fear, instead zero in on the many benefits that your business can reap by incorporating technology. An essential ingredient to this shift is assigning software selection to the management and executive team, as these are the people who require visibility into operations to make better business decisions and who ultimately drive business processes.
If cost or return on investment are the fears keeping you from updating your system, rest assured that using the right solution will enable you to quickly enjoy greater profitability, faster cash turnover, lower fixed back-office costs and happier customers. This all adds up to an immediate ROI on the technology investment you make.
Those are very good reasons to change how you run your business and make the investment in technology. It's clear that technology is here to stay and the sooner you make use of it and get used to it, the better off you'll be. The transition may not be easy, but the potential benefits far outweigh any perceived barriers to adoption.
Several times in this article, I've alluded to the "right" technology. Traditional accounting software does not reflect the information flow as it happens in the O&G industry. Instead of tracking information as it flows from the field into the office, generic accounting software generally works the other way around. Rather than hammer the round peg of generic accounting software into the square hole of the O&G company's requirements, seek out a solution built for your industry that understands information flow as it pertains to your sector. Fewer workarounds and makeshift add-ons will be required; after all, a ramshackle approach is the very thing we're trying to get away from.
The adoption of a technology platform built on a field-in approach is not sufficient, however as many do not process the data inputted from the field and instantaneously route it into existing back-office accounting and reporting software. Doing so provides accurate labor and materials management, timely purchasing and invoicing. Solutions that don't integrate with these systems are not maximizing efficiency and missing an opportunity to improve processes and eliminate needless duplication of effort.
About the author
Marty Hilsenteger was the co-founder of an industrial electrical contracting firm and, as CEO of Singletouch Corporation, has overseen the development of a technology platform that overcomes common challenges faced by contractors. He can be reached at email@example.com. For more information, visit www.singletouch.com.
SOURCE: Singletouch Corporation