So far, 2015 appears to be the year that organizations across the oil and gas sector ramp up their mobile efforts to remain competitive. With oil and gas companies facing price volatility and the subsequent need to lower operational costs, the role of mobile apps has been gaining attention. According to industry research from Oil and Gas IQ, 61% of businesses in the hydrocarbons industry plan to roll out a mobility strategy this year. Eighty-nine percent say mobility will revolutionize their organization’s operational environment, while nearly half of organizations are currently in the process of selecting technology partnerships and service providers.
Those figures suggest that the oil and gas industry has placed a clear emphasis on mobility. To do so strategically and to improve business models in order to adapt to the volatility of the oil and gas sector – while harnessing the power of technological advances – organizations should take the following actions:
- Recognize the value of the back-end
- Utilized device-specific functionality
- Think cloud
- Use mobile to manage assets and new data points
- Leverage workforce management and beyond
Recognize the Value of the Back-end
Mobile technology connecting the field with the back office offers new opportunities for the oil and gas industry to innovate and automate key business processes. Higher return on investment could be achieved by mining the full value of the mobile back end: unlocking data from legacy back-end systems and making that data available to apps. Field maintenance and asset management, as key operational and cost areas, can benefit from mobile apps that handle appointment scheduling, asset tracking, maintenance reporting, diagnostics, workflow management, signature and image capture, and more.
Utilize Device-Specific Functionality
Mobile is not only able to replace some paper-based processes, but it also can mimic a realistic day-in-the-life of a worker in the field. By leveraging device features, mobile apps support automated workflows, reduced administration and improved data accuracy. With functionalities such as location-awareness or built-in cameras, teams can gain more targeted, accurate and timely data that drives operation efficiencies. Those functionalities can help optimize frequent field service tasks, such as inspections, registration number verifications, equipment repair and damage reports.
The power of the cloud gives organizations the opportunity to structure their applications around the needs of their workers. Beyond user experience, the cloud is also able to simplifying connections of enterprise-grade apps to back-end systems while keeping security intact.
Web-based applications may no longer be able to meet the demands of the oil and gas industry. Instead, to build enterprise-grade apps that leverage the full potential of mobile, organizations should concentrate their efforts on the agility and flexibility afforded by the cloud to allow for continuous development and the ability to scale.
Use Mobile to Manage Assets and New Data Points
Operations such as drill rig, pipeline, and vehicle maintenance require a strict management of resources. Businesses can deploy mobile apps to simplify scheduling and work order management around those tasks while also helping to improve the performance of their assets, equipment and infrastructure. As technology across the industry continues to develop – for example, as the Internet of Things (IoT) gains speed – we will see more emphasis on sensors and instrumentation that naturally lend to a growing number of data points. With 43% of oil and gas organizations planning to invest in wearables this year, they’ll likely also invest in additional emerging technologies such as IoT. It’s important to implement a mobile strategy that not only supports but also uses those data points.
Leverage Workforce Management and Beyond
According to predictions from IDC Energy Insights, oil and gas companies will continue to face labor shortages and will turn to IT to help meet productivity goals. Organizations adopting mobile approaches can capture the benefits of agility and resilience, especially among workforces. For one, mobile can allow for eased coordination and dispatch of workers in the field. That support enables flexibility regarding real-time conditions, which both reduces safety risks and, on a tactical level, ensures high priority work is completed as efficiently as possible.
For productivity purposes, organizations should implement a mobile strategy that also provides for information capture and exchange (e.g., voice, video, and data providing live updates between the field and offices); planning to enhance service response and scheduling; employee and contractor management to facilitate approvals and time logging; as well as knowledge management. Workers themselves also benefit from mobile, for example through improved collaboration with team members in different locations.
While transitioning to a mobile-centric approach can appear overwhelming, as the mobility market matures, mobile app development tools, platforms, devices and features already available make it a realistic possibility. Mobile adoption across oil and gas will help increase the efficiency of operations while also helping to improve customer service, collaboration among teams, and safety in the field.
Cathal McGloin is Vice President, Mobile Platforms, at Red Hat. He is the former CEO of FeedHenry, recently acquired by Red Hat and provider of an industry-leading open standards-based mobile application platform. McGloin has championed startup ventures in IT and Telecoms, including Performix Technologies, which he founded, and Aran Technologies, where he was President/VP Sales. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
Oil and gas operations are commonly found in remote locations far from company headquarters. Now, it's possible to monitor pump operations, collate and analyze seismic data, and track employees around the world from almost anywhere. Whether employees are in the office or in the field, the internet and related applications enable a greater multidirectional flow of information – and control – than ever before.