Are you still doing things the way you did ten years ago? Probably not. But obsolescence has a way of seeming to occur overnight, even in systems that have been tried-and-true for years or decades. It’s not always as obvious as finding the computer you just bought no longer has a floppy drive. For professional service providers, the need to differentiate causes constant evolution, but knowing when to change and how isn’t easy.
Fieldwork industry organizations generally have a system of record in place: somewhere to store project information, data, and relevant files. But what about the other side of the equation, when someone needs to pull information out and use it?
Making information available to internal teams can be a struggle on its own. But sharing information in a useful format becomes even more difficult when requests, such as those for regulatory compliance, land divestiture and contract work, come from external parties. Managers often resort to manual reporting and dissemination of data, which burns valuable hours that could be spent in more profitable ways. This process is frustrating for everyone involved, especially when a crucial piece of information gets lost or goes missing.
To have value, information must be transparent, easily accessible and understood. Faster understanding means improvements across the board: managers can better plan and execute, executives have what they need to direct and clients gain confidence in the process. A System of Engagement (SoE) is designed for transparency and access; it connects people to the information they need for effective data-driven decision making.
The Importance of Visualization
Maps are uniquely able to convey complex information simply. That's why in Arkit we organize fieldwork visually using project maps. Rather than rows in a spreadsheet, Arkit users navigate to projects through a familiar map-based interface. It's easy for project stakeholders to find the information they need, when the need it, on-demand. Workflows are eased, hours are saved and frustrations reduced. In this way, transparency and access to information go hand-in-hand to drive growth.
Evolution of Competitive Advantage
Forward-thinking companies are already realizing the advantages of implementing a system of engagement such as Project Relationship Management software.
For more information on how you can go beyond storage and cultivate engagement in your organization to get the most out of your data, visit www.arkit.io.
Interdependent Industries: Environmental Services and Oil and Gas
Environmental Service providers and their Oil and Gas clients rely on exchanging information with each other to stay on target and in control of fieldwork projects.
For the Environmental industry, volatile season-over-season profitability highlights the importance of nurturing client relationships to establish a more predictable revenue pattern and prevent losses. The problem for environmental service providers is trust and confidence are built slowly, and often between the client and only one or two key personnel. Client dissatisfaction or staff turnover can be devastating.
Meanwhile, Oil and Gas companies are left in the dark every time an unforeseen setback interrupts project progress. Communication delays can result in teams waiting in the field with the meter running, unable to complete work. Errors, omissions and duplication of effort are frequent problems when inappropriate or out of date technology is used to manage projects.
Relationship Boons and Barriers
That good relationships are essential to any business is well known, and it is especially true in the environmental services industry. But opaque processes involving a runaround for project status information or all too common and frustrating back-and-forth communications don’t build the trust and confidence of energy clients that environmental firms require for better financial performance. Clients have different needs with one important exception, they all need project transparency, timely access to project updates and clear and concise communications.
Too often, client information requests have project managers working at cross-purposes.
A New Way
A new way is needed: one that can meet the demands of real world projects, how they move, change and evolve in challenging physical environments. Collaboration technology has revolutionized the logistics and emergency response industries (among others) and it is finally being adapted to the needs of environmental services and other fieldwork industries.
The Right Tools for the Job
There is a new category of tool called Project Relationship Management (PRM) software, and early-adopters are already realizing results from its use. Arkit is the leading PRM software developer. With PRM in place, clients, executive and managers can see who is doing what, when and where without having to call or email anyone or wait hours for a response. In PRM software, distributing data is taken care of by the software, on–demand. Now everyone across the service provider organization and out across the extended stakeholder ecosystem including partners, suppliers, government regulators and, most importantly, clients have access to essential project information directly and without delay. This simplifies the workday for all involved in a fieldwork project. Transparency builds trust and confidence between the client and the service provider organization as a whole. Once a client gets a taste of information transparency on-demand and in a manner designed especially for them, they will never want to go back.
When the software helping you to manage a project is also capable of building and maintaining client relationships, environmental service companies gain an important competitive advantage. They achieve growth by providing a higher level of service, reducing unproductive activities, and lowering the potential negative impact of turnover. Oil and Gas companies receive better service from contractors, save time through standardized reporting and remain in control of projects. Transparency and access to information are the new dynamic drivers of project success. Arkit is leading the way.
As I lay in my cot listening to the soothing sound of the rain (and considering the not-so-soothing fact that it isn’t supposed to rain during the dry season in Western Australia) a logistical disaster was unfolding: a thick layer of bentonite clay, just below the ground surface, was becoming waterlogged.
By morning, road conditions were so bad that I couldn’t drive from my camp to the work site. The next day the road was still impassible, and the need for more supplies forced me to abandon my rental vehicle and walk to the main road on high ground.
This incident, which cost me an entire week of fieldwork, taught me the importance of consulting with local experts before heading into the field - one of several strategies for conducting efficient fieldwork that I want to share in this post.
Ask most environmental consultants working with the oil and gas industry what their favourite part of the job is, and its likely they’ll say something like this: “the people are great, but it’s the fieldwork that got me into the profession in the first place”.
That’s a good thing, given the importance of fieldwork to the industry: it’s really the only reliable way to find out what’s happening on the ground. Accurate knowledge of a work site is critical during all stages of oil and gas development, including planning, permitting, production, and cleanup. Although it provides many benefits, fieldwork isn’t cheap – companies spend significant amounts of money mobilizing technical consultants, survey crews, and other experts.
As a result, one of the most valuable skills you can develop as a professional consultant is the ability to complete fieldwork effectively and efficiently. There’s no substitute for experience when it comes to great fieldwork, but there are a few strategies that will help if you’re just getting started, or if you need to tighten up your skills.
In this post, I’ve assembled a list of some of the most common efficiency-sapping problems encountered during fieldwork as well as essential strategies for preventing them.
|Common problem||Prevention strategy|
|Not enough time to visit all field localities||Prioritize!|
In an ideal world, there would be time and money to visit all field localities and collect detailed data. In the real world, fieldwork often takes longer than expected, which can cause projects to fall behind schedule.
If you separate the required fieldwork into prioritized tasks in advance, you’ll be in a better position to make a decision when pressed for time. In the early stages of a project, you may determine that new tasks need to be added to the list, or that the relative priorities of existing tasks need to be adjusted.
To take advantage of this challenge, prioritize fieldwork that will clarify the scope of the field campaign.
|Common problem||Prevention strategy|
|Conditions more difficult than expected||Know your resources|
This problem is more common in remote, undeveloped areas, but can occur anywhere. Underestimating the difficulty of field conditions can result in cost overruns, missed deadlines, and unnecessary safety hazards.
Assess conditions in advance using remote sensing data (not just a site plan or map provided by the client). There is typically a wealth of data available for a specific field location (think satellite images, topographic maps, and surficial geology maps). It’s amazing how often people head into the field without doing their homework first!
It is important to keep in mind, however, that overreliance on air-photos and similar data products can cause trouble. For example, photographs taken in the fall may show dry ground, but the same area may be flooded and impassible in summer. Your best bet is to consult with other professionals who have worked in the area.
|Common problem||Prevention strategy|
|Poor organization of field data||Get smart with your tools|
This is a big one, and, in my experience, can be a major drag on fieldwork efficiency. Nothing is more frustrating than returning to the office and being unable to interpret your own cryptic notes, or realizing that you forgot to collect a critical piece of data!
This is a skill that comes with experience and is difficult to teach. These basic tips will be most useful to those just starting out:
Rather than keeping notes in a messy field notebook, embrace the organizational power of modern technology. If possible, collect data using standardized digital forms. Integrated geolocation is a powerful tool – and even small outfits can afford a tablet with an integrated GPS unit and camera. Another strategy I find effective is to go through field notes at the end of each day while your memory of a site visit is fresh. This will allow you to catch any mistakes and clarify confusing notes.
Don't forget your people!
When planning fieldwork, don’t forget to take advantage of your most valuable resource: your colleagues, your client, and even people local to the area. They are likely to have advice specific to your project type, operating area, and client.
If I had consulted with locals in Western Australia, for example, I would have learned that it had been a particularly wet dry season, and would have come up with a plan for coping with the mud.
If you’re just starting out, I hope you’ll find this advice useful, and if you’re a seasoned professional, hopefully it provides some strategic reminders for you and your team to to keep delivering your best field work.
See you out there!