An App a Day: Keeps the Chaos Away
By Bill Stomp, Digital Dispatcher
The energy industry is no stranger to technology. But, ironically, many technology professionals are strangers to the energy industry.
Specifically, developers of applications for mobile devices – the authors of the purported tools that will improve operations, increase productivity and streamline logistics for a variety of companies – do not necessarily understand key aspects of the energy industry.
This problem is not the result of a lack of talent so much as it is a failure, by developers and coders, to answer a very straightforward question: How well do you know the energy industry in general and this or that company in particular?
Based on my experience as the Vice President of Digital Dispatcher, where I work with many family-run businesses responsible for the delivery of propane and home heating oil (among other things), there is no substitute for the on-the-ground, meet-and-greet exchange of ideas with industry experts.
Put another way, an application conceived for an Android smartphone or tablet may, in the abstract, be a model of elegant design and technical sophistication; it may represent careful planning by various programmers, and it may perform as intended. But if the application is of secondary (at best) importance to a fleet manager, a roughneck, a driller, a foreman or some other designated individual, it is useless.
The issue is not one of functionality; the matter is one of relevance. Hence my initial comment: That not enough developers, either because of the substantial physical distance between themselves and workers at a multitude of job sites, or as a consequence of confusing theoretical needs with actual real-world requirements, do not know what kind of application would best serve the goals of, say, an oil company or a business involved in extracting natural gas.
My suggestion, to developers and energy executives alike, is to communicate with one another. That advice may seem obvious (because it is), but it is this absence of collaboration – starting with the remoteness that separates these two groups – that leaves the energy industry with a collection of applications it does not want, and does not need and will not use.
And yet, there are applications that are popular and successful within certain areas of this business.
Indeed, the industry as a whole can be more effective, provided developers visit the owners and operators at the forefront of everything from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and fuel refineries to cleaner coal and ethanol.
Invest the Energy on Behalf of the Energy Industry: Knowledge Matters
This proposed partnership applies to every business.
By taking the lead on this issue, the energy industry can inspire a revolution in innovation: A communications breakthrough caused by the simple act of communicating.
This commitment to planning – the joint brainstorming and investigative work, along with the due diligence necessary to strengthen a mobile workforce – is a way forward for developers and industry specialists.
The applications to emerge from this effort will be more targeted, powerful and affordable. The impact will reverberate well beyond the energy industry, offering a replicable framework for other companies to follow.
Therein lies the purpose of technology: To advance our collective ambitions, and solidify positive change.
Only by leaving the proverbial laboratory can we see how people behave; only by distinguishing between the principles of “ought” versus “is” can we learn what consumers want rather than what we hope they will choose.
That strategy will benefit the energy industry, and add considerable value to the use of mobile devices.
Together, developers and industry executives can forge a union of prosperity and progress.
The rewards from that bond will accrue to us all.
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Bill Stomp is Vice President of Digital Dispatcher, a wireless dispatch solution for optimizing routes, real-time inventory tracking, point-of-sale invoicing, flat rate billing, and more.