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Author's profile photo Milja Gillespie

Why Using a Piece of Paper and Pen is like Wearing Business Attire with Snowboots

Earlier this week I had a great opportunity to travel to Calgary, Alberta, Canada to present to an audience of Oil & Gas industry professionals about mobilizing their businesses. A few interesting experiences made this a memorable trip, and a good story to share.

While I was in town I had a few spare hours to explore the city and I stumbled across a great sale on winter boots. Being from a very cold part of Canada, I knew I needed them and I didn’t think far enough ahead to realize that I couldn’t fit them in my suitcase. After the seminar and another business meeting I hurried to the airport – dressed in professional business attire and giant snow boots. Needless to say I stuck out like a sore thumb and drew some funny looks and interesting comments in the security line. My business attire simply didn’t work well with the snowboots.

Similarly, one of the customers presenting at the seminar commented that “Handing a piece of paper and a pen to someone makes you look like you’re in the Stone Age”. In their business it just no longer makes sense to use pen and paper for a field worker job. Like the snowboots at the airport, paper and pen are the wrong tools for the job. You might say we’re at the point where even the thought of trying to run a business with paper-based processes simply doesn’t make sense.

For the audience at the seminar, the focus of the conversation was not about how to do mobility – it was about giving people the tools to access the work data they need. Using the right tools for the right job.

It’s hard to believe that in the past these companies would print work orders and documents out a full week in advance.  Timelines like that don’t work any more. A week is like a lifetime – it is incredible what can change in a timespan of 3 hours – or 3 minutes. Fast, accurate access to critical information is key.

I haven’t worked a lot in the oil & gas space, so the term “wrench time” was new to me, but the basic idea is that the industry average amount of time field workers are actively working (as in with a wrench) is 25-30% of a given day. Our customers are seeking to leverage mobile technology as the right tools to significantly increase that to 50-60% wrench time. 

In summary, great mobile technologies can help simplify work practices and procedures in any industry. Whether it’s a pen and paper to record data manually or a 15-page instruction manual… These are tools of the past. Like a pair of snowboots in the airport, even thought they may have been a great deal, they are the wrong tool for the job!

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