Solutions And Services
Asking The Right Questions Clarifies The Choice
By Dawn Edwards
MIDLAND–Exploration, drilling and production companies may find it difficult to understand the difference between support solutions and support services. Many companies have different interpretations of each according to their own experiences.
By definition, a service is exactly what it sounds like: an act of helping or doing work for someone. Services have their roles and purposes, but they are limited by specificity. In contrast, a solution involves solving a problem. Support solutions not only accomplish tasks but also create entire support systems to help companies operate more efficiently. In today’s rapidly changing environment, support solutions that include multiple services, resources and tools are far more valuable to a company’s overall success.
It is still not unusual for producers to misjudge the type of support that is best for their organizations. The oil and gas industry includes plenty of service-focused organizations that have not yet evolved to adopt a solution-oriented vision. This traditional mindset can lead to confusion and, in some cases, hinder creativity with regard to customer support offerings.
Nevertheless, both types of services have their place. It is critical for companies to look at things on a grander scale and consider their needs when they decide which type of support that is right for them.
Why Support Solutions?
Comprehensive support solutions create systems that help companies streamline specific operations. The right support solutions can create optimal opportunities to develop and implement best practices that benefit the entire production company.
The process of training and onboarding new employees provides a great example. Bringing one new employee into the fold is not enough to justify initiating a full training experience, but that employee still needs to be trained and guided. When the cost ratio makes a formal training program unfeasible, the support solution for each new hire points toward online resources, libraries, webinars and more.
Customized support solutions also can categorize employee training into tiers, which is incredibly valuable when not all new hires are available at the same time or hired within the same time window. The goal is familiarizing each employee with the company’s software, systems and available resources. Each new hire’s learning curve may vary, and customized support can accommodate their needs.
Instead of set training services, production companies can empower select “superusers” to train new hires on the system. Superusers are employees who have mastered the system and, therefore, are usually more enthusiastic and knowledgeable in teaching new employees how to use it. The organization can give its superusers special access to specific support services, further streamlining the onboarding process.
Time For Support
On the other hand, support services are optimal when dealing with a specific task or customizable need. In those cases, it is often less efficient to take up the in-house expert’s valuable time. Instead, the right support service can accomplish the task with half the resources, and in a fraction of the time.
For example, consider a producer seeking to organize a complex conversion acquisition. The company may use support services to convert complex data when acquiring properties, especially if the data pertains to transactional history.
It also may merge software solutions as part of the acquisition, which often feels more like merging two disparate cultures. Specific support services can help with difficult tasks–such as the mundane task of converting the data–which will free a company’s experts and provide them with more time to handle day-to-day operations.
How to Choose
Not every optimal use case for support services and solutions will be as clear cut as the aforementioned examples. Company executives still trying to differentiate between the two as they seek to ascertain the best option for their given situation should ask several questions about their support needs. These include:
- Will the organization need this support for the long term?
- Will the project pull valuable resources and time?
- How far across the organization will this reach?
Anyone who answers the question about long-term support with a resounding yes should realize that a support solution may be the best option. It can help make the transition into the new workflow easier, give the organization ideas for implementation and create more opportunities to impact organizational efficiency. As a comprehensive system rather than a single service, the solution will improve constantly as the organization becomes more adept at its use.
Consider the onboarding and tiered training support mentioned in the first example. As the support solution interacts with more new employees and completes more customized training regimens, it will adapt according to different employees’ learning styles. The solution can offer suggestions to further improve training program quality, and it can adjust processes for employees with slower or faster learning curves.
On the second question, if the relevant project is going to require valuable resources and time, it may be a good idea to delegate it to the right support service. Such services are designed to help organizations avoid wasting time and valuable in-house resources. The more a company can use the right support services to save time and resources, the more it can accomplish with those resources elsewhere.
These types of projects and tasks are especially important to identify as an organization grows. Moreover, company leaders should keep in mind that the specific service’s goals may change as the company evolves. Because support services are more specific in their tasks, it is important to monitor them to ensure optimal performance. If the service quality starts to decline, it may be time to re-evaluate its role–or consider whether a support solution is necessary.
The third question requires a company to consider whether a task or project will influence multiple departments, individuals and/or internal resources. If it will, then incorporating a comprehensive support solution can provide a highly valuable, unbiased perspective on how to achieve it in a way that accounts for the best interests of the entire company. In many cases, the perspective of an outside influence can offer a significant advantage in helping an organization see all of a project’s aspects and possible outcomes.
This also can improve collaboration significantly between all pertinent departments and individuals. Cross-departmental support solutions must integrate up-to-date data sharing, communication and interaction between all stakeholders. In many solutions, this interaction takes place within a dedicated digital space that makes adding new individuals, departments and resources–and bringing everyone up to speed–far more efficient.
Is One Better?
Ultimately, in most cases a combination of support solutions and services tends to be the best choice. While support services can play a critical role in an organization’s functionality, their capabilities alone are limited to specific tasks. The company can use support services to optimize time and use support solutions to implement structural changes.
Incorporating support solutions is akin to expanding the company’s team, providing options and ideas, and using services to raise the company’s operations to the next level. That thinking, creativity and perspective are what organizations need to influence internal change and create concrete best practices that will stand the test of time.
DAWN EDWARDS is vice president of support operations for Enertia Software. She joined Enertia as a senior business analyst in August 2002, and has contributed to the design, development and implementation of an enterprise application for upstream oil and gas producers. Since joining the team, Edwards has been integral in nurturing the growth and development of the Enertia application and in building a customer-oriented support team of industry experts.