7 Things To Consider When Developing A Mobile App For Oil & Gas Operations
Mobile solutions can greatly benefit operations in oil and gas manufacturing by being able to capture data in real-time, reduce data entry errors and expose information to a wider audience. However, mobile solutions can differ from standard solutions in every stage of the project lifecycle.
Here are seven things to evaluate when embarking on the development of a mobile app meant to be used as an operational tool.
1) Invest in Proof-Of-Concept (PoC) Phase When Fit-For-Purpose Solution Is Unclear
The marketplace is saturated with mobile developers offering a wide range of mobile solutions. Carefully consider the critical requirements that are important to solving the business problem. Does the app need to be Apple or Android friendly? Does the app need to be developed for a phone or tablet? Is offline capability essential for day-to-day business needs?
"The ability to be 'on the go' is increasingly important in today’s interconnected world and there are several mobile app solutions to aid in ensuring an energy business can operate seamlessly from anywhere."
Thinking through these questions in the beginning will help weed through the technical offerings available. When these questions are answered, and the list of potential solutions has been minimized, a brief PoC phase might be the next step in determining a clear winner. A PoC undoubtedly requires time, resources and money, but it enables a fact-driven solution selection that will pay off in the long run.
2) Documenting Operational Scenarios Is Essential
Apps built for operations are a different animal. It’s not a reporting tool or app used for analyzing data and historical trends. It’s a tool that supports critical activities essential for managing daily tasks. It’s impossible to program 100% of all scenarios a user may encounter into a mobile app. Many times, you can apply the 80/20 rule. Aim to capture 80% of the operational scenarios seen most frequently and develop the mobile app to fit those needs.
An upfront investment in the project schedule to thoroughly document these business use cases will save time on recycle later. Discovering a use case later in the project lifecycle requires the development phase to restart. This could mean development resources have already been reallocated, business users may start to lose confidence and additional investment is required on regression testing.
3) User Experience Is also Essential for Adoption
The easiest and fastest way for a mobile app to end up in the trash bin is if it’s difficult to use. Conducting user interviews, observing the working conditions of the end-user and documenting user stories is a great way to ensure the mobile app delivers a user-friendly experience. This is also a good time to consider which type of device best suits the user’s needs.
Do they need something hand-held like a phone that fits in their pocket? Or do they require a bigger screen that a tablet can provide? Answering some of these questions will drive the user interface (UI) design and produce a product that will not introduce more problems than it solves.
4) Assemble the Right Team
Mobile app development often requires several different teams to work closely together. For example, you may need a team that includes a mobile app developer, UI developer, application program interface (API) developer, database specialist and functional subject matter expert. Each of these team members plays an important role, but they all must work together, closely and cohesively, to successfully deliver a finished product.
Some or all of the project members might be vendors, which also presents a challenge in maintaining open, two-way communication. Tight project management becomes even more important to ensure milestones are achieved and quality deliverables are produced.
5) Time Commitment from End-Users
Just as important as assembling a committed team of project resources, end-users must also be willing to commit their time. It’s essential to receive detailed input from the people who will be using the app. Their time is necessary throughout all phases of the project. Their support upfront is needed to thoroughly document business processes and user stories.
"Mobile solutions can greatly benefit operations in oil and gas manufacturing by being able to capture data in real-time, reduce data entry errors and expose information to a wider audience."
Then, time commitment is necessary for user acceptance testing and identifying bugs as soon as possible. Lastly, commitment from the user is required for a successful go-live in which they agree to adopt the new tool and new business process that come along with it. There’ll also certainly be a need to have frequent check-ins with users during a warranty period so that any bugs or defects can be identified and resolved quickly.
6) Consider User Acceptance Testing with Live Data
As mentioned previously, operational tools don’t fit the same bill as reporting or analytical apps. It can be extremely beneficial to execute user acceptance testing with live data. Running old business processes in parallel with new apps support the ability to do a side-by-side comparison of test results. For example, the user can physically see when there are four vessels fastened to a dock and compare it to results in the app.
Confirming the results not only builds confidence in the tool, but it also aids in identifying bugs. If the app indicates three vessels are loading, but there are only two vessels at the dock, this is a clear indicator that there’s a need for some debugging.
7) Don’t Underestimate Complexity
Mobility comes with several difficulties to be mindful of—one of them being security. The solution will likely incorporate many different technologies such as cloud solutions, middleware and, of course, the mobile device itself. Ensuring that security solutions meet corporate security standards can be additional effort and one that certainly needs to be accounted for in the project schedule and budget.
The ability to be “on the go” is increasingly important in today’s interconnected world and there are several mobile app solutions to aid in ensuring an energy business can operate seamlessly from anywhere. Careful planning and a deep understanding of the business problem will help safeguard a smooth and successful mobile app deployment.
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About the Author:
Katie-Rose Herd is a Director in Opportune LLP’s Process & Technology practice. She started her consulting career at Opportune with an emphasis in both the petrochemical and oil and gas industries where she defined, selected and implemented energy trading and risk management (ETRM) technology solutions and business process resolutions that further enabled effective management of clients’ commodities portfolios. Katie-Rose has experience in front-, middle- and back-office organizations with her involvement in trade capture, credit, risk and tax, as well as providing overall support for clients within their commodity trading system. Katie-Rose’s background in economics provides her with a high level of analytical skills and a systematic approach to finding solutions to problems.