As the global pandemic continues to transform the way we do business, it is also making customers look differently at the Nearshore and recognise the cost savings and agile approaches that the Nearshore can offer. There are many lessons to be learned in a Covid world, but one of the most important is how to make partnerships with customers work. In a time of growing uncertainty and ongoing change, developing strong collaborative relationships with customers becomes even more important.
The experience of working with a new Texas-based client in the oil and gas industry right at the moment that the global pandemic emerged brought with it additional challenges, but also the opportunity to cement the collaborative approach and leverage the agile processes that were in place. The company provides fracking services through its fleet of large trucks.
The oil and gas industry has been in turmoil – falling oil prices, increasing competition, all compounded now by Covid-19. According to S&P Platts, demand for oil and gas fell by over 20 million barrels a day in March and April 2020 alone. Euractiv predicts long-term oil demand decreasing globally by 2.5 million barrels per day. In this context, the need for a collaborative approach that yields cost savings emerged as a core priority.
Having the right framework in place from the start is imperative in order to allow for the quick adaptation of processes when such change is required. The initial project with the client had a tight timeline – eight weeks – and took a fairly usual format with an initial two-week discovery phase to identify the problem and propose solutions. From that, the first minimal viable product (MVP) was developed, focusing on equipment health monitoring, in real-time using automation in the cloud. It was about ensuring that no human input was needed for creating a single point of truth around the data that exists in the fields where they have their fleets.
IOT data was uploaded into Google Cloud and enriched to provide real time data visibility. But more than that, it enabled fast decision-making and actions for cost savings. Maps integration, geofence-based automation, time series charts and powerful workflows and alerts services were part of this MVP.
Shifting Client Needs
As with so much in this new normal, the needs of the client shifted rapidly. This was not just about a change in the way of working, although that came too, but rather a complete reorienting towards needs that initially had not been identified as the focus. Whereas at the start, the MVP was based around a maintenance user persona, this quickly shifted to an operations and then a logistics persona. Because of Covid, the client had a number of assets that needed to be moved from one place to another to be parked or sold.
Building an initial roadmap meant having a number of alternatives and different routes based on changing circumstances and business priorities. The result was significant cost savings for the client and an ability to quickly respond to those business needs. The capacity to pivot from a planned asset utilisation project to an unplanned logistics one demonstrated the strength of the agile methodology. The final output was a digital logistics system that allowed the client to find an asset, understanding if it is on or offline and then create metrics around that data. It meant the client could understand why good assets were parked and bad assets were being repaired to go back to operations.
The approach was especially agile and orientated to client collaboration. When the pandemic meant we had to change the way we worked, the relationship was already set up in such a way to facilitate this. Whereas in the past we would travel to see the client monthly, with the pandemic everything quickly shifted online, using Microsoft Teams.
The foundation that had been laid early on with the customer and the move online yielded many positives, allowing greater collaboration because there was no longer the need to travel. With this new normal, it is important to develop innovative approaches to workshops and other meetings that would usually take place face-to-face and also to ensure that there is ongoing teambuilding to maintain cohesion and shared purpose between the customer and the provider.
Motivated developers are productive developers, and a motivated group of people is not a team anymore, it’s a high-performing team. If you are able to motivate your client and make them feel like part of the team, it can make all the difference. Things like wolfpack sessions – fun activities such as playing games together online – create a sense of shared team working that results in improved communication.
There was the opportunity to involve more of the team in the collaboration because the barrier of travel costs was removed. All of this meant that the client – and others – were able to see not only the cost savings of Nearshore, but also the adaptive capabilities of mutual teams. Nearshore teams allow you to completely transform the dynamic based on the needs you have, without changing the cost.
While Covid may have been the impetus for some of these changes, the processes themselves were laid down in the foundation of a truly collaborative approach to customer engagement. The innovations were simply built on top of that. While we look forward to a return to normal, many of these learnings and approaches, especially the wolfpack sessions, will remain a part of our ways of working. The case study provides an example of processes that can be replicated in any industry, without problems or challenge, by delivering fast value focusing on a quick return on investment.