For those of us working in the energy industry, especially if you’re challenged with today’s low natural gas prices, efficiency means everything. Efficiency drives greater profitability and greater success. It impacts every aspect of business, from marketing, to sales, to operations, customer service and accounting.
Improving efficiency means taking a good hard look at your business to identify burdensome processes that create inventory, utilization and capacity problems; workforce management issues; missed sales opportunities; and invoicing delays. These can all trickle down to impact the customer, too.
Many of you may still be managing your sales leads, accounts, inventory, price books, work tickets, employee scheduling and other tasks by Excel spreadsheets or email. This has been the most common way even for larger energy businesses to operate for some time. But it’s becoming more and more obsolete for businesses in all verticals to rely on spreadsheets for data management.
Out with Excel, In with ‘Cloud’
One of the best ways to improve profitability for energy businesses is to revamp your software strategy to include a fully customizable and integration compatible solution that can serve as a central dashboard of your business performance. OEMs, service providers, independent power producers, and oil and gas exploration companies, can stand to benefit greatly from modern cloud software systems that seamlessly handle sales, marketing, customer service, operations and accounting activities.
One of the biggest problems with Excel is that you can’t automate processes or share data. With many “cloud” solutions such as Sales Cloud and Pardot, you can generate reports for sales and marketing in seconds, not days. These solutions also feature an open API for integration with ERP so users only need to log into one system to see the same data. A good cloud system also helps users log and share customer preferences so the account can be serviced seamlessly across the organization.
Consider this scenario: cross-selling and upselling to existing customers can translate to big revenue. But when your accounting team is the only department with access to current account information in a system that’s not connected to the sales CRM, that becomes very difficult. Or, when your sales reps are managing contacts with Excel spreadsheets, aggregating meaningful reports in order to identify the best opportunities becomes virtually impossible. All of that is much more seamless with a modern integrated system.
Cloud Software for the Energy Industry
Effective cutting-edge software for the energy industry will eliminate the headache of managing timekeeping, billing, scheduling, routing, inventory, work tickets, compliance and regulatory performance, project plans and much more. There’s usually not a one-size-fits-all solution “out of the box” so I encourage clients to look at apps that can be customized to perform the functions above and that integrate easily.
One trend increasing in popularity is “platform-as-a-service (PaaS)” such as Salesforce1 Lightning where users get a platform to develop custom apps quickly and economically. That eliminates the need for costly on-site infrastructure, servers and additional IT resources. Salesforce1 has become the most compelling of these PaaS solutions because administrators don’t need a coding background to create apps, and each app they build is mobile compatible. That adds a lot of value and savings to your total cost of ownership.
New Business Software: Don’t Fall Behind
Aligning software technology with business objectives has never been more important. Energy companies that aren’t innovating their internal processes will continue to find it more difficult to improve profitability. And with software products getting easier, faster, more economical and more effective, businesses adopting them are gaining a competitive edge.
The world isn’t going to wait for you to update your Excel spreadsheets. There are apps for your critical business functions and a good consultant can help you sort out your options.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Ward is the founder and principal at Reconnect Your Business and director of the energy division at Nuvem Consulting. Paul has spent almost 20 years in the energy industry (both fossil and renewable), working with business leaders focused on growth and continuous improvement with a concern for the well-being of their employees and the world around them. Paul is passionate about generating competitive advantage for clients by reconnecting their businesses through process improvement, innovative software tool development and impactful training design and presentation.