The most common question we hear each week is: “So which do you prefer, Software X or Software Y?”
It’s a good question, an important question, but it’s usually not the most important one if you’re investing in technology. A better question is “How could I improve the implementation of the software I already own?” That’s because Implementation Eats Selection for Breakfast.
(Loyal readers of this blog will recognize the theme from a previous article that we wrote, Commercial Models Eat Technology for Breakfast. Perhaps I should stop writing blogs while hungry. At least I got to reuse the cool graphic?)
Software Selection is clearly more exciting than Implementation. Choosing a new tool gives the opportunity for newer, better features. A blank slate on which to build cleaner data with better integrations. And maybe a user interface that looks like it was developed this century!
But hear me out while I sing the praises of Software Implementation. Maximizing the quality of your implementation is almost always a high-ROI investment – let’s use an overly-extended metaphor to cars.
Some software tools are like the unloved, lowly Ford Pinto. It’s slow, lacks automatic door locks, and has a penchant for violent explosions. Sure, you can get one cheap, but you’ll struggle to merge onto the highway without hearing an disconcerting rattle.
Most software that targets E&P companies could be compared to a Honda Accord. Reasonably priced, reasonably capable, reasonably good-looking. You wish it were cheaper, and you’d love it if it came in some more interesting colors. But if you’re hauling around two kids and commuting to work through rush hour, it’s a very good choice.
Some E&P software is like my personal dream vehicle: a Mercedes E63 AMG Wagon – a 4.0 L, twin-turbo, 603 hp road monster. If you aren’t in love already based on the stats, imagine getting *smoked* by a gosh-darn station wagon on 610 or I-70. Capable of hauling All The Things at unreasonable speeds, it also comes with a completely unreasonable price.But oh, that sweet-looking five-door…..
Selection fundamentally determines your ceiling. How much money you spend usually drives how powerful and featureful your software is going to be – how fast it can go, how many transactions it can handle, how much automation is available.
So which should you be buying? The punch line is it probably doesn’t matter that much, because Implementation determines how close you get to that ceiling. What matters when it comes to using real software in a real business is how well it’s been implemented, maintained, and integrated. Are you putting the right kind of gas in the tank and keeping the tires rotated and balanced? Have you trained your people how to use the software to its full extent? Have you properly integrated it with the adjacent tools in The Big Six?
Here’s my checklist for questions you should ask about your current Implementation before you even consider starting a Selection:
- What’s the business objective of this tool? What set of workflows is the tool supporting, and what do we wish were better about those workflows?
- Are we on the latest version? If not, what new features or capabilities are available that I’m missing?
- How’s our data quality? All software tools boil down to Garbage In, Garbage Out. Do we have checks and balances to get the data clean and keep it that way?
- When’s the last time we trained our people? Who’s joined the company since the last time we held a class? Do we even know how to use those new features?
- Go back to the original implementation – did we achieve all of the objectives, or did we run out of energy before we finished implementing all the features we wanted? LOTS of software implementations hit the skids when layoffs come around. Remember 2015-2020? There have been some rough years in O&G recently, and Implementation quality often suffers in that environment.
The bottom line is this – when you’re thinking about investing in technology, you have a LOT of options on how to spend your money. While newer, shinier, better-looking tools might be the right choice for your business, don’t forget to keep your eye on the quality of your Implementations. You might be better off putting some new tires on that Accord, getting it detailed to clean the Cheerios out of the backseat, and clocking another 20,000 miles. And if you do decide to buy something new, how are you going to keep it top condition? Who’s in charge of the oil changes and keeping the windshield clean?
Ya know, just metaphorically speaking.
If you like these ideas and want to talk more, give us a call. We help our clients navigate these issues every day, and genuinely enjoy it. Good luck on the journey!