... BYOD — Managing Mobility in the Oil and Gas Industry - North American Energy Pipelines

BYOD — Managing Mobility in the Oil and Gas Industry

feat-byod-2By Moe Arnaiz

Enterprise mobility is becoming increasingly important in the oil and gas industry. As applications move from the desktop to the cloud and become accessible on smartphones and other devices, organizations are significantly improving operational efficiency and real-time decision-making capabilities. Managing the cost, support and security of these devices, however — especially in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) deployment environment — is becoming more and more challenging.

The reason many mobility management solutions fail is they can’t support the dynamics of BYOD deployment involving hundreds or thousands of individual users who are choosing their own devices and taking them wherever they go. Some devices are purchased by the company, some by the employee. Each user has a specific set of services, plans and applications — some business, some personal.

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Unauthorized international roaming and other usage behaviors can have expensive consequences. Pooling minutes to cut costs further complicates an already difficult accounting task, and keeping on-the-go users up and running while ensuring they aren’t creating security problems can be extremely difficult.

Liability is another issue. Who will be responsible for mission-critical mobility assets? Many CIOs mistakenly believe that the BYOD model moves liability for both the device and service plan to the employee. However, a more business-friendly and practical option is to support a hybrid model, in which the employee chooses a device and pays for all, some or none of it according to the company’s policies. However, the company remains liable for the service plan, security and support.

Special BYOD Challenges in the Oil and Gas Industry
Companies in the oil and gas industry are being pressured by rapid change, rising competition, more aggressive regulation and an increasingly dispersed workforce. Enterprise mobility in this environment delivers extremely valuable benefits.

For instance, smartphones and their GPS capabilities can be leveraged in cloud-based seismic data acquisition applications to improve real-time crew connectivity, data accuracy and quality control. Mobile devices also can be used to remotely monitor the data streaming from an oil well during drilling and to review results and make decisions in real time. Another application is distributed collaboration. No longer must teams of experts sit in the same centralized visualization center in order to discuss data and make important decisions. Instead, virtual teams can be spread throughout the world, working on a variety of mobile devices to access the same information and even interact together simultaneously with the same data set and scenarios in order to determine next steps. Many day-to-day enterprise applications can be similarly moved into the cloud and mobilized, improving planning and forecasting, work scheduling, supply chain and asset management, among other activities.

Companies in the oil and gas industry are being pressured by rapid change, rising competition, more aggressive regulation and an increasingly dispersed workforce to use mobile technology to improve real-time crew connectivity, data accuracy and quality control.

Companies in the oil and gas industry are being pressured by rapid change, rising competition, more aggressive regulation and an increasingly dispersed workforce to use mobile technology to improve real-time crew connectivity, data accuracy and quality control.

The more companies rely on mobile devices, though, the more they need a holistic approach to managing them. Organizations that depend on mobility need to drive device adoption, uptime and cost efficiency. Each of these elements is difficult to achieve with a BYOD model that puts the employee in control of both the device purchase and the service plan:

• The most effective mobility environment requires that organizations remove barriers to adoption — and the biggest is cost. Putting cost burdens on employees can dissuade them from purchasing devices or using plan minutes to access high-bandwidth, mission-critical corporate applications. A better approach is to give organization the tools to quickly and easily deploy those assets and then manage their use under a hybrid BYOD model with corporate-liable service plan assurances.
• Mobility uptime is difficult to optimize because the personal-liable BYOD model requires password access to employees’ personal wireless accounts. Also, any recommended plan changes to cut costs or improve service might impact other family members on the employees’ plans. Additionally, if the user misses a payment and service is suspended, there is little the company can do. And finally, some employees may not have the credit history to purchase a service plan with a Tier 1 carrier. All of these issues can add overhead, downtime and unpredictability to the mobile environment.
• Costs are difficult to manage with a personal-liable BYOD service plan model that, in most cases, will be 20 to 40 percent more expensive than the same services on a corporate-liable plan. And when family plans are involved, it can become difficult to account for the company’s portion of various voice, data and text expenses. Many companies can find themselves managing hundreds or thousands of monthly reimbursements of this type. Alternately, a company may choose to reimburse a flat fee. If the employee exceeds this allocation, however, there is the question of how to cover these costs — whether to have the employee pay for them (which can curb adoption and create political issues), or manage them as an exception (which creates reimbursement delays and accounting headaches). Conversely, if the employee doesn’t use the full reimbursement fee, those costs are being wasted.

A hybrid BYOD model solves these problems. At the same time, though, this concept of letting employees purchase devices while putting the company in charge of the service plan and support can be challenging. Service providers don’t have the incentive or expertise to help optimize mobility savings in this environment, and they provide only a sliver of what is actually needed to efficiently manage enterprise mobility. The only other alternatives until recently have been a confusing array of Telecom Expense Management (TEM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools and solutions.

Neither TEM nor MDM tools are enough to monitor and manage all the moving parts of device deployment and usage. TEM solutions use archaic technology that often can’t even deliver on cost-saving promises, since their after-the-fact dynamic limits the ability to effect changes before over-spending has already escalated. As for MDM tools, they too are only part of the mobility management solution — plus, in many use cases they overlap with existing Microsoft ActivSync capabilities that are fully functional on iOS and Android Devices, and they may also be converging with well-established endpoint management in the IT security realm. Separate TEM or MDM tools are simply inadequate for a world moving toward a hybrid BYOD device deployment. Today’s IT administrators must accommodate personal devices, and yet they also need to be able to guarantee that everyone has the support they need to stay up and running as cost-effectively as possible.

An alternative is to use a cloud-based solution and bring everything onto one centralized platform. This approach automates, simplifies and reduces the administrative burden associated with actively managing mobility’s fixed and variable costs. With a centralized platform, each element related to a user’s mobile spending, support and device security can be managed in one place, against a centrally maintained user profile, to prevent out-of-policy errors, unnecessary costs and duplication of work. The entire mobility management workflow — from provisioning and payment through security and support — is automated, on one platform that is easy enough to use that employees will readily participate in the self-management of many steps in the process.

An example of this approach has been implemented at Primoris Services Corp., a Texas-based multinational company serving the pipeline construction industry and other markets. At first, Primoris relied on its four carriers to help the company manage its more than 2,000 cellular lines. The carriers were unresponsive and inconsistent in their support, however, and Primoris moved the job to its own IT staff using homegrown spreadsheets and a manual monthly auditing process. This proved too daunting a task, and Primoris ultimately migrated all of its mobility management tasks to a cloud-based service provided by eMOBUS. The eMOBUS Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) platform consolidates all of Primoris’ service information into a single centralized system, creating a consistent experience for ordering equipment, changing services, and managing all billing and reporting. To ensure best results, the EMM platform can be augmented by the expertise and resources of the eMOBUS mobility team, which works closely with Primoris administrators.

EMM also supports a hybid BYOD environment that maximizes user choice and convenience, significantly cuts both monthly and variable service costs, optimizes mobility security and support, and makes it easier to scale to higher volumes of users and devices. For instance, organizations can facilitate all device purchases as desired and, if the phone is covered according to policy, then pay the associated costs. If devices are more expensive than policy allows, EMM will enable employees to purchase any supported device with a personal credit card, with the company contributing a fixed amount to the purchase. Meanwhile, the wireless carrier services for the employee’s device can remain on the corporate wireless account, and administrators have the ability to manage the service and contract via EMM or even allow end users to self-manage within the company’s preset policies. By retaining corporate liability for the service plan, organizations can improve uptime, streamline support, reduce costs and promote higher end-user device adoption rates.

Mobile device deployment will continue to accelerate with the proliferation of new apps, devices and cloud-based services. A more business-friendly and practical option for managing this deployment is to use hybrid BYOD model and consolidate mobile device spend, security and support on a single cloud-based platform.

Moe Arnaiz is CEO of eMOBUS, which specializes in enabling companies to manage mobility challenges.

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