Why settle for what you want, when you can get what you need?

Consider how often we clearly know what we want, and then discover that what we need is a different thing altogether.

We’ll skip over the obvious examples in our everyday lives, like car, home, appliance and tool purchases, where cost and feature availability help to determine our eventual choices.

In the work place, we have the opposite dynamic.  Our personal, or departmental ‘wants’ often fall short of the hive or corporate ‘needs’.  A common request that we see in process plants these days, with the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices, is: “We need an electronic, hand-held way for people in the field to status work orders.”  In the mobility era, this is a logical, and self-evident, game-improver.  What manager, or steering team, would not want instantaneous feedback on the progress of work in the field?

Anatomy of a work order

The work order is created in an ERP system or a CMMS.  At its simplest level a work order states what needs to be fixed in an equipment or asset item, ex: Clean Exchanger E101;  Repair Pump P101; Replace Valve V101.  To get this work done, each of these work orders requires an estimator and/or a planner to provide a detailed estimate of field equipment, materials and supplies required as well as a detailed plan, consisting of logically sequenced, resource-loaded work steps.  These steps must be followed by the safety, environmental, engineering, quality control, inspection, maintenance and operations teams, in order for the work to be ‘completed’.

Therefore, progress must, or should, be collected at a deeper level of detail (i.e. the plan work steps).  And, this information must be supplied by multiple people with multiple roles (ex. HSE, QA/QC, Inspection, NDE, Foreman, Operator), and not just the field lead.  The pre-startup safety checklist or PSSR is a logical part of the work order scope. The additional sign-offs required by this regulation-mandated process must be included in the work order plan in order to ensure that is done consistently, and completely.

The work order percent complete is the sum of the progress on each of its work steps.  If the mobile solution that is provided, as specified, does not permit progress entry on each work step, by each of the specified roles involved in getting the work done and inspected and approved, then you can bet that a shadow spreadsheet will arise to help your field lead get the right progress number for the work order!  And they will then plunk this spreadsheet-derived number into your mobile solution.   Spreadsheets are used to ‘paper over’ the gaps, like these, in the solution ability to manage all of the field data.  This is the root reason for most of the spreadsheets in use in the field today.

So,  should the solution vendor help the client to re-define the scope to include progressing of work steps, or just do the job as specified?

It’s interesting to discover (in a wiki page) that it was Prometheus’s action that lead to Pandora getting a jar of bad things from Zeus.  We have morphed the ‘jar’ into a ‘box’ in modern times.

To the owner, adding scope in this manner feels a little like opening Pandora’s box and discovering something else that is not working like it should.  For example, you need to tell the system which roles are needed to provide progress, you need to define the people behind each of these roles. This can lead to a feeling of ‘where does it all end’, which, of course, is the reason for the inertia that is prevalent in companies today, evidenced by statements like:  ‘Don’t rock the boat’. ‘If it aint broke, don’t fix it’. ‘They hired me from my neck down’.

Software provides a counter-intuitive twist

Turns out that getting what you need, in a software context, is actually going to cost you less and be less fraught than you would expect in a non-software context.

“Software doesn’t work like this. Microsoft might spend a lot of money to develop the first unit of a new program, but every unit after that is virtually free to produce.”

Bill Gates in a recent book review on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/enough-people-paying-attention-global-economic-trend-bill-gates/) :

It may cost more initially, although this could be debatable as well.  It often costs more to force a bad implementation in place.  On the other hand, the gains made from the saved cost of persistent use of redundant spreadsheets and poor workflow more than offset the added cost of  ‘doing it right the first time’!

In the case of field-based electronic work order progress, here are a few additional immediate savings:

  • removes the need for time allocation of crew time as this is done automatically based on progress updates;
  • automated use of Earned value (EVM) rules to aggregate progress;
  • removes the need for dedicated, standalone schedules and scheduling processes;
  • ensures that ERP data is more accurate than methods in use today;
  • integrates your entire maintenance, construction and operations teams;
  • delivers collaboration that saves even more time in reduced meetings.


Mick Jagger and the Stones had the sound bite right, although  I’m pretty sure they were not referring to business processes, but the quote does help to illustrate the point:

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you just might find, you get what you need”

The Rolling Stones

You need to work a little harder than just picking the apparent ‘low hanging fruit’. Progressing a work order is low hanging fruit.  Progressing its work steps is doing it right.

What your business needs is things done right.  Which, ultimately, is what you want after all. we can help: http://www.teamworkgroup.com