When approximately 20,000 people gathered at Stampede Park for the Oil and Gas Expo in Calgary last week, it was one of the sector’s rare opportunities for talking face-to-face with a large number of peers. In the day to day life of Canada’s oil and gas firms, much of the important work takes place among disparate groups in remote areas where staying in touch is challenging, regulatory compliance is essential and crisis management can never happen fast enough.
This is what makes collaboration technologies and models like unified communications as a service (UCaaS) a natural fit for oil and gas companies in Canada, Allstream director of marketing Dax Nair told an audience on the show floor of the conference. The technology offers the kind of flexibility that oil and gas firms will increasingly need as they grapple with difficult situations in the field. To illustrate his point, Nair offered three use cases where unified communications would make immediate sense for oil and gas industry firms:
Temporary Exploration Camps: While many early adopters of unified communications have been traditional enterprises with a headquarters and some branch offices, the oil and gas sector often requires companies set up facilities with multiple endpoints for a finite period of time. A base camp might be required for six months, for instance, with 50 people spread across a region. Before they’re eventually torn down, however, these base camps need both wired and wireless communications tied seamlessly back to the head office, and all the features to which employees at the head office are accustomed, which hasn’t typically been easy to do, Nair said. Unified communications solved these issues by bringing together the voice and data on one platform where fixed and mobile devices are available across all company employees and temporary resources.
“It also has super messaging capabilities – you can actually see the person’s presence before you make a call,” he said, adding that such customers can also expect reliable communication to and from third-party cellular networks. “The ability to leverage Wi-Fi in these camp sites are really critical to actually save some dollars as well.”
Environmental Impact Assessments: “Let’s say there’s an oil leak in an ecologically sensitive area,” Nair said. “You now need to quickly and efficiently coordinate the resolution of that, to figure out the fix points and make sure the government or regulatory body is aware you took the steps to fix it.”
UCaaS comes to the rescue in this case by allowing oil and gas firms to easily share video clips and reports in real time to accelerate decision-making and provide detailed information to authorities, reducing travel and time to resolution.
“Maybe they still need to come out for a sign-off, but instead of making 10 trips, you can now do it in five,” Nair said. IT departments can also add users and endpoints as required without additional capital investment for infrastructure, he added.
Crisis Management: It’s the scenario no oil and gas firm wants to see happen, but when it does, they want to be ready. Imagine, Nair said, a company needs to communicate not just internally but provide notification to local residents that they need to evacuate an area where a leak or spill could cause contamination. UCaaS means firms can engage with both regulators and emergency management services (EMS) in the area via wireless but also simultaneous device notification to ensure messages are received. Perhaps even better, ad-hoc changes can be made to rule-based notifications.
“So you could say that if this particular situation happens or gets worse, these notifications go out to these specific people,” Nair said.
All of this, of course, can be integrated into contact centres handling live calls. “There’s even ways to integrate this into social media, so that people on the scene can communicate using services like Twitter,” Nair said.
Oil and Gas Expo 2013 ran June 11-13 in Calgary.
For even more specific ideas, download ‘Creating a Collaborative Network in the Oil and Gas Industry,’ an industry brief from Allstream, and watch an on-demand Webinar to learn more about Allstream’s Hosted Collaboration Solution.