For Terasen Gas -- which delivers natural gas and piped propane to 931,000 business and residential customers throughout British Columbia in Canada -- it took about 10 years for technology to catch up with the company's vision of how it wanted to mobilize its key business applications.
"We've been a SAP shop since 1999, [and] since around that time we also had this concept [of] 'all work in one place,'" says David Legge, CIO of Surrey, BC-based Terasen. The idea was that if a crew member was shifted from, say, a construction team to a maintenance team, they wouldn't have to learn a totally different system with new processes and new technology. "But technology wasn't in place to really support that kind of a vision," says Legge.
Instead, over the years, the company deployed mobile point solutions for its various line-of-business operations. "Ultimately, what we wanted was SAP in the trucks," says Legge. "But SAP did not have a good mobile solution to enable the vision we wanted to provide to our field workforce. We wanted to provide a single tailored solution to the field workers that would enable them to use technology more effectively, assist in the overall process efficiency and hopefully make their job easier."
The company wanted to render out of SAP what it needed for the field while retaining all the controls that SAP provides in terms of ensuring data integrity and eliminating back-office reconciliation and error correction processes. "We went looking for a solution that would help us bridge that," says Legge.
It began the evaluation process in 2006 that ultimately led it to work with mobile enterprise application platform vendor Syclo. The solution that was developed also incorporates the ClickSoftware schedule and mobile workforce management application.
"The integration between SAP and Click and the Syclo mobile component is very tight in trying to ensure that no matter what system is your core system that you use, the information that is shared among the three is accurate and consistent," says Legge.
In October 2008, the solution went live to more than 350 field workers and associated office workers in the company's distribution division "on a single platform using a single set of dispatchers, a single set of processes and a single set of tools," says Legge.
Most workers use Panasonic Toughbooks except for leak inspection teams, which use Intermec handhelds. Wireless connectivity is part of longstanding agreement with Tellus that has Terasen outsouring all of its infrastructure support to the carrier.
"We're very comfortable with the choices we've made from a technology and partner direction model," says Legge. "And we've got a very solid foundation to leverage our longer term strategies for workforce enablement in the field."
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