The need for utilities to go digital is generally understood, but the question of how to best go about digitising current paper based systems, such as incident reporting and safety systems, can present a challenge. One key decision when implementing an online management system is whether you should invest in a customised system, or buy an off-the-shelf solution that is ready to go.
Once a utility has made the decision to transition from manual, paper based forms and processes to fully automated, smart online systems, the next step is finding a management system that fits seamlessly into an organisation’s current structure.
With cost and time often being a key factor, implementing an off-the-shelf system can be seen as the easiest option as they have already been made and are ready to be implemented at any time. Off-the-shelf systems are developed to meet generic business needs and are focused towards a mass-market audience, rather than a specific sector or company.
This means off-the-shelf systems are likely to only meet a percentage of your needs, and have other features that are not needed.
However, highly customised systems, while specific to the needs of a business or utility, can be costly investments and might not be the right system for everyone.
Which system is best for my organisation?
One of the key factors that utilities and contractors must consider in order to determine what online management system will meet all the needs of their organisation, not just some, is whether the system will fit into your current way of doing things.
More often than not, an off-the-shelf system requires an organisation to change their way of doing things to meet the system’s capabilities, rather than the software fitting in with the business.
There are ways to alter an off-the-shelf system but this can be expensive and take more time than it’s worth. Off-the-shelf systems can also be slow to adapt to industry needs and any request submitted for enhancements may get ignored if it doesn't benefit the larger customer base.
This is where a customisable off-the-shelf solution offers the greatest benefits. This process allows organisations to start with a basic system and build it up with their specific customisations, so their management system has all the features they need, and nothing that is unnecessary.
FiNAO is a solutions provider that works with businesses to digitise their existing paper based forms and processes, and create an online system offering automatically generated notifications, predetermined automated workflow and real-time reporting.
FiNAO’s point of difference is that it customises off-the-shelf solutions so businesses have a system that is tailored to their specific needs. FiNAO Director, Terry Down, said FiNAO does this by starting off with its off-the-shelf PRIME system and then adding features and modules as the business needs them.
“This modular platform, coupled with cloud hosting, provides a very flexible and scalable system that will grow and adapt as your business grows and your needs change.”
Implementing a customisable off-the-shelf solution
FiNAO’s customisable system was used recently by Linbeck Contractors, a construction, repair, maintenance and plumbing business servicing Australia’s water and gas industries.
Linbeck required an online management system that could automate its Mains to Meter (M2M) job acceptance, allocation, scheduling, management and reporting process.
Linbeck needed to be able to receive jobs from Maximo (Sydney Water’s Asset Management system) into a Linbeck system, which would allow a Linbeck administrator to review the job and assign it to a Linbeck crew, as well as view locations of crews and job status on a map in real time and allow the crew to complete job documentation on-site.
The system also had to keep Sydney Water updated with automated real-time status reports, and follow the Linbeck process procedure with regards to safety and business requirements such as SWMS.
Linbeck tried many off-the-shelf products but found it could not get the level of functionality and efficiency it desired, and realised it needed a customisable system.
“After some extensive trials and research we came across FiNAO and immediately we liked the functionality available from the base modules, but mostly we were interested in how the system could be tailored to suit our business and key projects,” said Joseph Lynch from Linbeck.
Customised solutions can provide a competitive advantage and potentially the least disruption to your business model.
As a result, Linbeck were provided with a fully automated job workflow system that met its specific business requirements, complied with Sydney Water requirements, and provided a range of real-time reports for job progress, outcomes and billing. Using this system, Linbeck successfully processed over 1,000 jobs in the first few weeks.
Linbeck found the system easy to navigate and has been able to integrate it with key internal and external systems, which eliminated a number of paper forms and site packs, and provided a low cost mobility solution with all its data being available in real time on basically any device.
“The FiNAO team have helped to make the implementation and development process as painless as possible, we are pleased with the results and can see our system is clearly on the way to being what we require, one that is flexible and scalable enough to manage and integrate our WHSE, Quality, HR, Job and Project Management functions.” - Joseph Lynch, Linbeck.
What should your organisation do?
Organisations need to consider that there might not be a system that exists in the market that meets all their specific business needs, so a bespoke system may be the only option. While there are pro’s and con’s to both options, the main thing to remember is to do your homework before you commit.
Organisations need to think about how they currently operate, from larger processes down to the terminology that employees use. The software solution that they choose must fit their particular business needs, otherwise it’s not the right solution.
Although a custom solution may have a high upfront cost, it has the potential to provide a greater return on investment and cause the least interruption to a business.
If an organisation finds an off-the-shelf system that fulfils all their needs, then this can be implemented. However, it’s essential that the long-term and future needs of a business are also considered.