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Each week, XI Technologies scans its unique combination of enhanced industry data to provide trends and insights that have value for professionals doing business in the WCSB. If you’d like to receive our Wednesday Word to the Wise in your inbox, subscribe here

15 Weeks ago, we left our offices for the weekend, not knowing that we wouldn’t be coming back for the unforeseen future. People were thrust into having to work in their home offices/dining rooms/wherever they could plug in a laptop and try to figure out how to perform the tasks usually done on company computers (and their dual monitors) while missing having colleagues around the corner to collaborate with.

As with most companies in the oil and gas industry, this was and is the case for XI Technologies. While we had prepared for the possibility of remote work as news of the pandemic reaching North America began to spread, we still found ourselves in unfamiliar territory Monday, March 16th. Our top priority at that moment was ensuring as much continuity of customer service as possible and have learned some best practices through this experience we’d like to share with the industry.

1. Ensure support personnel have the infrastructure they need

Before you can provide clients with the support they need to work remotely, you first need to ensure that your support personnel have what they need. As a web-based software company, our support team was already positioned to access the main tools required to work from wherever they needed. In addition to this, our IT department ensured they had access to additional hardware options as required: webcam-enabled laptops, additional monitors, and other accessories. As the time of self-isolating progressed, we upgraded our VPN to accommodate the increased demand of an entire workforce needing to remotely connect to local servers.

Is your support team equipped to provide client services when they’re out of the office? To accomplish this, you may need extra hardware available either permanently issued to them or to issue as required. You’ll need support software to either be web-based, accessible by terminal servers, or installed into computers they can access at home (either their own or company-issued). And you’ll need an IT team able to provide your supporters with remote support as required.

2. Be prepared to support customers on multiple platforms

Virtual support using video conferencing apps has been an incredibly effective way of connecting with clients throughout this pandemic. But as this has moved from a tool in our toolbox to the primary method of communication, it became clear that we needed to be ready to use the platform of our client’s choice, not ours.

There are various barriers that can prevent a customer from using a particular video conferencing app, be it Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc. Some companies have security policies that prevent the use of certain platforms (even after holes were patched). Some users work from company-issued hardware (or remote into the same) that prevent installing any new software and aren’t currently able to get access from their IT department. So, while it might be preferable for a company to adopt one standard for their video conferencing, it does limit the ability to service clients.

Our model is to ask the client which platform they’d like to use and ensure that our support team is able to provide support using it. For training, what used to be in-person classes have become virtual classrooms, broadcast simultaneously over Zoom and Teams. This flexibility extends to text-based communication, as some clients prefer to work using the chat function embedded in our software, while others prefer using email. The lesson is to be prepared to give your clients the remote support they need, not the remote support you prefer.

3. Keep it brief

Removed from the structure of their office, your clients might have multiple demands for their attention while working from home. From IMs from colleagues and clients, to demanding kids or pets, to their own TVs, fridges or beds, there’s always something pulling at them for their time. It doesn’t help that it seems like every company’s response to being forced online was to offer webinars or virtual happy hours. “Zoom fatigue” is becoming a documented phenomenon of the moment, leaving people exhausted from the disruption in routine and the demand to be virtually “on” throughout the workday.

To combat this, keeping virtual training sessions short is key. For virtual support, ask yourself if a chat needs to be video-based, or would a screenshare suffice? The goal is to provide your client with the right balance of help and personal connection while respecting their time and the unique demands now placed on it.

4. Reach out to your power users

At the start of the quarantine, we had an uptick in support tickets as users had to acclimate themselves to using our products removed from their usual processes. Even though nothing in our products had changed, as they were always web-based for remote access, how our clients used them and integrated them with other programs had. Their own workflows were interrupted, and they looked to us to help find new ones.

This led us to reach out to other power users who hadn’t contacted us to see if they needed assistance with things they didn’t even know we could help with. Forced remote work has been a difficult adjustment for many, so checking in on  users to make sure their services can continue uninterrupted will both ensure continued usage and give you valuable information for changes you may need to make in your processes to meet their new demands.

While it looks like the time of forced remote working due to COVID-19 may be nearing an end, it would be careless to not prepare for another possible period of isolation should events take an undesired turn. Moreover, as the pandemic has forced employees out of offices, more companies have realized the upsides to virtual office options, be it a permanent change or merely an option as required. At the very least, for the foreseeable future, any employee exhibiting any symptoms of illness will need to work from home until symptoms cease, which will keep the demand for virtual support solutions front of mind.

To meet that demand, you need to:

  • Assess if your client team has the tools they need to provide remote support.
  • Be prepared to give support in a variety of platforms.
  • Find solutions that can break through the many demands of the remote worker.
  • Ensure your most important clients are supported, whether they reach out or not.

If you’d like more information on how XI’s cloud-based tools can help your company with its critical research in A&D, drilling, and regulatory reporting, contact our sales team

This week, XI’s Vice-President of Business Development, Jennifer Baerg, wanted to share her thoughts on the current situation in our industry.

Each week, XI Technologies scans its unique combination of enhanced industry data to provide trends and insights that have value for professionals doing business in the WCSB.  If you’d like to receive our Wednesday Word to the Wise in your inbox, subscribe here

This is our 68th weekly “Wednesday Word to the Wise” and for the first time since we embarked on this initiative in late 2018, we considered not submitting an article. We tossed around a wide variety of topics such as evaluating properties that are currently for sale, a look at the OWA and the recent federal stimulus, or offering webinars to those who want to use this time to brush up on their skills, but ultimately didn’t land on any of those. We endeavor to write things that are topical, accurate, and finds the right balance between providing useful information and displaying our capabilities without being overly promotional.

This week was different for us. With the unprecedented global recession due to COVID-19 and now with oil prices plunging to negative for the first time, we understood that people were just trying to get their heads around their situations, and our topics could be back of mind for good reason.

We are now into our sixth week of working remotely with no concrete idea about when we might get back to “normal”. It is easy to feel a sense of hopelessness as we watch the news and see the horrific loss of human life, the destruction of our companies, our industry, and our economy. We’ve all gone through the emotional roller coaster of feeling the sense of loss, rallying to stay positive, fearing the unknown, enjoying small successes, anger over what could have been prevented, the quest to find positive silver linings… the list goes on and on.

We are all in the same boat hoping that we are making the right decisions and finding opportunities amidst the disruption. We are used to innovating – that is our spirit and reputation here in the West. At XI, we have brainstormed ways that we can help our clients, the industry we serve, and our business community as a whole. We’ve tried to focus on the positive things we’ve seen such as greater communication with our clients, streamlining our business and workflows, and opportunities for new and exciting emerging trends. We continue to be optimistic that, like other industry downturns we’ve seen in our 25+ years, we will survive this one too.

So although this article will not have any fancy graphs or insightful information, it does have a heartfelt message to all of you. We are here. We want to help. We want to survive this together. I think of all the innovation we have had at XI over the years and how much of it has been inspired by collaboration with clients and industry contacts. I can’t help but think that this will be an enormous uphill climb but also a time to come together (virtually, for now) and re-think how our industry must evolve. Reach out to us if you have ideas, suggestions, or simply just want to connect.

Take care of yourselves and we look forward to having a coffee with you soon.

Yours Sincerely,

Jennifer Baerg & the XI Team

Here at XI, we are very proud of the quality of our data and the applications that our clients value so much. It’s easy to focus mostly on our software products because that’s what our clients interact with. As such, we don’t often talk about our data and what it takes to deliver it. For this blog, we thought you might enjoy hearing about the high-level data processes we have implemented over 15 years of operations.

The phrase “Data Driven. Solution Focused” cuts to the core of who we are as a company, and it’s the driving force behind our products. We provide software tools that help you to make smarter decisions, and those software tools are backed by the best quality data in Western Canada. We take pride in both the quality of our data and our solutions.

XI consumes vast quantities of raw data from our primary data provider; RS Energy (secondary sources include: Provincial governments, other 3rd party sellers and a couple secret sources). The data sets we acquire are made available to us at various times of the month, so XI’s data loading process must be nimble and as fast as possible. Our data team performs nightly data loads to incorporate new data, revised data, and newly approved code updates.

This is not to say there are never any issues with the data we are consuming. It is for this reason that XI has numerous levels of data verification and testing procedures to ensure that the data we release to our customers is of the highest quality.

To begin, while the data is running through the loading process there are many low-level checks to ensure that the data does not have any glaring deficiencies. These tests would include: ensuring that there are no large gaps in the data (missing production files for example) and flagging any obvious data format errors (date formats),

Our current load time (barring significant issues) is just under 20 hours to get the data into a consumable database so we can start digging deeper in the numbers. But, in our never-ending quest for improvement, we have undertaken some exciting new projects that could potentially drop our loading time to below 4 hours. That means our products would be able to have new and/or updated data much faster! Stay tuned for some exciting news on these improvements.

Once our internal test environments have the new data, everything is handed over to our in-house Quality Assurance Tester extraordinaire who tackles further data verification and tries to identify any smaller issues that our initial screening attempts failed to catch.

Once the go-ahead has been given from QA, we try to release our data to clients as soon as possible. And of course, updates are done with no downtime or service interruptions for our clients!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact XI Support and we will strive to answer any questions you may have.

By Kathy Stol, XI Support Team

As a member of the XI Support Team, I make it a point to follow a few Help Desk websites. It’s a great way to stay current on trends in technology and particularly in the realm of Software as a Service (SaaS).

In my role, I’m always looking for ways that our team can improve customer service to the thousands of XI software users out there, many of whom will contact us at some point in need of help. Of course, our goal is to provide the kind of intuitive and trouble-free SaaS products that make it almost unnecessary to call the support line – but that’s a blog for another day when I’m wearing my Quality Assurance hat!

While perusing different articles recently, I came across one about how companies should try embracing this “new” concept of Support Based Development. The article stated that companies such as Google and the like were touting the fact that they were using this new concept. The focus of their efforts was to review Help Desk tickets in order to find pain points for clients, and then work with their development teams to find solutions for those problem areas.

I was astounded!! This is considered “NEW”??? That’s something we’ve been doing at XI Technologies since…well, forever! It’s part of good customer service, just like offering free support and free ongoing training. It puts the onus us, as the SaaS developers and providers, to build applications that meet the needs of our clients. To understand those needs, we make the effort to actively listen to, consult with, and ask questions of our clients. We also work hard to test and manage quality assurance on a continuous basis. We believe our clients have the right to expect our best efforts to deliver mission-critical software tools that won’t let them down.

When you call XI’s Support Line (or email, or open a chat window), we keep track of why you needed to contact us (this is the Support Ticket part). Not every call is related to product enhancements. Sometimes it’s just a small issue that requires a human touch – like resetting your password. Sometimes it’s something we can’t change or fix – like Microsoft Excel insistently asking you to “Enable Macros” and “Enable Content”. But when our Support operators (not just me, but Amanda, Elly, Nadir, and other XI-ers) hear about something that is bottle-necking your workflow, or if you happen to request a feature that would make your life easier, we listen. And then we write it up and put that issue into the queue to have it looked at and prioritized by our development team. We also keep track of who suggested the new feature or had the problem, so we can follow up with you when we implement the change.

The big tech companies may talk about implementing Support Based Development, but XI has been walking that talk for years. After all, who’s the most important influencer in our development cycle? YOU, our clients!