The CTRM solutions vendor landscape is dynamic, with ongoing consolidation and new entrants, leading to improved capabilities and newer technology solutions. However, a major concern is the potential loss of support for chosen products if acquiring companies decide to end-of-life them. One of the most significant concerns is the potential loss of support for their chosen products, should an acquiring company decide to end-of-life one or more of the products they purchased.
History in this space has consistently shown that the loss of qualified and experienced support personnel will invariably impact the quality and timeliness of product support. Even if the vendor continues to sell and maintain an acquired product, its often the case that the quality of support for that product will decline as the vendor seeks to reduce costs and leverage operational efficiencies through resource reductions across the newly merged organization, including in their various products' support teams. Furthermore, even when resource reductions are not a direct result of vendor actions, the workforce of the acquired business may start seeking alternative employment as they grow uncertain about their roles and future within the new organization.
With these industry changes, it's becoming more common that CTRM customers are finding that their support requests often go weeks or months without a response, and even if they are addressed sooner than later, the vendor's support team is often lacking in an understanding of that customer's particular configuration. Typically, due to this lack of insight, vendor support resources tend to advise their customers with variations of "You should upgrade to the latest version. "Unfortunately, this response doesn't address many common issues experienced by users, like data configuration, problematic custom components, and user training.
Not Just Vendors
Unfortunately, the loss of quality software support resources isn't limited to the vendors. Many energy companies, particularly those in the oil and gas space, are finding it difficult to retain their most skilled IT resources, including the analysts and software experts that support their critical CTRM and various ancillary systems that help manage their trading and marketing activities. Commonly, these essential resources will be drawn to roles in other areas like financial services or the renewable energy sectors, believing these industries offer a more promising future or are considered "greener." While it is evident that oil and gas producers, marketers, and traders are not facing imminent extinction in the next few decades, the industry's history of layoffs and hiring surges has created self-inflicted wounds, leading to heightened uncertainty among its workforce. A previous Capco article states, "Some estimates show that as much as 45% of skilled professional oil and gas employees are expected to retire over the next 10 years, representing a significant 'brain drain' across the industry. Experienced but younger employees are reluctant to stay given a growing perception among media and policymakers that oil and gas is a "dirty business," making attracting new talent and fresh thinking to the space difficult and increasingly costly."
In this climate, as CTRM vendors and energy companies lose some of their very best software support resources, they face increasing difficulties in recruiting a new generation of workers with relevant skills and a long-term dedication to learning the industry. Recent graduates are increasingly being attracted to other industries, and if they choose a career in energy, they are more likely to pursue opportunities in the renewable power market.
The loss of internal expertise and degraded vendor support impacts "traditional" energy companies of all sizes that maintain trading or marketing operations. The largest are most exposed, given the scale and complexity of their businesses. For these companies, the departure of the technical support resources increases the risks of system failures due to an inability to properly diagnose system issues, address data configuration problems, maintain custom components, and address critical user problems. This degraded support level will significantly increase the risk during upgrades when the CTRM system and its integration paths into other applications are exposed to code failures.
Bridging the support gap
Capco has experienced a growing interest from companies seeking to collaborate with our firm to address gaps in vendor-supplied and internal support or even considering the option of outsourcing their CTRM support needs entirely through managed services. Given the persisting vendor support issues and the high expenses associated with onboarding and training new employees, not to mention the risks during the prolonged transition to fully qualified support resources, these companies have reached the conclusion that collaborating with an experienced service provider like Capco can offer responsive support services for their users and effectively bridge critical staff shortages resulting from departing support specialists.
For companies considering partnering to address shortfalls in either their vendor or internal support capabilities, Capco recommends considering the following:
- Are the resources experienced in the product(s) you are using, its underlying technologies, and the method of accessing the system (on-premises, hosted in the cloud, or SaaS)?
- Are the resources experienced in the industry, markets, and commodities in which you operate?
- Does your partner have additional on-demand resources, with a breadth of skills (such as BI tools and Quality Assurance) that they can leverage to assist in addressing CTRM-related issues, which is particularly critical during system upgrades?
- Can your partner respond to your issues in the timeframes required by a trading and marketing organization, hours, not days or weeks?
- Can your partner work with you to proactively monitor your CTRM system alerts and operations to head off issues in minutes that could turn into days of work to correct if not caught?
- Can your partner help you think through the problem instead of just answering a specific issue, thereby providing a holistic solution?
- Is your support partner invested in your success, not merely seeking to maximize billable hours?
Capco has pursued a strategy of hiring people with experience in the vendors' solutions and hands-on knowledge in the industries that use those products. Our technical resources are equipped with the tools and know-how to address a broad range of issues, from custom code support, data configuration debugging, integration with ancillary systems, and user training, to name a few. Thanks to our diligent investment in resources and their capabilities, we have successfully resolved countless issues in a matter of hours that had previously remained unsolvable by their respective vendors for several months.