Brandon Lackey, myHalliburton program manager, categorized Halliburton’s market as being influenced by “a small number of buyers who influence a large amount of expenditure,” an estimated 4-5,000 highly technical users in the field of well and oilfield services. Halliburton’s e-business strategy sets off the cost of its portal against the value and efficiencies it offers this target audience. This is achieved by enhancing the visibility of Halliburton’s proprietary content through the portal. Halliburton benefits from a reduced cost of finding customer information—like technical documentation, field tickets and invoices, and the system facilitates incremental product and service sales to customers.
Invoices are a big issue for Halliburton whose customers appear reluctant to pay “within—or even outside of—terms”! Often this has been due to the poor visibility of the commercial data necessary to resolve disputes. Lackey explained that use of the portal, even if it only eliminates the time that invoices and payments are in the post, can bring processing time down from 34 days to 28 days. This represents annual savings to Halliburton of $1.95 million on interest payment alone. Lackey uses such quantifiable savings to justify the portal project.
Halliburton is also concerned to reduce customers switching to other suppliers—and to this end, practices what it charmingly calls “benevolent entanglement”. In other words by making it so easy to do business with Halliburton that clients won’t change suppliers for a marginal price advantage. The entanglement is achieved with a rich content—of case histories, project management and workflow tools and easy access to expertise—whether these are people or specialist communities. Private, secure communications are the key to good customer collaboration.
Building the portal was facilitated by the use of the Microsoft Solutions Framework, a three day training program in project management. This helped Lackey’s team to sell the portal idea internally, and to map out project milestones for sign-off at critical phases in the project. For Lackey, “MSF is a valuable tool”. Lackey put together a team of specialists in content, security, usability and testing and spent 2½ months planning.
Today the portal has 2,000 users and has influenced over $53 million sales to date - representing around $ 12 million gross profit. All grist to Lackey’s mill as he re-iterates, “always quantify the value”. The portal houses some 3450 rich technical content documents and 66 private communities of practice (COP) with threaded discussions. Customers like, and are influenced by myHalliburton.com. Internally Halliburton uses the portal to access commercial information and to generate sales leads. Current portal development focuses on integrating with SAP, improving workflow for invoice payments and integrating data from Halliburton’s InSight Anywhere real time feeds from drilling rigs.
Access to personalized content is through user-tailored ‘gadgets’—employee, customer, workplace—which offer contextual drill-down and searching. All online content is in HTML and is delivered through Microsoft Active Server Pages. This protects the portal from Halliburton’s “frequent re-branding”—cascading style sheets handle changing logos easier than Adobe PDF documents. Access to commercial data in SAP is achieved using Plumtree’s SAP gadget internally. For external users, the Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) tool SeeBeyond is used to attach databases. Documents can incorporate interactive 3D imagery of tools—to show a customer just how a packer works—or to pull up a safety data sheet. For Lackey, “The interactivity of ASP wins out over the printabilty of PDF”. Expert directories go against Halliburton’s Exchange Server for contact information.
Lackey believes that executive buy-in was a key component of the project’s success. The project was ‘owned’ by the business—and had IT support—not vice versa! An explicit link to corporate strategy was also a key element as is training. Lackey suggests that ‘oldies,’ who may not spend all their weekends on Yahoo should get special attention!
One unresolved issue is third party access to the portal. Clients would like other suppliers to be able to access portal information, to speed up workflows, but Halliburton is understandably reluctant to let some of its competitors in. Halliburton is trying to figure out a secure and simple way of supporting such collaboration. For Lackey, this is “a challenge for us in respect of some third parties! There is a lot of data to which we would rather not offer open access. We are trying to figure out how to deal with security simply”.
Measure, measure, measure!
Lackey concluded his presentation by stressing the usefulness of MSF for managing the project and by reiterating his advocacy for metrics—“Measure, always measure!” More from myHalliburton and Plumtree.
We tried out the portal - there is an invitation to login which unceremoniously kicked us out as we weren't in the Halliburton customer database. Nothing wrong with that except the terms of (not) use are unclear and make for time wasting. Otherwise, you can see a flashy Flash ad for the portal—and call a phone number for more info. Not much benevolence or entanglement for potential new myHalliburton customers!
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