LP Gas

Mobile applications for the propane industry: Separating friend from foe

Technology is the great enabler – and the powerful enemy – of the propane industry.

This paradox is the result of a divide between the many ways this industry can use mobile devices to its collective advantage and the multitude of instances where poorly conceived applications for these devices can undermine the success of a diverse array of companies in this space.

To further clarify the point: Before software developers design and attempt to sell their respective applications to executives in this industry, they must immerse themselves in the operations of an environment that has a significant impact among commercial enterprises, homeowners and fuel supply organizations.

Put another way, a developer with a focus on this industry must first answer this most basic question: How well do you know my (as in, a family-run or regional deliverer of propane) business?

That query should govern everything a developer does because, on the one hand, there are some genuinely innovative applications that continue to improve and streamline operations, eliminate redundancies and end the reliance on the issuance of (easily misplaced) paper tickets, while providing business owners with real-time intelligence about the location and delivery status of drivers in the field, so to speak.

On the other, there are applications that, as a matter of theory, are sound, yet they do not sell (or appeal to) the propane industry in the slightest. These applications may even be models of technical genius, but, if the designers responsible for these tools have little or no knowledge of this subject, business owners will reject these things outright.

I can say – without an ounce of hesitation – that mastering the mechanics of this industry is essential to creating useful applications for this industry.

The good news is that there are several mobile applications for departments and officers related to this subject.

A Google search for “Mobile Applications for the Propane Industry” reveals about 475,000 results. Meaning: Far from being a niche category, or contrary to the idea that the propane industry is too small to capture the attention of developers and designers, it is awash with new ways to maximize the relevance of Android smartphones and tablets.

The long-term value of a dynamic workforce: The future of the propane industry
The overriding theme to this discussion is not one of “whether but when”; it is an issue of which mobile applications have the most value to such a dynamic workforce.

My suggestion to developers, at home and abroad, is, again, a summons to action: Leave your offices and schedule appointments with owners and executives within the propane industry; ask these individuals what they need or want, so technology can help them.

As a rule, developers should have their own variation on the phrase attributed to the Hippocratic oath – the coder’s code that says, “First, do no harm” – so the propane industry will not have applications that hinder the progress of this all-important endeavor.

We should celebrate this technological renaissance, but we should examine each application with care. That standard will transform the propane industry for the better.

Bill Stomp is vice president of business development for Digital Dispatcher. He can be reached at billstomp@digitaldispatcher.com.