AGA's Operating Section continues to provide support to its full & limited members who seek industry information on a variety of operations and engineering issues. The SOS Program is a resource for AGA members who have the need to query other companies on a particular subject. The SOS program is a simple and effective way for members to better understand how others are managing a particular issue/challenge. In the past three years, AGA’s Operating Section has conducted over 350 SOS surveys on behalf of its members. Subjects have ranged from Right of Way acquisition to operations budgeting practices to tracer wire usage on plastic pipe.
Although SOS surveys are a valuable resource in obtaining desired information, members may also be encouraged by AGA staff to consider alternative methods which can effectively provide the information being sought. For example, certain questions may be well-suited to ask at an upcoming AGA committee meeting or workshop as long as the member company will be attending. These forums promote open dialogue that cannot occur when members are simply asked to answer questions in an SOS survey.
AGA’s Operating Section includes other initiatives which can serve as an ideal platform for members to pose their questions to other members. For example, the Distribution & Transmission Engineering Committee and Distribution & Construction Maintenance Committee have an annual questionnaire which incorporates questions submitted by members on a wide variety of topics. Those companies participating in one of AGA’s Best Practices programs also have an opportunity to submit questions in either data packets or questionnaires.
AGA encourages those wishing to conduct an SOS survey to engage their company’s technical committee representatives and Best Practices contact so that they are aware of the questions being asked. In some instances, the committee representative may already have some knowledge of other company’s practices/procedures based upon discussions at past AGA meetings.
In an effort to optimize the SOS Program’s value to both the inquiring company as well as the entire AGA membership, AGA has developed some guidelines for the inquiring company to consider in crafting its survey. Below are general guidelines that AGA suggests for its members in developing a meaningful SOS survey that is more likely to draw a favorable response rate:
- The survey should be less than 10 questions;
- Questions should be designed to elicit brief, concise answers. Questions which require lengthy responses are discouraged. Examples would be: What is your company’s experience with outsourcing its storeroom operation? or What were the challenges your company experienced in migrating to a GIS system?
- Those responding to the survey should ideally be able to complete the survey within 15 minutes;
- Questions should not be oriented towards a benchmarking survey where members are being asked to submit performance or cost data; and
- Questions must be reviewed by AGA legal counsel and determined to comply with the AGA antitrust guidelines
Finally, if it determined that survey responses should be returned to the member initiating the survey, then AGA requests that the member fulfill the responsibility of compiling the responses into a summary document which can be disseminated by AGA for the benefit of all its member companies. AGA staff has the responsibility of deciding if the questions are sensitive enough to require individual company names to be concealed in the summary. When an SOS requests information on a sensitive topic, companies may be asked to send their responses directly to AGA staff, who will remove company names to provide a summary of anonymous responses.