[Editor’s note: This story appears in the June 2020 edition of E&P. Subscribe to the magazine here. It was originally published May 22, 2020.]

Do you remember your first experience with a personal computer? Mine was in 1983 when my mom brought home an original Compaq Portable all-in-one computer in a cream-colored suitcase that weighed at least 20 billion tons in my child-sized grip (OK, it was more like 30 lb). 

Using the system’s detachable keyboard and tiny built-in monitor, my mom did word processing and billing for the small engine repair business she owned with my dad in the heart of the Austin Chalk. When she wasn’t on it, I was, learning how to spell the names of the U.S. states using a MS-DOS program that I had to load onto the system to run using a 5¼-inch floppy disk.

The COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down, brought the economies of many to their knees and forced us all to take a closer look at how we learn, live, play and work. The memory of that 30-lb “portable” brick lives on as I check work email on my featherlight iPhone. Being a contender for the gold medal of pestering, my respect for patient parents has grown exponentially.

The pandemic altered our reality for the worse and for the better. Curious as to what this new reality means for the future of oil and gas industry, I reached out to Enverus’ Chris Dinkler for his views. He is the senior vice president and general manager of business automation for the company. First, and foremost, welcome to the new era of working remotely, he explained.

“As the scramble to respond to COVID-19 and the precipitous drop in prices continues, one thing is certain: it has created even greater urgency—and opportunity—for efficiency and innovation in how we operate,” he said. “Some will wait. Others will wisely act and embrace change.”

Also, staying home does not equal closed for business.

“Leveraging technology that makes working remotely and virtualization possible is a necessity,” Dinkler said. “Improved workflows to eliminate ineffective decision-making and identifying actionable intelligence that can be easily shared among your team is key.”

The industry is going digital, forever. 

“The U.S. oil and gas industry spends $5 billion annually processing paper invoices, royalty check stubs and payment transactions that flow between operators, suppliers and royalty owners. Going paperless is possibly the fastest and easiest way to cut down on costly inefficiencies and maintain business continuity,” he noted. 

Digital delivers greater efficiency and less exposure. 

“Many are tapping into artificial intelligence and machine learning to manage back-office systems and flagging unthinkable fraud and billing errors,” Dinkler said. “Millions in mistakes are now being caught at the point of service.”

There’s no doubt we’ll look back and find a label for this period of epic uncertainty.

“It will be full of dramatic drops, both in terms of revenue and resources,” he said. “But we’ll also look at how we adapted and ushered in a new era of oil and gas marked by mobility, flexibility, innovation and automation.”