Offshore oil and gas organizations face an increasingly difficult task to manage a fleet of assets. They are becoming more costly to maintain, less reliable, increasingly prone to health, safety and environment (HSE) violations and noticeably less attractive for letting on to contracts—irrespective of the geographical location of the activity. This is made more complex because organizations also often lack the data needed to make decisions about assets in a timely manner, with legacy technology, infrastructure and manual processes adding another layer of complexity.

These challenges have led to many organizations in the offshore oil and gas industry to look to identify solutions that improve efficiencies in how they manage not just their assets, but also complex projects and global divisions. Below are key focus areas where leveraging data can enable organizations to efficiently control projects and mission-critical assets, manage their global business and prosper in this complex environment.

1. Getting a total view of offshore operations: Cost and profitability are the two significant pressure points when undertaking offshore projects and must be controlled in an environment of huge sites, a workforce of thousands and strict safety requirements that must all be managed in harmony to ensure success. Also, the need for technologies that can work in extreme environments often means offshore oil and gas firms face high costs when drilling in deep waters. In fact, the average deepwater oil and gas exploration CAPEX has been cited as at least $100 million.

Organizations that attempt to manage complex projects with discrete and fragmented software solutions will fail to gain a complete picture of the asset configuration project costs, progress and changes, plans for audits and personnel working on assets.

This means software must support not just projects and assets but also supply chain management and global finance. Only this way will global enterprises that own and operate large mobile assets be able to improve efficiency, control projects and optimize global operations.

2. Plugging knowledge gaps: As workers with specialized expertise in legacy equipment and systems move on or retire, this creates scalability challenges at a time when customers are demanding better products, services and user experiences than ever before. The ERP software solution should primarily improve operational efficiency, but it is also important that any transition does not necessitate a significant increase in headcount. Organizations should look to upgrade their infrastructure with software that will help them rely less on individual human labor and accelerate digital transformation to help mitigate knowledge shortages.

3. New technology drives better asset visibility: Whether it is drilling rigs or FPSO vessels, managing mobile assets in the international offshore oil and gas industry requires true asset lifecycle capability. This ranges from engineering to operations and maintenance—as well as specialist capabilities such as site moves, data replication and offshore logistics. Yet accessing data generated offshore, making sense of this critical asset information and then executing on data-driven decisions onshore is difficult—relying on the slow response of multiple legacy systems leads to management decisions based on outdated or inadequate information.

But the buzz associated with novel technologies can detract from asking vital business questions that help us use technology to solve real problems. It is essential to consider which innovative technologies can truly support your business and where in the global landscape they can be implemented to achieve maximum value.

It is here where advances in technology including big data, the internet of things (IoT), augmented reality and digital twins have created new avenues for organizations to refine offshore operations and provide greater asset visibility. Unlocking the value of these technology developments, however, relies on understanding where best to implement them—and how efficiently they can be embedded within organizations’ existing business processes.

4. Extrapolate to control global performance: While managing a single project or rig may seem complex, running many of these simultaneously across multiple geographies, often through multi-company structures—each with their own project requirements, rules and regulations and workforce demands—becomes a much bigger challenge. In addition, organizations are continually exposed to regulatory changes based on the locations of vessels and corresponding companies.

The global oil and gas industry is a particularly regulatory-heavy environment and this requires enterprise software to help organizations quickly adapt to meet ever-changing market demands in every individual geography, as well as associated compliance requirements. This may include International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS), U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and SOX compliance, as well as local compliance such as Nota Fiscal in Brazil.

Enterprise software support should incorporate a multi-company, multi-currency and multi-language approach, which can support global organizations both offshore and onshore, operating in different countries with various tax requirements. This necessitates enterprise solutions to be flexible, able to facilitate constant change in both legal and operating structures, while keeping track of transactions, local currency and functional/reporting currency.

Enterprise software as strategic enabler

Many oil and gas companies continue to struggle with non-integrated and fragmented enterprise systems because their software is simply not agile or comprehensive enough to encompass the broad range of mission-critical processes needed to see the full picture of their business processes. Organizations cannot afford to make decisions based on the slow response of multiple, disparate legacy systems if they are to control offshore projects, overcome complex asset challenges and maintain operations on a global scale.

The critical nature of the oil and gas industry means a common software platform with one source of the truth is paramount to achieve enterprise-wide business support. Infrastructure that fails is not only difficult and costly to replace, but has long-term ramifications for cities, countries and regions.

Colin Beaney is vice president of energy, utilities and resources at IFS, where he has worked for nearly 20 years. He has been involved in implementing and project managing IFS software into many project and asset-intensive organizations in Europe and worldwide.