A 2016 Gartner survey revealed, “Half of CEOs expect their industries to be substantially or unrecognizably transformed by digital” and that 84% of CEOs expect digital to result in higher profits. Digital is and will continue to be a topic of conversation.
The oil and gas industry is no exception. Regardless of where a business sits along the process, digitization in the oil and gas industry is not a new concept. When we look at some of the major service providers, engineering contractors and even software vendors addressing the oil and gas space, we see growth in the areas that address field digitization. From flow stations being reviewed using data to pervasive corrosion monitoring or digital readings at wellheads, investment has been made to bring digital into operating areas like never before.
Companies have made digital a huge part of their core business strategy with hopes of leveraging its capabilities to improve operations, identify trends or address the challenges posed by the volatile industry. Ultimately, an oil and gas company with digital tenacity can do more with less by quickly bringing together assets from across their organization—on campuses, in the field and so on.
Still, many organizations haven’t maximized their use of technology for a number of reasons ranging from resource allocation to talent. And while the challenges are real, there are things that companies can do now in the existing climate to maximize the value from digital. The following are a few considerations and tips for making the most of a company’s digital investment.
Pick the right initiative
To date, the emphasis around digital transformation is on the value initiatives deliver rather than on how they improve operations. Most oil and gas companies have to be judicious right now regarding what digital projects they chase and how hard they chase them given the current economic climate and financial constraints they are under. For example, companies looking to “rightsize” their organizations to fit within the Solomon Index might also want to look at ways digital can help automate the functions they hope to lighten or streamline. Individuals working through this tight climate are being asked to do more with less. Often that means taking on new responsibilities and finding new ways to accomplish tasks. Digital helps with both.
For oil and gas companies to embrace and implement digital initiatives, the projects being considered must deliver real, tangible value to daily operations while simultaneously supporting strategy. Value has to be clearly understood by the workers who will feed, consume or interpret the information that drives any digitized task or action. Without that companies lack the grass-roots level buy-in that ultimately gives digital initiatives value and makes such projects worth the price and effort—something being deeply scrutinized at all levels in this climate.
Build the team strategically
Oil and gas companies should apply the same litmus test to hires for their digital strategy that they use for all employees—namely, does this hire reflect their needs now and in the future, or is this a skill set that they are better off acquiring through vendors or partners who already have established expertise and are familiar with the systems and processes used within the industry? It’s important for companies to make a frank assessment of the digital skills they have at hand, what they need and whether they have the resources required to provide the training and opportunities for career growth needed to keep digital talent onboard.
This also should include an equally frank assessment of the return on investment. For example, an office or field station might benefit from a Big Data expert or programmer who is intimately familiar with Hadoop. Data scientists in particular will likely be a great addition to oil and gas companies in the future, but only if they can guide the manner of capturing data in a way that is seamless to the field workers’ ability to execute the tasks they must simultaneously fulfill. Remember, the industry’s primary objective is to find oil and bring it to market safely and efficiently. Data gathering and analysis have to support that mission.
Even if their work does support field needs, companies should consider this: Do they have enough work to warrant having that individual onboard all of the time? It’s a particularly important question when data scientists are in such great demand and there’s significant competition to attract and retain them, let alone in the remote geographies where E&P often takes place. What’s more, what would happen if this same individual leaves the organization once the digital initiatives involved are underway?
In most cases, the answer often is to go with a combination of in-house and contracted personnel. Regardless, it’s imperative to work with a partner that can be trusted, relied on and can help sort out exactly what is needed. Finally, stakeholders from both IT and operations should be involved in this process. It’s imperative to stress at all times that the hiring and investment in digital personnel is being made to further business and strategic goals. Operations teams need to know how the digital strategy enables them to do their jobs better and makes their lives easier. It’s important that they see digital initiatives as a benefit, not a threat.
Create a support structure
Most oil and gas companies have teams invested in implementing or supporting digital technologies where it makes best sense. Often, though, there are two key areas where additional investment in business structures or reporting is needed to realize value from the growth of digital.
First, data analysis and interpretation is essential to drive the strategic roadmap, so if an analyst role or team is not in place, start there. Business analysts in the truest sense bring a lot of value to a digital strategy by representing both sides, melding the technology required to deliver results with the business case, process required and requirements of various stakeholders. Without talented analysts in this space the ability to realize the value intended by these initiatives can be drastically hindered.
Organizations also must have a process for business involvement that helps determine how and where digital hits the mark in delivering value (or, conversely, where changes need to be made to deliver the value expected). Operators and process engineers that help to implement technology in the field often are overlooked in the transition to a digital strategy. Their input on both how digital initiatives impact existing jobs and tasks as well as how it can be leveraged to streamline processes or gather data is incredibly important. Their front-row view allows them to see where costs and changes can yield real value.
In its FutureScapes 2017 report, analyst firm IDC noted that it has seen notable increases in digital transformation investments and estimates that there is “the potential for over $18 trillion of new value to be harvested” from it globally across industries. Organizations that invest the time into carefully planning and assessing their digital needs have the greatest chance of capitalizing on its massive potential and taking home a piece of that pie—value that is always welcome but is particularly needed in times such as these.
U.S. Well Services Inc. has executed two contracts on Jan. 13 to expand its electric fracturing services for EQT Corp.
Altus Intervention AS and Archer Integrated Services AS have been awarded framework contracts on Jan. 19 for supplying integrated wireline services within well intervention to Equinor’s fixed platforms.
Egdon Resources Plc has provided an update on Jan. 6 regarding the timing of the 3D seismic survey over the Resolution gas discovery in offshore licenses P1929 and P2304.