Last week, Quorum attended the IoT in Oil and Gas conference in Houston to discuss the current connectedness of the oil and gas industry and to explore the next phase of technological innovations that will drive business in the years ahead. I had the pleasure of attending the full conference, and while the two-day event was packed with rich content and conversations, a few key points were mentioned consistently in discussions about the future of our industry:
1. Open platforms are a necessity for the industry to drive forward and deliver sustained innovation.
The very first session by Invatare CEO, Trond Eleefsen, lingered in my mind throughout the conference. Trond spent time on a concept many technology leaders outside of our industry passionately explore, but we as an industry sometimes hesitate to discuss it due a misconception; we need open and standards-based software and hardware. The misconception here is that this leads to a loss of control and a degradation of security. In fact, the opposite is more often the case. By relying on an open architecture built using open standards, companies get the benefit of more contributors and eyes – as those familiar with open source software know, more eyes equal shallower bugs.
Open standards and open source have made the internet the technological marvel it is today, and without them, innovation becomes stagnant and mired in arcane approaches to problem solving. These are the reasons the cloud and advanced analytical capabilities continue to accelerate.
We as an industry should take the best examples from across the technology ecosystem and learn how the different approaches to problem solving and software development can help us become more agile, innovative, and ultimately more successful. Otherwise we are stuck with propriety platforms, and we are simply implementing larger silos.
2. Business silos must be eliminated to create the next-generation energy company.
No one can argue the oil and gas workforce demographic is changing. In fact, Microsoft’s IoT Solutions Sales Director, Bobby Lee, shared that 27 percent of the O&G workforce is 55 years of age and older and more than 350,000 people have recently left due to the industry downturn.
The incoming generation expects and will often demand easy and more accessible data. This is because the younger generation has grown accustomed to a digital first world; it has rewired how most of us think about and approach business. To facilitate a smooth transition from a culture driven by institutional knowledge to one of insight-based decisions and strategy, O&G companies need to break down department and data silos and provide pervasive access to information and software. This shift will de-risk operations and improve long-term performance.
3. Data gathering and translation requires a strategic approach.
IoT provides increasing opportunities for data collection, and when properly approached, value creation. But to ensure that your investment is fruitful, you must start with a coherent strategy; otherwise, data is meaningless.
O&G companies must consider the problems they wish to solve with IoT solutions (or any for that matter) and think through the best ways to derive an answer based on the new and increasing data being generated. From here, answers to the challenges you have can be formulated and tested and rolled out to the enterprise. Data is a company’s most valuable asset and should be approached as such.
As data guides your business and your ability to create value from it matures, you may find the issue you thought you had is not the real problem. Access to data is empowering, and just like breaking down silos, it serves to de-risk operations and creates more opportunities for users to be productive and perform meaningful work.
4. IT must be at the table.
All three of the areas listed above require IT’s involvement. They, like security, cannot be an afterthought. Bring IT to the table and ask them to find the solutions that can evolve with your business and adapt as technology advances. For IT to be successful, they must view their role as enablers. Technology was always meant to enable, and IT is the human aspect of that enablement.
When everyone views the relationship between IT and the business as that of a partnership, IT can facilitate business and technical innovation as well as help foster a culture shift that positions your company for the future. With everyone driving to the optimal outcome and aligned in the journey, your company and employees will conquer their challenges and transform the industry.
I am optimistic in seeing our industry’s stakeholders realize the full potential of digital and embrace the transformation to a more modern workplace. We’re excited to be a part of this transition and partner with leading technology and energy companies. We take the responsibility of helping shape the future seriously and look forward to building momentum in tandem with the rest of the oil and gas industry.