Allan Merritt writes ... COVID-19 & Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the buzz word across many industries, including Oil & Gas. With COVID-19 currently across the world, this topic has suddenly come into sharp focus. We thought it was worth asking what are the key issues, the language we’re using and what about sharing data and best practice? In this blog, Allan Merritt, Arnlea’s MD, introduces the whole subject to raise some pertinent questions. We will explore the answers to those questions in future blogs over the next few months.

Digital transformation is the buzz word in the industry currently. Yet talk to five senior executives, five different clients and each will really have a different interpretation of what that means and looks like, depending on where they’re based in the world.

The reality is, that in the current digital landscape for Oil & Gas operators and throughout the supply chain, the untold secret is that no one really shares data. This is despite positive and seemingly pro-active talk about Big Data and Digital Transformation which seems to point to the contrary.

SaaS providers like Arnlea have to understand each client’s real position and the language they’re talking because that will indicate at which stage of digital transformation each client is ready for.

For many US operators and supply chain businesses, digital transformation can simply mean establishing digital infrastructure to capture data; for the UK, it can be more about web reporting and specific task protocols; Asian businesses are seeking to develop the data intelligence further; and still for many operators, regardless of location, it can simply mean having a server in the Cloud.

Different industries ascribe different meanings too so it’s vital to define and understand what the Oil & Gas industry is talking about, compared with Aerospace or Construction for example.

Understanding the digital transformation language of operators is essential in order to meet their requirements, take clients to the next level, and help them overcome their own digital prejudices.

In no particular order the key issues are:

  1. Operators need to be willing to allow SaaS providers to host their data
  2. Industry operators should be encouraged to recognise the mutual financial benefits of data sharing with competitors and partners at the highest level in a truly contemporary and visionary fashion
  3. IT Directors need to be further empowered and be far less resistant to change; providers like Arnlea are here to help them lead the way within their organisations to improve both opex and capex performance
  4. The need for more education for those on the ground to see the productivity and motivational benefits to embrace this change, rather than fearing greater job insecurity
  5. A mindset among all operators that needs to be more attuned towards trust of third-party partners to take the industry forward to enjoy greater mutual benefits and reciprocity, than is currently culturally permitted

For providers like Arnlea, the discussion has to centre around allowing customers to let us host their software systems so that we can begin to collate anonymised industry data to share with all participants for mutual benefit.

This bold vision would see all major O&G operators (Shell, Total, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, ExxonMobil et al) hosted on the same application to enable discrete data packages collated from a single source to facilitate greater intelligence about parts and product.

The creation of predictive failure analysis, best-value suppliers, most reliable supply sources as well as identifying surplus available product or product absence; would be possible by combining all inspection and maintenance data and then providing that information back to clients as intelligent, critical information.

The capability to be far more client-responsive cannot be understated and the financial, resource and intelligence benefits are potentially game-changing.

Fresh thinking to see true digital transformation on this level across this industry is urgently needed and will bring about a powerful shift in client operational decision-making; sharing best practice and buying power would be just the tip of the data-sharing iceberg.

 These challenges reveal a cautious industry, reluctant to make the first move with a number of hurdles and barriers to be addressed. They may well be addressed sooner because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are still pertinent at the time of writing (March 2020).


Notes for Editors