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Digital matters

Accenture’s Richard Holsman and Mark McDonald discuss how digital technologies can transform operations for the world’s oil and gas companies.


On first look, consumer technologies may appear out of place in an energy environment where there is no direct focus on end customers, the work environment is physically demanding and work is driven by enterprise systems not smart phone apps. It is easy, therefore, to overlook the impact of digital technology in the energy industry. When you take a look at what it means to be digital, however, its potential in the sector is very significant. With operations over flowing with paper records, an excess of administrative monitoring and reporting and delays, duplication and cost, energy faces multiple challenges that digital can address.

This article was first published in December 2013 in Petroleum Review and is reproduced by permission of the Energy Institute, 61 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7AR.


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While energy companies have applied IT to these challenges, digital technologies now create better solutions and new opportunities. Digital technology increases the information intensity and connectedness of people, business processes, operations and equipment. The key is to embrace digital not as just another set of technologies, but as a new way of working to achieve improved results and better performance.

Key Findings

Accenture has looked at digital’s impact on energy processes and has identified a number of points where digital transformation is possible and profitable. For instance, where forecasting and execution failures are resulting in significant capital overruns, particularly for megaprojects, or where there are mismatches between production forecasts and the ability to execute is limiting revenue and investor valuations. We also see digital providing solutions for production misses, deterring cyber-attacks, reducing supply chain risk and helping to protect an organisation from legal and regulatory threats.

In a recent survey we found that 82% of energy businesses saw innovation in IT as ‘extremely important’ in driving success, but only 61% described themselves as ‘extremely satisfied’ with current levels of progress. Leveraging digital to change how work is done and bring information to the edge of the enterprise where it is needed most can help change that. Now is the time for the energy industry to embrace digital.


Digital technologies extend beyond the limits of any specific technology like social media, analytics, mobile communications, ‘big data’ or cloud computing. Digitising a process elevates the accessibility and application of the information by combining it with other digitised processes or resources in new ways to create greater responsiveness, agility, innovation and opportunity.

Digital technologies enable automatic monitoring of a range of measurements from production, flow, temperature and pressure variations. Digitising this information and then applying it alongside maintenance schedules will ensure operations and people are optimised across all points of reference.

Digital can also be used to automate administrative tasks, enabling re-engineering of mission critical operations by taking single operations out of their silos and connecting them to one another. It allows energy companies to work with a complete picture of their operations in real time and act in a holistic rather than in a linear fashion which often meant taking three steps forward and one step back.


A New Approach
The energy industry needs new business and operational models and digital, through combining the insights of analytics with mobility, is helping to implement more efficient supply chain and logistics processes and effectively optimise, and even predict, production, site by site.

In this new and changing energy landscape, ongoing investments also need to be protected. Large capital projects can cost billions of dollars and oil companies are keen to keep these projects progressing smoothly and producing quickly. It might seem counter-intuitive to talk about implementing digital technologies into these large capital projects in flight. A concern might be that this would delay the time to getting a return on this large investment. Actually, the opposite is true.


How can digital technologies help energy companies disrupt existing markets and penetrate new ones? This infographic explains how digital can create entirely new solutions to address the key imperatives the industry faces today and unlock business value.