In brief

In brief

  • Accenture’s seventh Upstream Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey involved 255 industry professionals.
  • Oil companies continue to invest in digital to remain competitive as the energy transition progresses and they move to sustainable business models.
  • Cybersecurity emerged as the top area of investment focus of companies, and the technology driving the greatest impact on business performance.
  • Companies are finding it difficult to scale digital and unlock value with 60% of respondents indicating they would seek help from external providers.

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Accenture Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey 2019 examines the focus and investments upstream oil and gas companies are making in digital technologies.

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Cybersecurity leads investments today; big data/analytics and AI, tomorrow

We asked survey respondents which digital technologies their organization was investing in today? Cybersecurity was cited more than any other—by 61 percent of respondents. That is a 49 percent increase of the 12 percent who made that claim in 2017 (see Figure 1.) The focus on cyber resilience continues and is, in fact, sharply increasing as oil companies protect their assets and reputation.

Figure 1: Today’s digital investments.

"Managing attacks isn’t just a matter of protecting reputation, share price and operations, but part of a greater responsibility for national services and security."

— Rich Holsman, Managing Director, Global Digital Lead, Resources

Oil companies see cybersecurity, cloud, and big data/analytics driving the most business impact today; whereas artificial intelligence/machine learning drive more value tomorrow.

The greatest number (51%) cited artificial intelligence/machine learning as the top digital technologies they plan to invest in over the next three to five years (see Figure 2.) This number is up from 30% in 2017 and is consistent with the industry expectation that AI will be driving future value.

Figure 2: Digital investments in 3-5 years.

Scaling digital is key to unlock value

The survey reveals that, over the last two years, upstream oil and gas companies found it difficult to scale digital initiatives beyond proofs of concept (POCs):


Reported developing and scaling more than half of POCs


Developed and scaled 1-10% of POCs

Trend 1

Digital investments continue to increase as digital is seen as a key enabler of a successful upstream business.

Trend 2

Cybersecurity leads digital investments today and is the technology of greatest impact—whereas big data/analytics, especially artificial intelligence, will take the lead tomorrow.

Trend 3

Digital helps optimize core businesses today and is expected to help drive faster and better decisions tomorrow.

Trend 4

Full value from digital is not being realized due to challenges with scaling.

Trend 5

External skills and partnerships are key to unlocking the value of digital.

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Ecosystem of partnerships

Digital is helping oil companies reduce costs and make faster and better decisions. But there is a need to develop skills and reorganize to unlock this value. The majority of upstream companies felt they needed external skills and capabilities to scale digital to transform their companies. Nearly 60% stated they would look to external providers for assistance.

Upstream companies recognize that external strategic partnerships can accelerate change and bring greater value. Faster access to technology and innovation (31%) and better business margins (24%) are the top reasons for forming such partnerships. "Other" incentives included access to new talent, new technology, new geographies, and new customers (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Incentives for getting external support.

Oil companies need to work in new collaboration models with external ecosystems to gain access to the skills, technologies, and innovation needed to scale digital and unlock value from their digital investments.

Richard Holsman

Lead – Accenture Microsoft Business Group, Europe


Heeding the digital call to action in oil and gas
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