July 18, 2016
People come first in the digital age: how does this apply to oil and gas today?
By: Richard Holsman

The overall theme of the 2016 Accenture Technology Vision is “People First: The Primacy of People in the Digital Age.” In oil and gas, this could not be more true, with people and their ability to leverage technology establishing the core of high performance. Along with this central idea, three specific themes from the Technology Vision are highly relevant:

Intelligent Automation

Opportunities abound to increase efficiency and improve work quality. Intelligent automation can be enabled at the front end with tools integrating data from multiple systems to execute tasks. For complex tasks, robotic automation suites can be performed by process-driven virtual agents. Another example is cognitive computing, in which artificial intelligence and self-learning systems accomplish mundane “thinking” tasks and processes.

In the oil and gas industry, intelligent automation allows workers to focus on the higher value tasks and to do their jobs more safely, efficiently and accurately. This advantage can be seen in the back office, in finance and procurement; and in the field, with the help of mobile technologies in areas such as drilling and maintenance.

Platform Economy

This development is enabled by advances in technologies such as cloud, mobility, social, big data, analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT), all delivered in hyper-scaled and “as a service” platforms. The new platform economy allows oil and gas companies to get an extremely granular view of assets, merging new information with data from traditional business systems. The purpose is to deliver faster insight to all workers, including central and field workers, so they can make better business decisions.

Some examples include extending digital oilfield concepts to the majority of wells—even lower producing wells—using cloud-based IoT platforms to monitor and manage thousands of kilometres of pipeline. Hyper-scale analytics can run thousands of predictive models to optimize performance of a refinery, and make use of big data to personalize relationships with tens of millions of retail fuel customers.

Digital Trust

Digital trust is about protecting the new battleground of business: cyber threats in every corner. Asset-intensive industries such as oil and gas are being transformed by IoT, making trust a key requirement for safe and efficient operations.

The linking of information technologies and operations technologies means every device needs to be authenticated and “trusted” to manage safe and efficient operations. Oil and gas leaders need to be able to trust the new machine-to-man linkages to achieve growth and improve performance.

The US Department of Homeland Security highlights the energy industry as being a particular target. In 2015, 245 major cyberattack incidents were reported by asset owners and industrial organizations during the previous year; 79 of these, or about 32 percent, were reported by the energy sector1. In oil and gas, as in all industries, IT and asset departments should evaluate their talent gaps and identify skills to succeed in this evolving battleground.

The industry should heed the lessons of the last sustained oil price slump of the 1980s and train people, not only in new skills, but in improved ways of working. In response to a broad range of digital advances, leading companies across industries are investing in programs to educate, train and re-skill their workforces.

Read Accenture’s 2016 Technology Vision for more information about the trends digital businesses need to take heed of as they adapt and grow.

1 "Five jobs set to grow in oil, gas: cybersecurity.", 4 May 2016. © 2016 via Factiva

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