We have been handicapped by high margins, will this happen again or will we learn?

About 15 to 20 years ago, we started to discuss and plan the implementation of databases in Oil and Gas, in hopes of  reaping the benefits of all its promises. And we did plan and deploy those databases.  It is now no longer conceivable to draw geological maps by hand or to store production volumes in books. Also, in the last ten years, we have moved beyond simple storage of digital content and have started looking into managing data quality more aggressively. Here too, we have made inroads. But have we done enough?

Have you ever wondered why companies are still cleaning their data over and over again? Or why we are still putting up building blocks such as standards for master well lists and hierarchies? It seems to me that the industry as a whole is not able to break through the foundational stages of enterprise information management.  Because they can’t break through, they are unable to achieve a sustainable, robust foundation that allows their systems to  keep pace with business growth or business assets diversification.

Perversely, I believe this is because the oil and gas industry has been handicapped by high margins. When a company is making money despite itself, throwing additional bodies and resources to solve a pressing issue seems like the fastest and most effective solution in that moment. Because the industry is structured in such a way that opportunities have to be seized in the moment, there is often little time to wait for the right solution to be implemented.

Throwing money at a problem is not always the wrong thing to do. However, if it becomes your go-to solution, you are asking for trouble.

I would argue that highly leveraged companies have put themselves at high risk of bankruptcy because they do not invest sufficiently in efficiency and agility through optimized processes and quality information flow. For example, coming up with the most effective completion for your reservoir requires access to quality and granular technical data. This data does not just happen, it takes a great deal of wiring and plumbing work to obtain your organization’s data and processes, luckily if done right, it is a one-time investment with minimal operational upkeep.

According to Bloomberg, CNN and Oil & Gas 360 reports, during this ongoing downturn, at least 60 companies have entered chapter 11 in the USA alone. Ultra, Swift, Sabine, Quicksilver, American Energy are just a few of these highly leveraged but otherwise technically excellent companies.

Without the required behind the scenes investment, engineers and geoscientist will  find a way to get the data they need to make decisions. They will, and often do, work hard to bring data from many siloed systems. For each engineer to still have to massage data is throwing money at the problem. If the correct platform is implemented in your company, this information would flow like clockwork to everyone that needs it with little to no manual work.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE?

We all know it is never the wrong time to make a profit. Consequently, it is never the wrong time to invest in the right foundation. During a downturn, lower demand creates an abundance of the only resource unavailable during an upturn – time. This time, spent wisely, could bring huge dividends during the next upswing in prices. Conversely, during a period of high prices, it is the other resources we cannot afford to waste. During a boom, we cannot ignore building sustainable longterm data and process solutions the RIGHT way.

It is never the wrong time to make a profit. Consequently, it is never the wrong time to invest in the right foundation.

Of course, there is no single “right way” that will work for everyone. The right way for your organization is entirely subjective, the only rule being that it must align with your company’s operations models and goals. By contrast, the only truly wrong way is to do nothing, or invest nothing at all.

If your organization has survived more than ten years, then it has seen more than one downturn, along with prosperous times. If you’ve been bitten before, it’s time to be twice shy. Don’t let the false security of high margins handicap you from attaining sustainable and long-term information management solutions.

Here are some key pointers that you probably already know:

      Track and automate repeatable tasks – many of your organization’s manual and repeatable tasks have become easier to track and automate with the help of BPMS solutions. Gain transparency into your processes, automate them, and make them leaner whenever possible.  

   Avoid Duplication of Effort – Siloed systems and departmental communication issues result in significant duplicated efforts or reworks of the same data.  Implementing strong data QA process upstream can resolve this. The farther upstream, the better. For example, geoscientists are forced to rework their maps when they discover inaccuracy in the elevation or directional survey data. These are simple low hanging fruits that should be easy to remove by implementing controls at the source, and at each stop along the way.

  Take an Enterprise View –  Most E&P companies fall under the enterprise category. Even if they are a smaller player, they often employ more people than the average small to medium business  (especially during a boom) and deal with a large number of vendors, suppliers, and clients. Your organization should deploy enterprise solutions that match your company’s enterprise operations model. Most E&P companies fall in the lower right quadrant in the below MIT matrix.

mitopmodel

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