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Transformational ECM VI: Oil and Gas (part 3)

April 1, 2013

I’m at the end of a series of posts looking at how enterprise content management (ECM) can transform oil and gas (O&G) organizations. In the last post, I walked through some of the strategic transformations ECM can contribute to if it’s aligned properly. In this post, I want to wrap things up by looking at more tactical transformations that ECM can align with to drive tangible business benefits.

Without rehashing the last post, let’s review the main areas of strategic alignment that ECM impacts at O&G organizations before digging into the tactical:

  • Mergers and acquisitions – scope and price more accurately, integrate more effectively, realize value more quickly
  • New ventures – scale to support the breakneck growth of current O&G environment
  • One culture – move from being merely multi-national to truly global
  • Goal zero – produce hydrocarbons at the highest level of safety at maximum efficiency

Tactical alignment

Ok, so when we come down from the airy, empyrean heights of strategy, there are some very tactical, very important areas of day-to-day operations at O&G organizations that are right in the crosshairs of ECM…and that are central to producing hydrocarbons safely and efficiently:

  • Operational disruptions – Getting the right documents in the hands of the right people at the right time is absolutely critical for maintaining operations with minimal disruptions.
    • For example, the conveyor belt that pulls dirt away from an onshore well is up for replacement; the home office pulls the specs and sees that the belt is 35 meters long and orders it; when it gets to the hole, it turns out the belt is 40 meters long because the topography of the well site required this change during construction; but because the as-builts never made it back to the home office, they were working off out of date specs. The result? Production stops for three days while they get a new belt (and pay rush shipping charges to do so). Oh, and we lose millions of dollars.
  • Operational efficiency – As with preventing disruptions, running operations as efficiently as possible requires, among other things, strong document management. After all, designing the most efficient process and implementing the tools to monitor it does you far less good if the people responsible for the process don’t have the policies, procedures, and guidelines that articulate that process and direct users how to perform it.
    • For example, when shutting down a refinery for a turnaround, contractors (sometimes dozens or even hundreds of them) are brought in to help with the work. If they can’t easily find and access the documents they need (like standard operating procedures, maintenance logs, spec sheets, etc.), the turnaround will take longer than it would if they could easily find and access them. And the longer the turnaround takes, the longer the refinery is offline. The result? We lose millions of dollars while the refinery sits idle waiting for the turnaround to complete. And if the contractors not only have trouble finding the documents they need, but happen to find the wrong one? You could be faced with an incident that leads not only to fines, sanctions, and negative PR, but loss of life as well.
  • Operational improvements – Almost all O&G organizations that are north of $3B in revenue or so spend a good deal of time and effort to continuously improve their operations. Whether they call it kaizen, six sigma, lean, or simply operational excellency, these organizations are trying to find the best way to execute their core business processes, promulgate these best practices across the entire organization, monitor the execution to ensure adherence, and use the results of this monitoring to continually improve their operations, i.e., plan, do, check, act. As you can imagine, these efforts have significant document management and collaboration requirements.
    • For example, when trying to integrate a new acquisition (or even just get a single engineering contractor up and running on a process), the availability and quality of process documentation is directly related to how quickly these new employees “get on the bus” so that they’re executing processes in accordance with the global process models that operational excellency has developed. And when these same folks have questions about or issues with the global process models, being able to collaborate across sites using the kind of tools that ECM provides can go a long way toward solving these problems before they have operational impacts.

The final word

Well, those are my thoughts on the transformational impact ECM can have on O&G organziations. There are more than these, of course–lots more. But these are the top of mind areas I’ve been seeing out in the trenches over the last 18 months; hopefully they resonate with what you’re experiencing at your organization. Either way, and as always, I’d love to hear from you all out there…so jump in, and let’s get the conversation started!

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