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Transformational ECM VI: Oil and Gas (part 2)

March 25, 2013

In the last post, I began to talk about how enterprise content management (ECM) can transform Oil and Gas (O&G) organizations in some fundamental ways. By way of a prelude, we spent most of the time talking about how not to sell the benefits of ECM to business stakeholders. In this post, with the prelude out of the way, let’s turn that frown upside down and talk about how you in fact should sell the benefits.

Without recapping the entire last post, suffice it to say that O&G companies care about one thing: producing hydrocarbons safely and efficiently. So business stakeholders need to understand how exactly ECM–or anything else, for that matter–contributes to that effort. Otherwise, no amount of best practices, industry standards, or smart-guy consulting frameworks are going to get them to support ECM at their organization.

It’s all about alignment

To effectively communicate the value of ECM to business folks you need to get tangible and relevant, and the best way to do that is not to try to educate them about the complexities of ECM from a practitioner’s perspective–that’s a recipe for failure. Instead, you need to align your communications with their strategic and tactical reality so that the benefits of ECM make sense on an immediate, intuitive level, i.e., a light bulb goes off and they just get it.

Strategic alignment

In terms of O&G, then, let’s look at the business value of ECM first in terms of some key strategic concerns:

  • Mergers and acquisitions - When you’re doing M&A, you need to get a few things right: you want to buy it for the right price (at least what it’s worth, but ideally less, and under no circumstances more), understand the work required to integrate the acquisition, and start realizing value from it as quickly as possible.
    • Better ECM means an improved ability to create, find, and share documents, which, if they’re documents relating to the deal, will lead both to increased accuracy of sizing and pricing during discovery and negotiations as well as to faster time to value post acquisition.
  • New ventures - Most O&G organizations are enjoying boom times and experiencing breakneck growth, not only from acquisitions, but also from new ventures. And the pace of growth is not being measured in tens or even dozens, but in hundreds of percentage points, e.g., instead of one offshore platform every three years, we’ll bring one online every year for three years or growing from 1,000 wells to 6,000 over the next five years.
    • In order to enable this level of growth (and do so safely and profitably), having the right documents in the hands of the right people at the right time is absolutely critical–if we’re all not on the same page, how can we scale to triple or quadruple our current capacity? Answer: we can’t.
  • One culture - Most O&G organizations are global–but that’s in name only, i.e., they have offices and operations in multiple countries around the world. But if you ask whether these organizations function globally in the highest sense of the word, the answer is usually no: multiple and disparate corporate cultures, conflicting national cultures, and siloed operations make them merely multi-national rather than truly global.
    • ECM can contribute to the process of “going global” by fostering collaboration to build a unified corporate culture, from the level of individual sentiment (how deeply each employee identifies with the larger organization) to process standardization (that all employees doing the same job will do it in the same way) and everything in between. And more practically, ECM can ensure that everyone is looking at the same version of key corporate documents (from policies and press releases to standard operating procedures and engineering drawings)–one culture doesn’t do you much good if we’re still siloed in the information we have access to.
  • Goal zero - a big part of producing hydrocarbons safely and efficiently is, well, safety. And the culture of safety is a huge part of every O&G organization I’ve every worked with, zero incidents being the bar they set for themselves. Folks with more of an insurance, fiserv, or banking background are always shocked when an O&G meeting begins with a thorough review of safety procedures and evacuation logistics, followed by a visual inspection for slip, trip, and fall hazards in the room (“Wait, isn’t this is a session to gather requirements for accounts payable automation?”).
    • Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) relies as much on accurate, easily accessible documentation available when it’s needed (real-time or just in time) as it does on adoption by users and their compliance–in fact, adoption and compliance are much more difficult, expensive, uncertain, and risky without the kind of document management access ECM done right can provide.

The final word

This has been a long post, so we’ll break here, take a breath, and close things out next time by taking a close look at some of the areas of tactical alignment ECM can effect at O&G organizations. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from folks out there about their own experiences working in O&G or ECM (or both): how does what I’ve outlined here fit with what you’ve seen? Thoughts on areas I’ve missed or things I haven’t considered? Whatever it is, jump in and help us get the conversation started!

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