A Different Way

We run a cloud service for oil and gas. Our goal is to grow organically, and to grow profitability not staff numbers. We value a high degree of autonomy, and we operate entirely virtually. We’ve been extensively using cloud services to run our business for over ten years, and now virtually everything we do, from mail and calendar to accounting and document management, is done in the cloud.

However, we didn’t start out that way. Continue reading “A Different Way”

Demonstrating Simplicity

Automation is a tricky topic to cover. While we can provide evidence of the benefits, like the fact that our system allowed one of our clients to reduce a week’s work to two hours, there isn’t really an easy way to demonstrate how it works. Since our automation process is designed to make dramatic reductions in the time spent to carry out tasks, and reduce manual intervention, a demo might consist of nothing more than an email in an inbox notifying the user that the day’s processes had successfully completed. Not a great demo, but the goal of automation is to make everything simpler and more reliable. And the freedom that automation delivers can directly benefit your productivity.

Continue reading “Demonstrating Simplicity”

Can Saving Costs Cost You?

In my last blog post I mentioned performance improvement. It’s a buzzword that frequently appears when researching software systems for the oil and gas industry, but what exactly does it mean?

To me, Performance Improvement is a blanket term for a range of important issues, ranging from operational efficiency, to automation, and data integration.

However, the vast majority of software companies seem to equate performance improvement with “cost savings”, and define this as the primary benefit. Given the current climate, this is undoubtedly important, but is this the only thing we should be focussing on, and where do the other elements of Performance Improvement come into this?

What happens if a company focuses solely on cutting costs? Having had experience within the food industry, I have often seen companies focus heavily on cost savings, particularly when supermarkets continuously push suppliers for reductions. I have witnessed companies reduce their overheads by up to 20%, but still fail. Why is this?

Think back to the controversy in 2010, when Kraft took over Cadbury. Despite promises to the contrary, within weeks Kraft had closed a factory to save money. And it didn’t stop with factories. The US owner, now called Mondelez, tinkered with recipes, packaging and traditions, again in an apparent effort to reduce costs.

Following the important Easter period, it has now been reported that Cadbury lost more than £6m in Creme Egg sales after changing the recipe to include cheaper ingredients. Ultimately, all of the cost-savings have actually lead to cost-failings, by breaking the trust of customers and potentially ensuring that they never return.

If the entire focus of performance improvement is on saving money, a much bigger opportunity is missed. Clearly, the low oil price and volatility of the oil and gas market at the moment makes it inevitable that people are looking to cut costs. But instead of only looking at what they can take away, it’s probably time to look at ways to add value.

PRODML and Energistics: Current Status

At our regular Hydrocarbon Allocation (HA) Forum in Aberdeen yesterday, we had a terrific “state of the union” presentation by Laurence Ormerod, Consultant and Project Manager for the PRODML standard. By the way, if you don’t attend our HA Forums then you might want to check out our website for details, and sign up for our mailshots. They are intended to be deliberately free from sales messages, and are generally held in Aberdeen at breakfast or lunchtime.

Continue reading “PRODML and Energistics: Current Status”

Collaborative Learning in Distributed Environments

I have been reading about other uses of cloud based and mobile technologies and I came across some examples of adaptive learning, which I thought were really interesting. Initially I heard about them from the beloved Radio 4. The two examples I wanted to discuss both come from education and rely on mass adoption by a large remote and distributed community. I suppose you could say they are business to consumer, although that label feels odd for education. Continue reading “Collaborative Learning in Distributed Environments”

Conferences and meaningless PowerPoint usage

An article on open source tools to “make your presentations pop” intrigued me initially, then bemused me, then annoyed me. Ignoring for a moment the desirability or otherwise of having presentations that “pop”, the bemusement came from the realisation that the entire focus of the article was on creating effects and transitions, and absolutely nothing about content. The annoyance began when I realised that several of the oil and gas conferences I’ve attended recently have implicitly taken the same approach, focussing on presentation over content.

Continue reading “Conferences and meaningless PowerPoint usage”

How we can fix standards efforts in oil and gas

I’ve spoken at several conferences about the failures in standards efforts in oil and gas, and I’ve commented on the reasons for these failures. I’ve also highlighted the key characteristics of successful standards efforts in other industries. In the short version, this boils down to my well-worn aphorism “adoption beats perfection”. The longer version is contained in the seminal paper by Hanseth and Lyytinen (“Theorizing about the Design of Information Infrastructures: Design Kernel Theories and Principles”, 2004) which, despite its title, contains material that is relevant for all standards efforts.

Continue reading “How we can fix standards efforts in oil and gas”

Standards That Work

I was thinking about why we have standards and what they achieve today. I have had a fair bit of experience both as a consumer and producer, dating back to working on X.400 in the 1980s through the many ‘standards’ in software through to the current day. In almost all cases these technology standards have, to some extent, failed. None raised themselves up to manage to be the thing the writers intended. At best they just grabbed a foot-hold or a niche. In this post, I will discuss the reasons why. Continue reading “Standards That Work”