Free the Porcupine


The oil and gas industry hasn’t had it easy recently. Clearly, everyone is focused on decreasing costs and increasing productivity, but IT is often an area where real change would bring huge benefits. What options are available, and how much difference could they make in your business? What’s the most important thing to do if you want to improve your situation?

The short answer is to “free the porcupine”. The longer answer is provided by our interview with Peter Black, our CEO, who tells us what the porcupine means, and how freeing it has business benefits.

Hi Peter, over the past week we’ve been hearing “free the porcupine”. What does this mean?

This comes from a presentation on Digital Oilfield that I’ve given at a couple of conferences. My assertion is that the majority of oil and gas companies treat their IT team the way an owner treats an exotic pet, like a porcupine. At the outset, it’s very attractive to have one, and it gets you bragging rights down at the pub, but it’s high-maintenance and it’s actually really troublesome to own. You start leaving it out in the cold, and not caring for it properly, and it ends up resentful and not playing well with others. The weird thing, though, is the moment someone suggests taking your porcupine away, you embrace it and refuse to let it go, even though the pain increases! It’s really weird. 

Ahh. So the porcupine represents legacy practices and systems that are neither cost efficient nor practical, but which nobody wants to let go of. If this is the case, why do you think some companies are reluctant to “free the porcupine”?

Many companies simply think that having IT teams and servers is the mark of being a “real” company. Some others have never had the opportunity to understand that there’s another way.

For larger organisations, they point at their existing infrastructure, and their sunk costs, and find it hard to let that investment slide. Still others imagine (incorrectly) that it’s a source of competitive differentiation. Finally, the majority of suppliers tend to push a man-time services model, and that means they have no incentive to reduce cost.

The cloud offers a very competitive alternative. It’s about a different way to work – in the cloud, people buy service not software or bodies.

If cloud is the answer for most companies, what about the obvious concerns like security and data residence?

People assume that data stored within their organisation is the safest, but the reality is that a data breach is often more likely with on-premises solutions. The reason for this is simple. Many hacks require physical access to the servers or storage, and this is difficult to control if you have the kit in your own premises.

Further, building out secure infrastructure is a difficult job, and expensive, and few people can afford to deliver best in class solutions. In contrast, cloud providers make security and resilience the essence of what they do. This is all they do, and their reputation depends on getting it right. For our part, we encrypt all customer data, we replicate data to multiple availability zones, and we take encrypted backups to a third location. We choose locations for customer data based on their individual requirements; the US for our US customers, and the EU for the majority of our other customers.

If someone wants to free their porcupine, what’s the first step to take?

Many people assume that this is an opportunity to get rid of their IT team, but the reality is that it actually represents a chance to use their talents more effectively. Instead of managing hardware and licensing, they get to focus on providing solutions to the business that have real value. There are a number of important questions to answer when adopting cloud solutions, and IT really can help with the framing of those questions. Start by building a vision of where you want to go, then put a practical framework together that can be used to determine what services can be provided in the cloud, and then begin a gradual adoption process.

We’ll be releasing a paper in the near future that discusses a set of questions you might ask, and candidate process you might want to adopt, when moving to the cloud.

Does this sound familiar? Do you need to “free the porcupine?”

For more info on this, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, where you can join in on the discussion.  Alternatively, contact us if you’d like a personalised demo.