I recently came across a report from Microsoft which talks about how the oil & gas industry is really starting to focus on collaboration and social media. We’ve already established that collaboration has a great impact on overall business performance and now we’re seeing giant companies such as Shell (which employs 150,000+ people) making collaboration a high priority. As I mentioned before, collaboration is at the heart of every single business and with a 36% impact on overall business performance, it’s hard to not make it a priority. There are still issues and hurdles that companies need to overcome in order to make successful collaboration possible and it’s great to see giant companies such as Shell paving the way.
According to Johan Krebbers, Shell’s group IT architect:
“Eighty percent of our teams are global teams, with members in multiple locations around the world, we must offer world-class collaboration capabilities so that our people can work at a global level.”
Most enterprise size companies (and even small/mid size companies) have multiple areas internally where they can access information, and by multiple I’m talking several dozen. This means dozens of sign-ons, usernames, and passwords for every employee. Not a very efficient and a very convoluted way to get things done. However, all of these processes are legacy and have been around for quite some time. They are a part of how the company used to operate, and that is where we are starting to see change. Companies such as Shell are moving into single collaboration environments where they have access to all of the information and people they need to get the job done. According to the report, collaboration in the oil & gas industry is centered around three areas (read the report link above for more detailed information):
- Office PC
- Using a desktop PC to find the right information at the right time.
- Effective and efficient ways for people in the field to communicate with those in the office
- Operations Center
- Make and share complex visuals and data in real time among engineers, and scientists make decisions
When you think of collaboration you usually don’t think that mega-companies such as Shell would be at the forefront of adoption, but ironically they are. Shell is turning itself into a more agile business. It’s interesting to see mobile as a key area of collaboration, but it makes perfect sense. Any industry that has employees “out in the field” is going to have to rely on mobile as a key method of collaboration and communication and this is why we’re starting to see companies such as SocialText deploy mobile app versions of their software. As it was defined in the article,
“Social media becomes business communications.”
I think that quote speaks volumes about what we are starting to see and will continue to see in this space. Companies with a global reach and presence need a way to get everyone on the same page; to effectively operate as a single entity instead of as a fragmented organization. You can’t manage 150,000 employees with multiple managers and email as a source of communication. New collaboration tools and strategies are making this form of unified communications possible. If Shell, with it’s 150,000 employees is trying to make it happen, then I find it hard to believe that smaller and perhaps more agile companies can’t. Microsoft also pointed out that the recession and current economic conditions are not making things pleasant for the oil & gas industry and that is precisely why companies in the space are turning to collaboration to help turn things around. For those of you that are curious, Shell is using the Microsoft Azure platform as its foundation for collaboration.
In a separate study conducted by Microsoft and Accenture:
“Nearly 75 percent of oil and gas professionals see value in using social media and collaboration tools at work — an 83 percent jump from responses in last year’s similar poll — but corporate wide endorsement of these tools continues to lag behind, according to a Microsoft Corp. and Accenture.”
And then there’s this quote from Craig Hodges, Microsoft General Manager, Manufacturing & Resources Sector:
“More than three-quarters of the respondents said they spend up to four hours a day collaborating with co-workers. Half said they need improved communications to coordinate multinational activities, to meet increasingly stringent regulatory requirements, and to better manage their changing work forces. Yet company policies actually stand in the way of the adoption of social media, a source of new collaboration tools our survey shows to be in strong demand.”
Again, the issue comes back to people, not technology. Technology is always going to evolve and change at a faster rate than culture, which is why it’s so important to focus on this area. Hutch Carpenter from Spigit also wrote a great post on the two year lag that we are seeing between new technology and companies adopting that technology. So how do companies deal with the lag? I believe a part of the answer deals with the ability to collaborate, innovate, and stay agile. Successful collaboration strategies need to be a part of how the company operates. Deploying a tool and throwing out a few guidelines is not good enough (as we can see from the above quotes). The following quote from Craig Heiser, Accenture senior executive in the energy industry group’s management practice, sums everything up perfectly:
“The survey shows that companies are not realizing the strategic benefits from their collaboration tools investments such as increased work-force performance, improved sharing of knowledge or skills across the work force.” To realize the full potential of collaboration investments, companies need to change work processes and individual roles while training their employees on how to achieve improved business performance through collaboration.”
I highly recommend that everyone read both of the reports mentioned above and let me know your thoughts