What can the oil and gas sector learn from the tech industry?
In my opinion, the answer is simple - a lot! Let's take a look at a few examples.
In the oil and gas industry we are always looking for years of experience before we trust somebody to work on a project. How many times do we see on a job description, “Must have 25 years of related experience." Evaluations of capability depend on the amount of scar tissue and grey hair.
In the Tech Industry, start-up companies are making pitches for funding all the time. The venture capital (VC) companies do not care about the level of experience, they care about the idea and the passion of the people involved. Palmer Luckey invented the Oculus Rift, a major breakthrough in virtual reality technology and sold his company to Facebook for $2.3 billion. He was 21 years old.
Time to Market
The oil and gas industry is very conservative. The LNG industry is even more conservative. The adoption time for new ideas tends to be very long. Ideas have to be fully tested, prototyped, fully tested again, and then somebody else has to use it first. If a subsea system takes three years to deliver, it is not hard to conjecture that the control pods will not be operated by the latest software.
In the Tech industry, things happen quickly. Uber was started in 2009 by Travis Galanik and Garrett Camp. Today, the company is worth an estimated $62.5 billion and operates in 66 countries. It is hard to see that the oil and gas industry would quickly adopt new technology at a similar pace.
There is no real culture of disruption in oil and gas. There is only gradual change. Even when we know that we have a good idea, there is no expectation that these ideas could or should be implemented quickly.
Some would argue that the Tech industry is all about disruption, whether it is Napster fundamentally changing the music industry, the Kindle changing the way we buy books, or Netflix changing the way we consume television. We need disruption in the oil and gas industry.
Design in Technology
In the oil and gas industry there is no expectation that something needs to look good; it just needs to be practical and do the job. For example, let’s take a look at software tools. These are used by many of our engineers to design oil and gas facilities. Most of the software is designed to do the job in question. The user interface and the look and feel of the software is an afterthought. Indeed in OLGA software, you have to pay extra for a GUI (Graphical User Interface).
In Tech, the design of the software is crucial to its success and adoption. Things have to look good, the interface for the user must be excellent, and software must be tactile and inherently understandable. This is an absolute requirement for success. We have had 3D CAD models for years, but there is no comparison in the look and feel of a PDMS model to what you see today in gaming technology.
There is so much that the oil and gas industry can learn not only from Tech, but from other industries as well. Now more than ever, we must adapt and remain open to new ways of doing things; it is absolutely critical in remaining competitive and pushing the industry forward.