After Cuts, A Chance for Reinvention

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After Cuts, A Chance for Reinvention

Cost-cutting throughout the Energy & Engineering sector has triggered some 350,000 US layoffs, and this has far-reaching implications for content management initiatives. What some people don’t realize is there is an opportunity to reinvent the business and come out stronger once crude prices rebound. One pragmatic road forward is to look at the extended digital […]

Cost-cutting throughout the Energy & Engineering sector has triggered some 350,000 US layoffs, and this has far-reaching implications for content management initiatives. What some people don’t realize is there is an opportunity to reinvent the business and come out stronger once crude prices rebound. One pragmatic road forward is to look at the extended digital enterprise model, and how that vision can inform moves you make in today’s cost-conscious market environment. Here are three areas to consider.

Streamline & Digitize your Documentation Assets

First to address tactically today, is knowledge retention, as veteran workers who are no longer employed cannot readily tell colleagues how to fix a valve or where gas line maps are filed. Short term, it’s important to move documents into a centralized archive, as well as rapidly capture and ingest at-risk content areas (such as a subsidiary’s maintenance documentation).

As an example, although one Oil & Gas operator bought a set of North Sea offshore assets from a global major, it inadvertently did not buy the crews maintaining the plant pumps. That maintenance knowledge was held by specialized contractors and outside the acquired entity’s documentation set. Whether you are planning to sell or hoping to buy, streamlining your documentation makes sense in improving your business.

Long-term, it should become clear that purely paper-driven solutions for knowledge retention are not feasible. While it might take a bit of investment now, having critical documentation digital, accessible, and portable will be a basic requirement for the extended digital enterprise model. It will no longer be acceptable to misfile paper drawings or take months to onboard supporting help, as digital transformation expedites timeframes and shares content differently.

Build A Flexible New Workforce

Second, and more strategically, is a rare chance to consider new business models and organizational approaches to restaffing your business later. Currently the industry is heavily dependent upon contractors, who share accountability and significant responsibilities to deliver new builds or manage aging assets.

Moving forward, viewing the industry in light of an extended enterprise model means an opportunity to build smaller organizations and increase partnerships. While outsourcing might never reach the levels of the automotive industry, there is opportunity to reshape. For companies who identify core competencies, such as extraction, any auxiliary services could be structured as outsourced roles rather than as employee positions.

This builds more flexibility into handling future downturns. For any manager who has had to personally let staff go, it could be priceless to avoid the pain of job cuts (not to mention the pain for loyal employees losing their jobs).

Compete for Local Talent Addressing Global Issues

New hire staffing can also be considered differently if you approach the downturn as a chance to build out your future extended digital enterprise. Complex work, with significant health and safety considerations, will always still have to be completed. This raises several actionable areas.

First, without veterans to learn from, the enterprise reliance upon content management will be all the more important. Beyond keeping equipment running safely, having your content available digitally will enable faster onboarding and time-to-productivity – at least for the humans you hire, if not the robots.

Second, your new hires may expect mobile access to tools, modern applications, and a highly collaborative style of getting work done. For those of you still clinging to paper, it will be difficult to attract the best and the brightest. Consider as well where you can use automated tools that reduce excessive human overhead, and keep new hires in roles needing critical thinking or analysis.

Third, and perhaps more important as you consider the industry’s place within local communities and the global stage, is your ability to improve environmental impact metrics. For many new hires, green causes are driving their interest in working for energy companies like solar or wind. Finding ways today to start reducing your company’s environmental impact (no more paper, for example), and better serve your local communities will help with recruiting.

In summary, cost-cutting can only go so far, and now is the time to reinvent. Start with low hanging fruit like organizing and digitizing critical content. Then map plans for a digital extended enterprise that works more efficiently, perhaps with a smaller employee footprint, but a greater presence through modern connected tools and content.

— By Martin Richards, EMC Corporation’s Enterprise Content Division Senior Director of Energy Industry Solutions. Follow @MartinR_Eng

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