The oil and gas industry is one of the most complex when it comes to emerging technology implementation. Yet as complicated as it is, it’s people and processes which will ultimately move the needle, according to Jim Claunch, vice president of business efficiency at Equinor.
This is not to say that the tech side can be overlooked. Take a look at the sheer amount of data Equinor gets hold of; from its 1200 plus operating wells in its US Onshore business– some with three sensors attached, others with seven – real-time data gets extracted every 15 minutes. Add in the terabytes of data generated from drilling operations, as well as what Claunch describes as ‘truckloads’ on the sub-surface side, then it’s an awful lot to get through.
Yet Claunch (left), who is speaking at IoT Tech Expo North America in Santa Clara next month, notes the importance of people – and particularly leading people – in creating a culture of change.
“What I find really fascinating about the leadership journey is although we all talk about technology, we talk about digital… the leadership challenge boils down to connecting with people,” says Claunch. “It’s not about managing tasks – now we’re solving problems with such a diverse group of competencies and age groups where there’s no possible way an individual can understand the detail of all the tasks of a production engineer, a maintenance engineer, a data scientist, a software engineer. It’s not possible.
“The challenge becomes ‘okay, how do I as a leader create a culture where all of these different age groups and competencies feel like they’re part of the winning team, delivering this business outcome? How do I make them feel like part of this team?’ When you start bringing the word ‘feel’ into leadership, or into management, that’s truly about leading people and it can be quite challenging for some.”
The passion Claunch has for this comes through readily in his voice. As the next generation workforce comes through, it’s all about tapping into that talent and leading them correctly. “I think there’s still going to be times when, as leaders, we have to be more hands-on,” he explains. “You can be hands-on if you’re seeing the development of a multi-disciplined team and they’re really struggling towards their business outcome, struggling to find a rhythm.
“I think as leaders then, it’s on us at that point in time to figure out what we need to do to help them be successful,” adds Claunch. “It’s not necessarily ‘is the data scientist or software engineer doing their job right?’ – it’s just revisiting the overall outcome of what you’re trying to accomplish and ensuring that’s understood.” There will be times when people just aren’t performing up to expectations and it is in those times that leaders need to coach for improved performance. “These are hard conversations and yet not only help the team but help the individual as well. All leaders should be coaches and willing to do what it takes to help improve individuals and teams.”
Part of Claunch’s presentation will focus on how personal technology transformation has eclipsed corporations. “Most corporations just really haven’t transformed themselves as much as we have as human beings over the last 10 – 12 years,” he says.
Of course, corporations are much greater entities than a single person – and the perpetually shifting sands don’t help their cause. Whence IoT was the next big thing, focus turns into other technologies – blockchain, AI, VR. Yet organisations today are beginning to understand the importance of using these emerging technologies in tandem. Take what CCS Insight noted at its yearly predictions event earlier this month; their very first punt was that by 2021, AI, blockchain and IoT will become ‘highly interdependent’ technologies.
Claunch agrees. “I see within the industry, so many companies automating down the same traditional silos we’ve had forever, and I think the industry is going to wake up in 12-18 months and say ‘where are we? How did we get here? Where do we go from here?’
“The real intent of my presentation is to make people begin to think broader than automation, broader than AI, broader than AR and VR, and [to think] – how is this going to impact our companies? How is it going to impact our culture? How does diversity and inclusion work in the future?” he adds.
Given all of this, is making some progress not good enough? “This is something we talk about all the time,” says Claunch. “What I would say is we have intentionally been patient in the beginning. We have focused on some things that we believe are truly foundational – like we believe cloud computing is foundational to our success forever and ever. We have focused on new ways of working, agile teams, and building some discipline into working differently.
“I think there’s some things you should be patient with, but as you get those things in place, you’ve got to be quick – short sprints, solving the business opportunity, design thinking, and thinking all the time about how do I scale this.”
Ultimately however, it’s an ongoing process rather than expecting to just flick a switch and expect change. “Digital transformation is not necessarily about automating the ways we work, it’s not necessarily about data analytics, it’s not necessarily about big data or managing data differently,” adds Claunch. “There is a cultural, industrial, and company-wide change that has to occur.”