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New methods of collaboration are allowing oil and gas companies to contend with the shortage of experienced personnel.
A search for stories about the shortage of skilled and experienced personnel in the oil and gas industry on EPmag.com yields about 200 hits. The headlines of these stories convey a serious message, and they have been saying the same thing for nearly a decade:
• The skills shortage is real;
• Shortage looms in key positions;
• Industry faces key-worker shortage; and
• Something must be done.
In an industry that depends on continued technology advances, having access to experts is critical. That need is behind the move toward collaboration centers that allow remotely located experts to confer on technical issues.
Dwayne Spradlin, president and CEO of InnoCentive Inc., a company that specializes in facilitating innovation, explained to attendees of the company’s Oil & Gas Innovation Symposium in Houston in November that the cost of innovation is escalating rapidly. “This is a very real phenomenon,” he said.
The oil and gas industry is aware of this problem and is developing more conferences that address the need for IE (intelligent energy) and IO (integrated operations), both of which depend heavily on collaboration. The Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Intelligent Energy (IE) Conference is one of them.
Two years ago, the conference focused on hardware and tools – like remote well sensing tools, downhole gauges, and remotely actuated valves that allow production to be maximized by shutting off the flow from zones producing too much water or too little oil or gas.
In March, 2010, the focus of IE10 in Utrecht was on creating “intelligent fields” by connecting the right decision-makers to expedite the decision-making process. Operators that are implementing IO are realizing huge benefits by putting the right people together to make real-time operations decisions.
For companies to compete in a world of constrained human resources, it is essential that new field development and operational concepts be developed. Rapid innovation is fundamental to the industry’s ability to meet its objectives.
According to Spradlin, open innovation (OI) is one way to escalate innovation because it breaks down boundaries both inside and outside the organization. “The focus,” he said “is on getting the technology needed to get the job done.” Simply put, “It’s about changing the mentality of ‘The lab is my world’ to ‘The world is my lab.’”
Collaboration drives business
Statoil’s Trond Lilleng, who spoke at IO10 in Utrecht, was vehement about the change in approach that is needed if the industry is going to advance technologies at the speed that is required.
“We have to be courageous,” he said. “New solutions will require deep changes to the way we think, deep changes to the way we work, and deep changes to the way we collaborate.”
OI is one of those deep changes.
Earlier this year, Steve Ballmer, chief executive at Microsoft, talked with Hart about how collaboration is changing and how Microsoft is facilitating that change. When asked what innovations are on the horizon at Microsoft that apply specifically to customers in the oil and gas world, he answered, “Cloud computing is No. 1.”
He continued, “It’ll be a big deal to all enterprises. It’s particularly a big deal in an industry like oil and gas where there’s so much data involved, and so much need for computing. There’s so much collaboration that spans company boundaries today — the way the service companies work with the oil producers, and the way the oil producers work with one another in partnerships and joint ventures. It’s an environment where people want to share information across organizational boundaries in unique ways. The cloud allows that. It drives cost out and drives agility.”
OI is a concept that companies like InnoCentive have embraced to assist companies in practically every discipline – including oil and gas – expand their reach and increase their agility by extending the concept of collaboration.
InnoCentive’s expertise is in OI. The company has devised a way to expand innovation capabilities by building a more collaborative approach to problem solving and providing the means to tap into the best minds in the world. Creative problem solving is no longer limited to people within the company or even within the industry. This approach to OI opens access to experts and innovative thinkers around the world.
The company allows an organization seeking answers (Seekers) to pose problems that those interested solving critical and pressing problems (Solvers) compete to provide solutions for.
Solvers, Spradlin said, are motivated by the challenge of solving a difficult problem, are interested in being part of a peer group of like-minded people, and are interested in the financial rewards offered through InnoCentive.
Solvers from 200 countries work through InnoCentive to address some of the world’s most challenging problems, including those placed by Seekers like US government entities such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
“Although InnoCentive doesn’t limit who can join” Spradlin said, “the company has attracted more than 220,000 core Solvers, 61% of whom have Master’s or PhD degrees.”
The value of InnoCentive is that it is allowing oil and gas companies to reach experts in other industries all over the world.
The solution is simple, Spradlin said. “We connect Seekers with Solvers and put you on the shortest, most cost-effective path to finding a solution.”