The industry is stepping into the “uberisation” of the sector, according to a digital expert.
However, Burness Paull’s head of technology Callum Sinclair insisted the sector must talk less and do more when it comes to cyber capabilities.
“We are stepping into an uberisation of the oil and gas industry. But data has always been a key part of the sector,” he said.
“You just have to look at programmes run by Oil and Gas UK, things like the Common Data Access scheme. I think the industry has always recognised the value that comes from data in terms of making the right decisions. But over the last five years or so the online world personalised. The Googles and Amazons of this world have overtaken the industry in many ways.
“More data has been created over the last two years in all of mankind. And in one year we can expect to have even more data than that. Data is growing at an exceptional rate. Against that general background, the industry has recognised the opportunity that can be gained, whether it be making better, more accurate decisions or if it’s just about making decisions quicker.
“My concern is that we’re still talking about what we can do, but due to the rate of change that talk is difficult to keep up in an old-fashioned, in many ways clunky, industry.”
For the North Sea, that acceleration will come from its existing “puzzle pieces”.
“I describe Aberdeen like a jigsaw puzzle,” he said.
“We have all the pieces, we just don’t know how they all fit together. I think we’ve got a real opportunity with the OGTC and OGIC and ONE digital. There are lot of strengths that these organisations are bringing together to accelerate Aberdeen and make it a digital innovation hub for the industry, which I think is hugely exciting for Aberdeen and the wider industry.”
Part of that strategy should be streamlining the digital potential, according to Mr Sinclair.
“It’s about creating clarity in the noise. Data can be described as an ocean. I think it’s important we focus our efforts on the lakes of data available and not the ocean. By doing that we will get clearer deliverables that we can be proud of and work to grow.”
But data should be used for more than understanding wells, according to the tech expert.
“We don’t use data about people in the same way the retail industry does, but the sector still has a workforce and that workforce is generating data about them,” he said.
“The industry should be looking to deploy digital technologies that monitor and track and the performance of the workforce to ensure that the right decisions are being taken and that people are being deployed in the right parts of the business at the right times. That all gives rise to data protection issues of course, so we have to be mindful that data protection regulation will influence decisions. The new regulations to be fully implemented in May 2018 (the GDPR) implements a privacy by design concept. That requires us minimise personal data collections, which seems a bit alien when we talk about growth of data in the industry. But you can understand why we need to focus on that, as the less data you hold about people, the less risk there is to the business in terms of fines for breach of the regulation.
“So we need to look at more techniques to limit information and anonymise it wherever possible. But that doesn’t mean the information is useless.”
The final piece of the puzzle is attracting the right skills and talent to continue to push the digital agenda.
“It should be a top priority in all organisations,” Mr Sinclair added.
“The industry should be promoting very actively the career opportunities within digital. The difficultly the industry is going to face in fighting for the talent is remaining attractive against the sexier Googles and Amazons of the world.
“If you look at the west coast of America and all of the technology companies there, why can’t we be like that? We should aspire to be digital anchor for the industry.
“There is no reason why Aberdeen cannot capitalise on the existing knowledge base we have and become a digital centre for excellence. That is a hugely exciting opportunity.”