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The future belongs to the digital engineer

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jim Crompton and Dutch Holland's new book explains why digital engineers could have the most exciting role in the future oil and gas industry

"The future belongs to the digital engineer", a new book by Digital Energy Journal columnist Dutch Holland and former Chevron IT advisor Jim Crompton, explains why the most exciting role in the future oil and gas industry might be the digital engineer - or the people who get digital technology working properly in oil and gas companies.

A digital engineer could come from either an IT, engineering or operations background, but the critical thing is that they understand how to implement digital technology - a major challenge in itself, which also requires an understanding of how the organisation works, what digital technology can do, and where digital technology can add value.

Mr Holland and Mr Crompton argue that the future oil and gas industry will be far less reliant on highly expert superstars than it has been in the past.

Projects will become so varied and complex that expertise on one project will not be particularly useful on another. This will probably mean that if people have gathered a large amount of expertise, they might find that much of it cannot be applied to the next problem they work on.

Instead, the industry will be reliant for more on collective knowledge and collaborative working - and the supporting data management tools - to get the work done.

But you shouldn't underestimate the challenge of implementing new technology, they say, and in particular, data management is much harder than you think.

As well as explaining the digital engineer's role and why it is important, the book serves as a comprehensive reference manual for how to be one, including step by step advice on tasks such as communicating the vision of digital engineering, how to change work processes and procedures, how to change your facilities and equipment, how to change performance management, and how to lead projects.

It should prove worthwhile reading for anyone considering working in the oil and gas industry on the digital side - or developing their current role to take more of a digital engineering slant to it.

There are not many people (if any) with the job title "digital engineer" in the oil and gas industry, but a fast growing number of individuals who fulfil this role, involved in implementing digital technology.

Dutch Holland, based in Houston, is a specialist in change management and organisational project management.

Jim Crompton, based now on Colorado, is a former senior advisor for upstream IT, i-field adviser and manager of organisational capability at Chevron, and a 37 year Chevron veteran.

Maturity levels

In their book, Mr Holland and Mr Crompton describe 5 levels of maturity for digital technology implementations at oil and gas companies.

If you implement digital technology by finding some exciting technology then looking for someone in the oil company who agrees to let you try it, you're at level 1.

If the process starts with the operations department saying they need some technology, and technology department providing what they think they want, then you're at level 2.

If the operations department starts by making a specific request for technology - and the technology department deliver what is specifically asked for, then you try to get everyone to use it, you're at level 3.

If you are at any of these 3 levels, you're actually losing money, Mr Holland and Mr Crompton believe. That is to say, your project will not deliver enough benefits to cover its costs.

You might make a small return on your project if you start with a specific request from technology from the operations department, and the operations department designs new work processes to go with it, and gets the organisation prepared to use it. This is level 4.

But to make the real returns, you probably need digital engineers as an intermediary between the operations and technology departments - who have a comprehensive understanding of the business processes, and can work out if the proposed digital technology can add value to them. The digital engineers can make sure the technology implementation works - by getting it properly configured (working with the technology department) and getting the organisation fully prepared for it.

The book is available in for $15.25 (paperback) and $11.25 (Kindle edition).

Associated Companies
» Holland Management Consulting

External Links
» Buy on Amazon

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