Oil and Gas Pros View Social Media as Important for Productivity, Collaboration; Yet Few Firms Have Tools in Place, New Survey Reports
Feb. 18, 2009
Microsoft and Accenture research reveals industry loses almost a half billion dollars annually due to inefficiencies around finding, using and sharing information among engineers alone.

HOUSTON — Feb. 18, 2009 — Forty percent of oil and gas professionals believe company adoption of new social media tools, including social networking sites, would boost productivity on the job, yet only one out of four report leveraging these newer tools to capture and share important information internally, according to a new Microsoft Corp. and Accenture survey released today at the Microsoft Global Energy Forum 2009.

The Microsoft and Accenture “Oil and Gas Collaboration Survey 2009,” conducted by PennEnergy in partnership with the Oil & Gas Journal Research Center, surveyed industry engineers, geoscientists and business managers worldwide and found that more than 70 percent believe that collaboration and knowledge-sharing are important for driving revenue, cutting costs and contributed to the health and safety of workers. However, in spite of this, most respondents stated that their organizations are still using older means of collaboration, such as face-to-face meetings, e-mails and conference calls, even though newer, more sophisticated technology tools are available and in demand today.

Perhaps more telling is that 61 percent of respondents said they spend at least one hour each working day searching for information and knowledge sources necessary for their jobs. With an estimated 65,000 engineering professionals in the global oil and gas industry today, this translates into a potential loss of almost 10 million people-hours a year among engineers alone, an average net annual loss of $485 million for the industry, calculated according to U.S. Department of Labor salary statistics.

“During this time of economic upheaval, when every dollar counts and effective decision-making is crucial, new technologies such as social media tools can help oil and gas industry professionals find information, collaborate and generally be more productive,” said Craig Hodges, U.S. energy and chemicals industry solutions director at Microsoft. “In an environment with fewer workers and less resources, this is incremental productivity our industry can use in finding new reserves, improving execution of capital projects, driving new innovations and reducing costs.”

Social Media: Available Now or Vision for the Future?

The survey pointed to one path companies can take to help maximize productivity and facilitate knowledge-sharing and capture. Specifically, 41.5 percent of those polled said they could save at least an hour every day by using these newer and more effective collaboration tools.

Surveyed professionals also revealed that advanced collaboration and information-sharing capabilities bring value not only in sharing enterprise knowledge but also in completing operational projects. For example, 74 percent said that these capabilities are very important in managing capital projects to drive down costs; 51 percent said they are very important in sourcing scarce technical skills needed to enhance revenues; and 50 percent saw these new technologies as very important to the sharing of health and safety advisories or experiences.

“Companies are dealing with several trends right now, not only the aging workforce walking out the door with decades of knowledge, but also experienced hires coming into their businesses who need to understand a new corporate culture,” said Claire Markwardt, senior executive, Accenture’s energy practice. “Companies have an opportunity to supplement their existing collaboration capabilities with newer tools such as podcasts and social networks to accelerate the sharing of knowledge, increase teaming and augment communication between their workforces in different regions.”

While more than half the respondents favored adopting social media technologies to help shrink the productivity gap, only 37 percent of respondents think their companies are prepared or very prepared to facilitate enhanced sharing and capturing of the company’s intellectual capital. When asked why, almost half (48 percent) said company management doesn’t view these issues as a problem. And 44 percent laid responsibility for lack of readiness on older workers who do not typically use digital knowledge-sharing capabilities. Still others said that vital company information is locked on individual PCs or spreadsheets not available for easy sharing.

“In the oil and gas industry, collaboration is a key strategy to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and promote collaborative working relationships among oilfield asset teams located in remote locations around the globe,” said Jill Feblowitz, practice director at Energy Insights an IDC company. “Energy Insights believes that the momentum behind Web 2.0 will bring it to the oil and gas industry. Web 2.0 technologies can support the following industry requirements: connection with remote geographic locations, knowledge capture, knowledge access, informal knowledge sharing, and joint ventures and team projects.”

Despite Economy, Workers Still Retiring and Capturing Knowledge Still Challenging

Survey respondents also confirmed that concern about capturing knowledge from experienced workers before they retire or leave the company is prevalent. As might be expected, more than half (53 percent) reported that aging workers are retiring in increasing numbers.

However, survey respondents stated that the tools primarily used to retain this knowledge and intellectual capital from retiring workers are largely older methods, such as electronic file shares (64 percent), databases or repositories (58 percent) and written documents/physical files (58 percent). In fact, almost a quarter of respondents reported exit interviews as the tool used most often to capture knowledge from these workers.

Respondents overwhelmingly said new collaboration technologies can help stem this flow of exiting knowledge. When asked which of the social media tools would be most beneficial for this task

  • 81 percent cited Internet portals

  • 58 percent pointed to social networking sites

  • 56 percent named video or photo sharing

  • 44 percent cited blogs or mini-blogs

  • 43 percent preferred wikis

Corporate Cultures Slow to Change

When asked how well their corporate cultures support the adoption of these new tools, only about one-third of respondents think their company cultures are well aligned with implementation of new social media technologies. Far more view their organizations as not proactive, not encouraging and/or opposed to the use of these information technology innovations as business tools.

About the Microsoft and Accenture “Oil & Gas Industry Collaboration Survey 2009”

The Microsoft and Accenture “Oil & Gas Industry Survey 2009” was conducted by research firm PennEnergy in partnership with the Oil & Gas Journal Research Center in January 2009. The online survey represents the responses of 272 oil and gas industry engineers, project managers, business unit heads and geoscientists, as well as mid- and senior-level executives of various ages and levels of experience. Survey participants represented upstream, midstream and downstream industry sectors with participants from North America, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, South America, Europe and Africa. Company types represented included international oil companies, national oil companies, independents, service and supply companies and consultants. Full survey methodology and results are available at http://www.microsoft.com/oilandgas.

About Microsoft in Oil & Gas

Meeting the challenges of global energy supply and demand depends on integrated business processes, breakthrough innovations and solid business relationships. Together with its partners, Microsoft delivers technology solutions that help people in the oil and gas industry make better decisions faster. More information about Microsoft in the oil and gas industry can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/oilandgas.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With more than 186,000 people serving clients in over 120 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$23.39 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2008. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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