Digital oilfield workflow decisions: What stays, what goes as we head back to the office

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Oil and gas companies are reinventing themselves as they confront market volatility and the upheaval from COVID-19. Recent events have underscored their need for immediate access to accurate data, whether in the back office or out in the field production data — a challenge when organizations had to switch to remote working almost overnight — to enable strategic decisions.

Businesses purchased software on the fly to ensure they could get timely information in a secure manner with minimal risk. Using these new tools, they’re digitizing many aspects of their operations, including collaboration, data transfer and access, and invoicing, to name a few.

That’s a profound shift, especially for our complex oil and gas industry. Without onsite access to local data, paper documents and coworkers down the hall, it’s more difficult to manage price fluctuations, compliance and tax regulations, and intricate ownership and partnership agreements. But by adopting new procedures, oil and gas executives have supported their remote workforce.

With the initial move to remote work behind us, companies are taking the first steps into an unknown future. Offices are starting to reopen as restrictions ease. Some employees are returning to the workplace while others remain at home. As this phased transition continues, the conversation shifts to what workflows to keep or omit.

Teams who have been working remotely for a few months have adopted new ways of working, and some digital and cloud-based processes have become standard-operating procedure. Previous concerns might no longer apply. Now is the time to regroup so you can get ahead when the market returns.

Based on our ongoing customer feedback and conversations, below are some of the changes that may become permanent, furthering your company’s digital transformation.

Tighter security for hybrid environments

Many businesses recognize the risks of employees working at home, accessing company servers and transferring data over insecure home networks. They’ve educated staff on best practices and required more stringent password protocols, restricted access to servers and files, implemented stronger encryption and created new alerts to cover more endpoints. Teams are turning their attention to protecting a hybrid work environment — one that encompasses best practices for remote working and in-office protocols.

Digital document management and storage

Manual workflows, paper documents and physical file rooms are not compatible with a work-at-home world. Remote employees can’t pull hard-copy files, approve documents or sign off on invoices. This new normal of working from home prompted a switch to digital document management, which offers many advantages.

Teams can log into the system from anywhere and use keywords to search and retrieve documents. A digital repository and automated workflow also expedites version control and document distribution. Plus, no one wants to have to rifle through a huge room of filing cabinets. Cut five steps down to three, and employees will return in kind with more efficiency.

Financial and business automation

One of the hardest transitions for finance executives was the move from paper to digital. Software that now automates reports and other activities like a monthly close is faster and less error prone.

By automating accruals, for example, financial executives ended duplicated data entry, which improved consistency and accuracy. Companies also optimized accounts receivables and accounts payable by converting these cash inflows and outflows to an electronic or ACH process. This level of automation is here to stay.

Cloud and mobile adoption

The move to the cloud during COVID-19 went way beyond digital transformation. It was about access. While back-office cloud usage has lagged in the oil and gas industry, cloud adoption is now a top priority. The benefits outweigh the risks, if done right.

Employees can bring their technology into the field with them. They can work and stay connected to the office without internet access. Mobile apps streamline not only how you capture data in the field, but how your back-office staff uses it.

Some employees may find the change from paper to digital intimidating. Once they realize how much time and money the company is saving, they’re likely to embrace it. These benefits coupled with a clear vision for digital transformation from leadership will enable a smoother transition.

Management needs to spell out the vision, stressing the benefits—enhanced efficiency, higher productivity, and time and money savings—to rally the troops behind the transition.

A stronger, smarter organization will better withstand the current market conditions and more strongly position itself for a recovery. And nobody will argue with that.

Want to talk about your financial and operational digital workflows? Let’s talk.