An oil and gsa industry worker looks at his rugged tablet screen
By Your Edge Contributor | February 11, 2021

3 Things Holding Back the Oil and Gas Industry from Greatness in the Digital Era

Change is hard, but it’s necessary. Though field operations may require frequent manual interventions, they also require the mobilisation of operators. Start building your roadmap now.

This blog post was written by Jelle Swanenberg, Chief Operating Officer at Smartflow, a Zebra Independent Software Vendor (ISV).

As pointed out in many of the blog posts published here on Your Edge, the digital landscape can positively change the roadmap of any industry, including oil and gas. industries have embraced technology because of the current need to reshape their operations and profit from the many benefits that technology can deliver: improved productivity, higher efficiency, and increased cost savings.

However, the oil and gas industry has lacked the digital maturity needed to improve business performance at its desired pace.  That’s why digital transformation is no longer an “opportunity” to create a sustainable operating model, improve foresight into demand, improve responsiveness to market fluctuations or better manage assets. It is the only way these things can be achieved.

But, right now, there are three things keeping many oil and gas organisations from fully utilising the technology resources available to them:

1. The lack of a strategic roadmap

Building a strategic roadmap would help companies determine what is lacking in each operation from both a technology and process perspective and then define which steps to take next in order to achieve business objectives. Digitalisation doesn’t happen overnight. It is a journey that results in continuous gains. However, each small change elicits improvements and empowers companies to take another step forward. Many find they are able to adopt new operating models along the way that can be quite transformative – even before the final destination is reached.

2. Rapid changes in the digital world

Technology is advancing rapidly. Every day we look at another innovation, another update, a new feature. It is a constant movement that enables growth and transformation. But in some cases, it can also mean stress, slow adaptability to new solutions and a lack of comprehension without proper consultancy.

To make matters worse, the oil and gas industry’s digital narrative is often unclear. It can seem too complicated by decision makers who don’t spend their days researching the market or participating in technology demos. It also might feel like a burden to not understand the technical language often used by solution providers to market their offerings.

What the industry needs is structure. A comprehensive top-down approach built together with executives from all across the organisation and industry in collaboration with hardware and software providers. Together, we can assess which solutions are most capable of addressing current needs and challenges and scaling to support future needs and challenges. We can also identify and address possible fears or inhibitions of the field operators who will ultimately use the technology.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I will tell you that both Smartflow and Zebra consultants are putting much effort into identifying how the digital landscape of each customer currently operates, what the company needs to become more ready for the future, and of course, how the business can become more digital right now in a highly efficient – and cost-efficient – manner. This cooperative discovery process is an important journey to have together if we aim for fast implementation and results.

3. Lack of an agile work culture

The oil and gas industry is very project-focused, and that’s okay. The most prominent values tightly held by the industry are value-execution excellence and predictability. But there is no such thing as 'the right to make mistakes' – or bringing departments together for that matter, at least not in organisations still operating using legacy models (which are many). Because of this fixed mindset, business leaders often miss the chance to innovate using transformative data-driven solutions. That must change.

By creating a culture of fluidity and empowerment, Smartflow and Zebra are working with many business leaders to find new opportunities for oil and gas companies to remain competitive and relevant.

Decentralisation is a powerful enemy between operators and maintenance, as I noted in my last blog post. The lack of cooperation and coordination can make the transition to digital more challenging. Imagine how many productivity gaps businesses could avoid by focusing on time efficiency, quality performance, and speed performance of operations and maintenance together.


Everyone in the oil and gas industry is working relentlessly to add value to its business landscape. The business leaders we have had the pleasure to work with here at Smartflow are already putting much effort into measuring their gathered data and transform it into business performance. They are striving to create a clear communication path across all departments, so they can mutually achieve new efficiencies and improve outcomes both individually and as a collective.

However, we must continue to work together to build a secure, efficient path to transformation and maintain oversight of the digital roadmap to drive continual progress. At a minimum, operators must be equipped with rugged mobile hardware and targeted workflow software that enables them to access task actions, request or provide assistance remotely and report on progress. They also need visibility into operations holistically. Knowing what other departments are doing and when is critical given the coordination required in oil and gas operations. Front-line workers need to be able to monitor equipment utilisation and confirm maintenance or repair actions have been completed for safety and compliance purposes. It also helps to see current production capacity based on asset availability when making operational decisions.

In partnership with senior management at oil and gas organisations, we prioritise urgencies, help you find the right mobility solution for your operators, deploy the right resources, and help execute a flawless, smooth digital transformation across the entire organisation that will deliver long-term benefits.

Energy and Utilities, Field Operations,

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