This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of OnWindows.
Global oil prices are at their lowest level in 13 years. However, while consumers may be celebrating paying less for their fuel and energy bills, the same cannot be said for companies operating in the oil and gas industry.
“Falling oil prices are forcing oil and gas companies to alter their price margins at fuel pumps and they’re also reducing the amount of available capital expenditure these organisations have to optimise their operations,” explains Phil Aldrich, business unit director of advanced solutions and end-user computing at Dimension Data. “Plus, when prices decrease, companies are compelled to lay off staff in their drilling and production facilities, leaving them with a financial burden and the need to achieve more with fewer people. Over the next decade, renewable energies such as wind and solar will begin to replace fossil fuels as more economically and environmentally friendly sources for electrical power generation, which will create new operational challenges.”
Faced by dwindling workforces and a lack of capital expenditure, oil and gas companies are looking for more sustainable ways to streamline business operations and manage IT infrastructures and data securely and efficiently.
“Businesses are exploring how to capitalise on mobile technologies and smart devices to boost staff productivity, as well as how to implement real-time automation and analytics technologies to mitigate security and pricing concerns, counter threats from competitors and respond to disasters,” says Aldrich. “Sensors, internet of things technologies and machine learning are also becoming popular to help oil and gas companies manage processes in their oil refineries and the supply chain. Meanwhile, predictive analytics tools are helping them to plan future investments in technology and resources.”
A growing number of oil and gas companies are turning to enterprise communication and collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for Business to become more productive and reduce operational costs.
“Mergers and acquisitions are common in the oil and gas industry, so large companies often operate expensive siloed systems that are unable to communicate with one another and they have hardware that’s spread across various geographical locations,” comments Alex Bennett, go-to-market director of workspace productivity and end-user computing at Dimension Data. “By implementing Office 365, companies can standardise document management and facilitate real-time communication and collaboration between colleagues, or external partners in their supply chain and even their end customers. This significantly boosts productivity.”
Combining Office 365 with Skype for Business reduces operational costs even further, adds Aldrich.
“In the past, a large oil company might have needed to install and maintain separate IT infrastructures and hardware for up to 20,000 employees located in teams of five to 20 people in remote regions worldwide, which was prohibitively expensive,” he explains. “Now they can adopt Skype for Business and simply install an internet connection to manage all of their communication and collaboration needs in the cloud. In addition, being able to collaborate instantly using voice or video empowers companies to make better informed decisions more quickly, while Skype for Business’ near real-time translation capabilities reduce language barriers. We certainly expect the industry to rapidly adopt Skype for Business over the next few years.”
Often, oil and gas companies opt to deploy IT-as-a-service (ITaaS) solutions from providers like Dimension Data, which aims to design IT infrastructures for the ‘workspace of tomorrow’; this empowers organisations to enable innovative new business models by seamlessly integrating their business infrastructure with end-user technologies allowing people to work smarter from anywhere and on a device of their choice.
“ITaaS solutions allow companies to consume IT services according to their actual needs, so they can easily scale their network up and down as oil prices, and thereby their workforce and operations, change,” explains Bennett. “We track industry trends and work closely with our clients to understand their business requirements before rolling out the technology that will help them reduce costs while mitigating challenges associated with the operating global IT networks. Pre- and post-implementation, we train employees to use the technology and continue to monitor the IT infrastructure so we can proactively respond to any service issues and ensure everything remains secure.”
Already, Dimension Data has helped some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies to deploy Office 365, Skype for Business and other technologies to improve workforce collaboration and productivity.
“Currently, we’re helping a multinational oil and gas organisation migrate its global employees from its existing telephony platform to Skype for Business to improve how it collaborates both internally and externally,” says Bennett. “In the past, technology was implemented to support enterprises, but now it must be embedded directly within the business model to facilitate key operational processes and ensure oil and gas companies are sufficiently agile to be successful in the future digital world.”
Dimension Data brings workspaces for tomorrow to the oil and gas industry as an end-to-end portfolio of services. The company leverages its expertise in systems integration and networking platforms, plus its consulting methodologies and partnerships with technology vendors like Microsoft to offer customised, cost-effective solutions that can be deployed rapidly. Dimension Data’s hybrid IT solutions – private, on-premise and public cloud – offer the control, security and flexibility oil and gas industry players need to transform to new and more competitive business models.
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