Energized Collaboration

I have been fully immersed in the digital transformation movement for over six years now, establishing and leading the Schlumberger digital innovation center in Silicon Valley, and working with oil companies all over the world on step change innovation. I feel proud and fortunate to be part of our industry research and development during such an exciting time. The digital movement is not just about technology. Equally important is the change of in attitudes, behavior, and the embrace of new ways of working. Collaboration, the willingness and ability to work openly and closely together, between individuals, departments, organizations and companies, is fundamental in order to bring individual technology components together into meaningful business transforming workflows.

The new digital toolbox of technologies such as cloud infrastructure, machine learning, data ecosystems and internet of things, promises to bring us step changes in performance and outcomes across our exploration and field development operations and drilling organizations. Even the deepest of challenges posed by the tumultuous downturn over the last few years, has a positive side effect of opening hearts and minds to new ways of working and has even been an important catalyst to accelerate and advance digital solutions. This new wave resonates well with digitally savvy young professionals and also energizes experienced professionals who see the potential to reinvent their discipline workflows and their careers.

Building and executing a digital strategy can feel overwhelming to any organization. The promise of rewards is monumental across the whole range of industry workflows. Equally monumental are the resources, costs, and time required to build, customize, integrate and deploy digital solutions across the business. Initial excitement fueled by promising proof of concepts and experiments, can lead to disillusionment when the effort needed to mature the technology all the way to a scalable and industrialized solution becomes apparent. No one company can travel this journey alone. Even the largest operator and service company must join forces with partners to realize the potential.

The track record for close collaboration in our industry has not always been the best. Historically there are many examples of rigid and transactional relationships that, combined with lack of openness around workflows, business challenges and technology potential, is not only inefficient, but simply does not allow companies to thrive and survive in the new economy. Fortunately, this is changing fast. Companies are questioning the strategic and competitive advantage of secrecy and protective measures and are aggressively looking for areas where they can benefit from openness and collaboration.

So what does this mean in practice? Let me illustrate with an example scenario that I believe is fairly representative of common practices in our industry. An operator and technology provider have a long standing and mutually beneficial business relationship for advanced technology and services. In order to advance digital technology, the two companies meet every year to exchange requirements, challenges and technology roadmaps. Similarly, every year the operator will test and validate the new technology advancements and give feedback and recommendations to the technology company. The intentions of both companies are good and well intentioned. The discussions are enthusiastic and engaged, however they are also guarded and somewhat superficial; both companies are concerned about protecting their competitive advantage and guarding the extent of which they can go to share business workflows, technology details, and competitive intelligence. Unfortunately for the companies, a one-year superficial feedback cycle is anything but efficient. The missed opportunities for mutual influence are endless. Contrast this to a partnership model where cross organizational teams of the leading experts from both companies are working together in a series of two-week sprints towards clear and challenging shared visions and goals, constantly validating and improving, based on a fundamental principle of openness and mutual insight. In my experience, this collaboration model builds trust, builds motivated employees, builds deep understanding, and fundamentally builds much better technology much faster.

In Schlumberger, we have a long history of deep technology collaborations with customers. What is new now is that we have broadened these programs to a significantly larger group of companies and organizations. We have made large contributions to industry standardization and open source initiatives. We see this as a significant competitive advantage for Schlumberger and for all participating companies, and we are determined to demonstrate again and again that we are worthy of the trust shown to us from our partners.

As companies relax past restrictions on sharing workflows, challenges, business practices, data, and software, they are experiencing that perceived risk to competitiveness has often been gravely exaggerated, and that the rewards usually far exceed the cost. Deep collaboration and partnership is currently the model adopted by the leaders and first movers in digital transformation in our industry, I believe it will soon become the norm for all successful companies.

Author information: Morten has worked with software development for Schlumberger in Norway and internationally for more than two decades. In the early years, he rolled out agile software development practices for the company and managed multi-discipline projects with global coordination. He managed the software development centers in Oslo, Stavanger and Bergen dedicated to the development of industry leading technologies such as Petrel* subsurface modeling platform and the Ocean* open software development framework. He established and led the Software Technology Innovation Center (STIC) in Silicon Valley, California, dedicated to the digital transformation of Schlumberger products and services, before returning to Norway in 2017.  In his current role Morten has global responsibility for digital innovation projects in collaboration with key strategic customers to accelerate innovation and adoption of Schlumberger digital technologies.

Morten Jensen

Morten Jensen

Innovation Addict


Useful links:

Digital Transformation Consulting

Digital Innovation Labs