An oil & gas firm’s pragmatic fix for its mobile workforce woes may soon become the norm

The IS portfolio manager with GDF E&P discusses how collaboration tools are helping his company

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oil and gas unified communications

The year ahead poses a number of challenges for oil and gas companies, from financing growth to securing talent and managing public perception. So, on top of everything else, how important are technologies such as unified communications — business critical or just another buzzword?

According to IDC Energy Insight’s predictions for the worldwide oil and gas industry in 2014, changes in supply and demand have altered the industry. And this will result in stepping up investment in new information and communications technology to support objectives such as operational resiliency and enhanced productivity.

For oil and gas companies that are rapidly expanding, with workforces that are geographically spread out and in remote locations (oftentimes around the world) and typically are supported by a rather small IT team, communications are directly linked to productivity.

For one U.K.-based company, UC is clearly not just a buzzword: it’s part of an overall strategy that includes enabling mobility to increase productivity and retain talent.

GDF Suez E&P UK is rolling out a UC project that will deliver an integrated set of communications features to optimize business processes, including voice, video, audio, data sharing, instant messaging, conferencing and presence. The project also aims to open up mobility options with employees and partners.

David Lloyd, IS portfolio manager with GDF E&P, said in a podcast on Oil & Gas IQ that UC means bringing together different communications channels onto one platform and providing users with a consistent experience across all of those channels.

The company also has a mobile strategy that connects back to its overall UC project. Like many in this industry, Lloyd’s biggest concern is security; the company is looking for a top-quality mobile device management package to ensure the devices they put out there are as secure as possible.

But, he adds, it’s also important to find a balance between personal and corporate use. Because, while security is top of mind, so is attracting and retaining talent, as well as improving the overall user experience.

Like many oil and gas companies, GDP E&P is expanding its operations and has an increasingly mobile workforce. “We’ve got more offices, production yards, development areas, warehousing — we need our staff to be fully mobile and have access to all of the data and communications they would use on a day-to-day basis,” said Lloyd.

His company decided to take a choose-your-own-device approach, where the company provides a “menu” of devices carefully chosen by the IT department. This is because, as Lloyd says, GDP E&P is a fast growing but not fully mature company in terms of business processes. CYOD offers users flexibility, without the company’s relatively small IT department having to support a potentially massive plethora of devices.

The big question around all of this is ROI. For Lloyd, it all boils down to lost time and productivity.

“As we grow as a company, we have a lot of staff traveling between different offices and indeed internationally,” he said. “Management time is not cheap and the UC and mobility initiatives aim to make it easy for those people to drop into a call, video or chat formally or informally from anywhere in the world at any time of the day.”

So maybe UC is both. No doubt, it’s a buzzword — but it’s also business critical, especially in an industry that’s changing so rapidly and faces numerous challenges in the year ahead.

Download the industry brief: Industry Brief: Creating a collaborative network in the oil and gas industry

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