6 Ways Intelligent Information Management Streamlines Oil & Gas Operations

Introduction 

In 2016, IDC predicted that by 2019, digital transformation will help Oil & Gas companies cut costs and increase efficiencies by 10-50 % and that 40 % of all Oil & Gas companies will gain insights from analytics and AI solutions. Yet here we are, and many oil and gas companies still struggle to efficiently manage documents, data and information needed to run a tight ship.

In the oil and gas industry, information technology is a key component for energy organisations. And while there are a range of IT domains relevant for the oil and gas sector (such as data warehousing, networking, unified communications, and enterprise resource planning), this whitepaper is focused on intelligent information management (IIM) and oil and gas docuement management software — primarily how an oil and gas company can mitigate key challenges by improving how they manages their content.

Information management is an IT domain that holds great promise for delivering significant value to oil and gas organisations of all shapes and sizes. The value IT has for the management of data in oil and gas organisations will be realised over the near term in four areas:

DIGITISATION | Converting paper-based, manual business processes to paperless, automated ones

MOBILITY | Enabling mobile access to and management of content Collaboration | Facilitating interactions between distributed, global teams

SYSTEM INTEGRATION | Using IIM as the glue to bring together systems for managing assets, financials, and supply chain with the documents related to them

Oil and gas companies are faced with a unique set of challenges — from exploration and production to decommissioning wells to geographic information mapping. Over the last 30 years, paper-intensive companies in information-centric industries like insurance, banking, and financial services have made significant progress in creating a more digital workplace. In contrast, most organisations in the energy sector have only begun investing in information management processes in the last decade or so. Yet today, many oil and gas firms lack integrated document management, even for core back-office processes like accounts payable or accounts receivable, let alone for front-office processes like environmental health and safety documentation, engineering drawing management, or asset management.

In this whitepaper, we examine six ways IIM can have a huge, positive impact on oil and gas operations — affecting all areas of the business and making them leaner and more streamlined 

Back-office

The business administrators at oil and gas companies work behind the scenes as major contributors to success; they’re the colleagues that make sure payroll gets into employees’ bank accounts, the lights are turned on, vendors are paid, and computers can connect to the network. They do a lot of specific, essential tasks, but collectively, they play a huge role in how they affect profitability through the left side (costs) of a company’s financial statements.

All too often, companies lack the systems to efficiently manage their back-office operations. This causes far-reaching problems that inhibit productivity and efficiency — problems some companies do not even know they have.

Human Resources and Finance Departments

Arguably, the most document-intensive functions in the back-office of oil and gas companies are Human Resources and Finance.

M-Files Document Management System recently conducted a survey of back-office employees at companies with 50 or more employees to find out what their challenges are around document management. The results speak to far-reaching problems:

SEARCH | 41 % waste over 10 minutes a day searching for the documents and information they need. Of those people, almost half actually spend more than 20 minutes.

PAPER | 65 % say that information is still managed using paper documents, paper-based processes, and stored in filing cabinets.

SCATTERED INFORMATION | 65 % are managing information in more than one location.

WET SIGNATURES | 44 % cite that the printing, scanning, and hand-signing of documents to be a major challenge to efficiency.

Human Resources and Finance departments face many different challenges daily, but there is one consistent presence that affects these teams: a mountain of paperwork. Whether it is a government-required tax form or a slew of invoices, these administrative functions are tasked with collecting, maintaining, and organising vast amounts of information. They still depend on outdated paper forms that are not just wasting resources — they are putting their company’s time, government compliance and employee security at risk.

Intelligent information management (IIM) software changes this equation by moving back-office functionality into the cloud. Using tools ranging from automated document capture to web-based digital forms, a comprehensive IIM takes business administration firmly into the 21st century by making common processes more efficient, streamlined, and secure.

Here is a look at the top five reasons your business administrators in HR and Finance need enterprise content management software:

Employee Onboarding

Getting new employees up and running as quickly as possible is mission critical not only to hit production targets, but also to reduce drag on tenured employees who must “babysit” the new hires. The typical approach to onboarding is to pair newbies with veteran mentors who can show them the ropes for a while, then move on. The result is often an overburdened mentor, an overwhelmed newbie, and longer time to onboard completely. Using ECM technologies to facilitate social collaboration between new employees and the entire community of tenured employees reduces the burden on face-to-face mentors, increases the experience pool for the newbie to draw on, and more quickly builds the employee’s sense of belonging to the organisation.

Compliance

Apart from regulatory compliance common to the oil and gas sector, there are also standards in place for HR and Finance teams. Maintaining proper records is not simply good business practice — in many instances, it’s the law. With IIM software, these documents can be captured, stored, and organised electronically, allowing back-office teams to keep an organisation’s crucial information in one centralised repository that helps keep the business in full government compliance.

Data Security

IIM software keeps your data safe and secure from the ground up. Beginning with a secure user-based sign-in, access to employee archives, databases and documents can be granted only to those with designated permissions. In the event of an unexpected disaster, this means the information critical to keeping your business running will always be available over the internet.

Software Integration

Is your administrative team on the same page as the rest of your organisation? IIM software enables back-office departments to collaborate across a wide variety of software suites using powerful integrations. M-Files Document Management System fixes the problem of information scattered across multiple repositories that do not talk to each other by integrating with CRM, ERP, SharePoint and other key applications — all without the hassle of a massive migration project.

Audit Readiness

One of a company’s best defences against an audit is IIM software that collects all finance department files in one place. Bolstered by full file system integration and powerful search capabilities, this highly effective tool offers a complete audit trail, creating filterable and exportable logs of all document actions by date and user to ensure full transparency into your business records.

Invoice Processing

Invoice processing is an area where Finance departments can drive efficiency into the organisation. It leverages a vast array of key information management capabilities, such as capturing, workflow, notifications, mobile access, audit trails and permissions. It is also a process where every department typically participates by sending invoices to be settled, and thus shoring up this one process can be greatly impactful for all employees.

Decommissioning Wells

Decommissioning wells is still relatively new in the industry. Every field has a finite lifespan and over time the amount of oil and gas obtained drops off until production costs outweigh the sales return. The number of fields ending production is accelerating, partly due to the oil price crash in 2015, but also due to aging. As a result, the volume of work associated with decommissioning is growing — with over $80 billion forecasted to be spent removing infrastructure in a safe, environmentally sound, and cost-effective way from the North Sea area alone. All told, there are nearly 1,500 wells to be decommissioned in the next n the next ten years in the UK and Norway alone — which amounts to 150 yearly to be plugged and abandoned.

It’s a two-pronged process encompassing (1) plugging and abandoning wells, which accounts, and (2) removal of infrastructure. This newest wave in the lifetime of oil and gas assets means that huge savings can be realised by driving efficiency into the decommissioning process. In addition to tactical approaches like combining wells into one project, another way oil and gas companies are reducing costs is in the use of technology to make the process more streamlined.

One of those critical technology platforms that can contribute to significant cost savings is an intelligent information management system. Operator project management costs are estimated to be about $1.3 billion over the next ten years — including all the associated studies.

And while decommissioning wells is a project-based endeavour, solutions like M-Files Document Management System go far beyond very simple project management. The unique metadata-driven architecture lets users organise content based on what it is rather than where it is stored, rather than using traditional manually maintained folder structure. This innovative architecture enables management of not just documents but non-document objects important to decommissioning wells — such as site information, cases, subcontractors and more.

Other benefits include:

• Improved efficiency that comes from consolidating documentation — like permits, licenses, authorisations, notifications, and the consents register — from multiple subcontractors in a single central repository.

• Improved quality and shorter cycle times with built-in version control and audit trail features that ensure that only controlled changes are allowed, and that all parties use the same, correct version of information.

• Smooth coordination of subcontractors and the documents and other information for which they are responsible by enabling easy classification and tagging in the initial phases of a project.

Speeding up the process certainly means saved costs and the platform M-Files Document Management System provides can certainly help to that end. Even a 1 % improvement would be worth millions of dollars over the next ten years just on project management costs, never mind reducing the risk associated with things going wrong. In all areas of this work — whether its plugging and abandoning of wells, removing infrastructure, or indeed all the post-decommission monitoring — there are similar challenges being faced so applying the same system to work across the whole enterprise would be a tremendous benefit. Whether you look to invest in an information management solution to work for one of these processes or multiple is dependent on requirements, but the more a company can invest in information management, the greater the return on investment will be.

Asset Management & Transfer

In today’s global macroeconomy, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is common to all industries, oil and gas included. However, there are also aspects unique to the oil industry. While one company may acquire another — like the 2016 Shell acquisition of BG Group — it is also common for a company to acquire individual assets from another. Also, while not strictly an M&A transaction, oil companies frequently work together on projects to share risk and rewards; so, they need to collaborate closely and share information between one another. In all these scenarios, intelligent information management platforms like M-Files Document Management System can play a key role in smoothing out asset management and transfers between the two organisations.

When one company acquires another, they absorb all operations, assets, and staff into the new organisation. These elements have data and documents associated with them — some of which might be 20-30 years old. Worse, these document-based assets may be stored in various repositories, where there is likely duplication and missing or misplaced documents. Drilling reports, interpretation reports, operations report, HSE reports — pretty much the entire intellectual capital of the acquired company will be stored in those documents. A host of challenges can arise with an asset transfer:

MIGRATION | Often, there is a need to migrate the data and documents from the old company data repositories to the new company data repositories, and this can be straightforward if they both use the same technology but frequently that is not the case.

They then need to export the data and documents from one system and import them to the other.

VERSIONING & DUPLICATE DATA | Many of these documents are poorly sorted with likely many duplicates. Knowing which is the definitive version can be difficult. The purchasing company needs to have a way to sort and manage all this information and make it available to their users quickly.

TIMELINE | Depending of the scale, it can take 1-2 years to fully integrate information between the two organisations. The purchasing company needs to ensure continuity of operations and the merging of other information is left until the merger is complete and often for longer than that.

An information management system cures many of these common challenges and countless others that may arise in the process of partial or full asset transfer from on organisation to another. At the heart of it, digitising these key asset management documents between the two companies and automating the process of filing and publishing them decreases the likelihood of operational errors because of missing or incorrect documentation.

It does not stop there though. With a platform like M-Files Document Management System, there is no need for a costly and time-consuming migration, as M-Files Document Management System exists as a repository-neutral environment. All data silos can be connected through the Intelligent Metadata Layer and presented in a single user interface. Through that process versions and duplicates are managed intuitively and automatically.

Furthermore, information management systems can help individual employees find and share documents easily, with an AI-enabled metadata-driven approach that contextualises documents based on what they are and not where they happen to reside – whether it’s in the storehouse of the purchasing company or the purchased company.

The challenge of multiple documents scattered across several repositories between both companies becomes a distant memory. Training records, asset documentation, SOPs, reports — every document an oil and gas company might need to store, manage and reference can reside in one location — the single point of truth.

This ability to easily and quickly bridge the document gap that exists between the two organisations makes for a seamless asset transfer process and one that proceeds faster than a more manual records examination and transfer, saving both organisations time and money.

Mobility

In a recent survey of energy sector workers, 65 % admit that it’s challenging to find the documents they need on a mobile device. This can create alarming repercussions for those in the oil and gas sector since so many of their employees and so much of their business can be found offsite.

Oil and gas personnel spend an inordinate amount of time in the field in all phases of production. It can be downright disastrous if they do not have the ability to manage documents from their mobile devices.

When it comes to information management, other than cloud, mobility has been the biggest buzzword of the last few years. Leaving aside the hype and techno-speak, what mobility basically means from an IIM perspective is enabling users to access documents, as well as the ability to manage documents, from mobile devices. Given the typically global, often highly distributed footprint of most oil and gas organisations, there are two main areas where IIM delivers value through mobility:

FIELD OPERATIONS | Oil and gas employees in the field — like drillers, geologists, and engineers — are often the most highly-skilled (and highly-paid) personnel at the firms. So, maximising their time on task is critical, both to keeping costs down as well as maintaining capacity. Giving these field employees mobile access to key documents (standard operating procedures or drawings) can save hours and even days of lost time and down time.

VIRTUAL WHITE-COLLAR EMPLOYEES | When managers and executives work virtually due to travel, flexible commuting arrangements, or for other reasons, the inability to access critical documents leads to inefficiency in business processes, like workflows involved in timesheets, expense reports, hiring, or budgeting. Mobile access to these documents means less time engaged in administrative activities and more time focused on revenue-yielding tasks.

An information management system like M-Files Document Management System enables employees in the field to manage business-critical tasks in the field just as easily as they could from their office. Specifically, workers can use their mobile devices to:

• Search for and access company documents

• Edit documents

• Approve document

• Sign contracts, work orders and other important documents

• Share and collaborate on document-related Tasks

Compliance

Drilling productivity has increased in recent years, while oil prices have fluctuated on a downward trend in the period from 2014-2018. With such uncertainty in the oil and gas industry, companies are trying new methods and ideas for reducing risk, improving efficiency, and maximising productivity as ways to improve profitability and returns. One area where energy companies can make inroads to a more digital and more efficient workplace is compliance.

In a recent Aberdeen Group survey, the three top pressures driving oil and gas companies to focus on compliance carry equal weight Many oil and gas companies are turning to intelligent information management to manage compliance related to:

• Materials and substances

• Emissions

• Labelling

• Safety

Information management platforms like M-Files Document Management System are a key driver for shoring up compliance documentation and procedures. A paper-based, manual approach to creating, publishing, and enforcing compliance standards and standard operating procedures is more expensive, riskier, and less traceable than a digital, automated approach.

Having a central, digital repository for the latest documents, a consistent indexing protocol for those documents, and a user-friendly way to find and publish them increases the likelihood that mission-critical employees will have the right documents at the right time, helping to increase compliance.

Key areas where information management systems help oil and gas companies enforce and maintain compliance include:

VISIBILITY OF DATA | With an IIM system like M-Files Document Management System, documents from multiple repositories are indexed and contextualised — making them easier to find. Having a unified view of the document ecosystem allows stakeholder and employees to work towards compliance armed with all the information they might need.

PROCESS & WORKFLOW ALIGNMENT | With well-defined policies and procedures, users can follow a set of customised workflows to help ensure compliance. Management can be sure users are reading training and safety information. Important compliance documents can be routed to the proper personnel. Every document-related compliance process can be automated with an IIM system.

MONITORING COMPLIANCE | Oil and gas companies that are proactive in monitoring compliance can identify violations and issues quicker and lessen the legal or financial consequences.

DATA CONSOLIDATION | It’s a mad scramble to pull together the proper compliance documents if they are scattered in multiple repositories. In oil and gas, with changing regional requirements, it’s critical to keep data consolidated for easy access. By presenting data from a central location with an IIM system, companies can make better-informed, data-centric decisions.

Esri Integration

For most oil and gas companies, geographic information system (GIS) mapping technology needs no introduction. Essentially, the technology analyses spatial location and organises layers of information into visualisations using maps and 3D scenes. It is becoming commonplace technology with tons of different applications — from land surveying to urban planning and tons more. In the oil and gas sector where data is strongly connected to geography, GIS has become an indispensable tool for oil exploration, pipeline construction and environmental uses.

GIS on its own is a potent, almost-obligatory technology for the oil and gas industry. But when it is integrated with an intelligent information management solution like M-Files Document Management System, organisations can realise incredibly substantial efficiency and productivity gains. Users have access to all their organisation’s GIS documents through one, spatially organised application.

Without a GIS-information management integration, the challenge of managing oil and gas activities becomes far more arduous and time-consuming.

Workers find themselves swimming in a sea of paper documents, which lack context and connectivity to geographic information. Workers in the field find themselves having to go back to the office or call someone at home base to source the data they need.

Compliance risk grows as well with manual processes and no access to document-enabled workflows. Furthermore, there is a fundamental lack of accountability when there’s no visibility into who is accessing, altering and utilising key documents.

With a GIS-information management system integration, a whole new world of efficiency becomes a reality. No more chasing information down related to a certain site or well; all of it is in one location, accessible from the office or offsite from a mobile device.

There are wildly compelling ways that such an integration makes life easier for oil and gas companies:

• Easy access to all supporting documentation related to geographic information

• The ability to trigger workflows

• Tracking the lifecycle of assets — what assets exist, their age and maintenance schedules

• In decommissioning or asset transfer, users have information at their fingertips on what supplemental assets might be around that site and what can still be used further.

One company leading the charge in GIS technology solutions is Esri, with their industry-leading user interface ArcGIS. M-Files Document Management System features a robust integration with ArcGIS. Imagine having the ability to access documents not only by typing addresses into a filing system, but also by selecting properties on a map. Or what if oil and gas companies could look up project records by the location of the project site? With M-Files Document Management System, it is simple to integrate document management with ArcGIS maps and services.

The partnership between M-Files Document Management System and Esri enables smart, “in context” access to documents and other information directly within the ArcGIS user interface.

The combined M-Files Document Management System and Esri solution allows users to easily find, access and manage information using intuitive maps, aerial photography, and spatially related data. This moves beyond 3D GIS and simply locating documents on a map up through 6D analysis and decision support with real-time integration of budget, time, task resourcing and other variables directly within the mapping interface. This enables organisations that manage location-based information, such as governmental agencies, energy producers, logistics and distribution companies, utilities, and others, to do so faster and more efficiently.

The primary driver for the integration lies in the metadata-driven approach. When documents are scanned or imported into M-Files Document Management System, the user has the option of running customisable templates that can both prompt for and automatically retrieve information about those documents. This metadata is then stored along with the documents where it makes future searches much easier.

These customisable metadata fields that accompany each document also enable users to later link them to a location on a map. The metadata on each document can contain an ArcGIS spatial component — either a GIS feature number or X-Y coordinates depending on the type of link that was executed. All of this makes it so much simpler to retrieve location-based documents.

With an intelligent information platform like M-Files Document Management System, organisations can automate processes and provide self-service and online access, allowing users to serve themselves so staff can focus on work and stop answering the phone. It all amounts to huge productivity gains that scale up as the scope and quantity of oil and gas projects increases.

For more information on how we can help your organisation please email: peter@documentmanagementsoftware.com.au or visit www.documentmanagementsoftware.com.au


Peter Ellyard

Having spent over 20 years immersed in the document management software industry I have found that by offering a simple to use, highly effective electronic document management solution (knowledge management software) we increase productivity dramatically. Typically by an hour per person, per day! This is not rocket science, just a simple way to streamline your day to day information needs.