These are difficult times for the oil and gas sector. There are several reasons for this, including the current economic downturn and longer-term decrease in petroleum demand. And they’ve all culminated in what Deloitte are calling the “great compression” for the industry.
Deloitte also states that US energy companies laid off around 14% of their permanent employees during 2020, and their research indicates that 70% of those jobs may not return by the end of 2021. With that in mind, it looks like oil and gas faces the imperative to do more with less – and low-code solutions have the power to help the industry achieve that.
Taming the big-project beast
By their very nature, organizations in the energy sector often deal with large, sprawling projects, with many stakeholders/participants spanning different departments and regions, and plenty of “moving parts” at play. In these projects, slow processes and communication can easily sap efficiency and eat into profits.
This is often because businesses are using clunky legacy systems and labor-intensive manual processes. Bottlenecks and backlogs can easily occur and, with organizations operating with reduced workforces, there’s a risk that such problems could be exacerbated.
So, how can energy companies streamline their operations and get big projects under tighter, better control?
Transforming your operations
You could replace your systems with off-the-shelf software that may or may not fit your organization or your needs well enough. Or, you could invest in developing new bespoke software the traditional way, which is time-and-cost-intensive and will require lots of attention from your personnel – who are already stretched as it is.
Not a great set of choices. However, new low-code development platforms such as Microsoft Power Apps have revolutionized software development for businesses everywhere.
Faster, simpler, low-code development
Low-code platforms like Power Apps cut down the long development cycles, complexity, and cost of creating solutions. While it’s likely you’ll still need to enlist a third-party’s assistance, it’s much easier and quicker to build your technology. And because low-code development platforms are more understandable for non-technical personnel, key stakeholders within your organization can have far greater insight and control in the development process, ensuring your solutions are completely fit for purpose.
Mobility configured, not developed
Technology that works in remote, disconnected locations is critical to the energy industry. Traditionally this requires difficult design and development with complicated logic for storing and syncing data. Low-code solutions come with mobile offline functionality built-in, making one of the most complex mobile development chores a matter of configuration, not coding prowess.
Integrated with the Microsoft ecosystem
Power Apps is seamlessly integrated with the existing Microsoft tools your organization is likely to be already using, such as Teams and the Office suite. So, rather than building a new, separate solution, you can develop Power Apps software that lives within that Microsoft ecosystem. No need for users to continually switch between apps – all the tools and data they need for their tasks are right there.
Reaching a new level of agility and flexibility
The speed and ease of Power Apps development allows businesses to respond to business needs and opportunities quickly and cost-effectively. For instance, if you discover a space in the market for a new service, you can move to fulfill it with greater speed, by creating the technology that supports it much sooner.
Or, if you decide to create an app that streamlines processes for workers in the field, for instance safety inspections, machinery servicing, equipment-tracking, or resourcing, Power Apps can make that happen without delay. You can build what you need as soon as you decide you need it and get it to your people ASAP.
Cutting manual workloads and streamlining
When operational processes are digitized via a low-code platform, organizations are also able to drastically cut down on labor-intensive manual work such as data entry. E.g., instead of copying and pasting or retyping inspection report data from one system into another, your new solution can do the hard work instead, because all your data and apps are now seamlessly integrated and processes are automated.
In their August 2020 article, McKinsey recognized automation as key to reinventing oil and gas operations today. It was named one of three crucial elements to simplifying processes, and they recommended implementing automation to “digitize workflows to reduce the time and effort required to complete each step”. It’s an aspect of digital transformation that is having a dramatic impact not just in the energy sector but for organizations of all kinds.
Gaining vital visibility and invaluable insights
Building low-code solutions with platforms like Power Apps also provides your organization with far greater visibility across all your projects, operations, and data. Because your systems and processes are now more “joined-up”, you can bring together all your business information and harness data analytics, gaining new insights into inefficiencies, problems, and opportunities, allowing even further optimization and innovation.
This insight is vital for maintaining your competitive edge at a time when it’s never been more important. In fact, KPMG’s ‘The future of IT: An oil and gas perspective’ states that, “40% of oil and gas CIOs think delivering business intelligence/analytics is a key business issue the board is looking for IT to address”.
However, according to the same report, “less than 1/3 of CIOs feel their organizations are very or extremely effective at maintaining an enterprise-wide data management strategy or maximizing value from their data.” It’s clear there’s a rich reservoir of data to be tapped into – but until now, many energy companies have lacked the right means to do so.
Time to build your own low-code solution?
Maybe this article has given you some ideas of where low-code solutions could help your own organization. If so, we’d be glad to help.
The Bauen Group is highly experienced in enabling our clients to harness low-code development platforms like Microsoft Power Apps and building solutions together that really make a difference. We want to help energy sector businesses use technology to power a successful future – so let’s get started.
Want to discuss how the Bauen Group can help you transform your business via low-code development? Just get in touch.