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Informed Solutions Group CEO Elizabeth Vega delivers keynote on digital transformation at Shell’s global geomatics conference.

How does one of the world’s largest, industry leading energy producers stay ahead of its peers? By continually maintaining excellence in its core disciplines, leveraging its extraordinary data assets to best effect on behalf of the business, whilst keeping a sharp and innovative eye on the future!

Last month, I was privileged to be invited, along with my colleague Justin Hassall, to give a key note presentation to Royal Dutch Shell’s global Geomatics community, as part of their global conference.  The conference theme was ‘Foundations and Future’, a theme that resonates with me personally, as it embodies the importance of maintaining excellence in what we do today, whilst being open and receptive to the changes and innovations needed to succeed tomorrow.

Geomatics is maybe an area of the energy industry with which you are less familiar.  It has a vital role to play in positioning assets and acquiring, managing and drawing new insights from geospatial data; highly valuable data which is part of the decision making currency for any geographically distributed and spatially reliant business.  The remit of Geomatics professionals ranges from precision survey, often in the least hospitable environments (e.g. remote pipeline construction or offshore platform positioning), to custodianship of highly valuable data assets (e.g. seismic surveys, hydrocarbon system analysis, well locations), to development and maintenance of spatial data services and decision support tools for the better performance of the core business.

With over $400B of assets throughout the world (according to Forbes: The World’s Largest Companies), Shell is amongst the most important global energy producers.  It was therefore a pleasure to spend time during the conference with the Shell Geomatics team, watching them play their part in tracking and managing this diverse portfolio of assets, improving operational functions, and ultimately looking for ways to deliver greater business performance.

And so, with an eye to the future, the theme of my keynote was Successful Digital Transformation, with a particular emphasis on the challenges of delivering transformational innovation at scale, in business and safety critical operations.  I offered some insights into my experiences as a Programme Director on major business transformation initiatives, what it really means to become a digital enterprise, and equally importantly how to create the capabilities, skills and jobs for tomorrow.

Elizabeth Vega speaking at the Shell Geomatics Conference

Elizabeth Vega speaking at the Shell Geomatics Conference

Recognising the critical importance of the business information that Geomatics manages and analyses on behalf of the wider Shell community, I shared insights into how Informed Solutions achieves a user centric approach to digital information services, drawn from my experiences across other sectors and organisations.  When your business information assets are as enormous and complex as Shell’s, it is especially challenging to wrestle this into user centered, easy-to-use services.  An especially interesting question put to me was whether I felt digital transformation was a continuation of ‘computerisation’ or something different, such as the ‘digitalisation of services’.  My own reflection is that computerisation was largely driven by organisations wanting to automate their current processes, to make things faster and more efficient for the benefit of the business.  Digitalisation, on the other hand, is about re-imagining the way that information services can be delivered for the benefit of users; at any time, from any device, from any place, in an intuitive and instantly understandable, easy to use manner. Therefore, digitalisation necessitates a change in our thinking and approach to design, and this is reflected in the breadth and diversity of skills now needed to deliver digital solutions.

All of which took me to my final point, how to build the breadth of skills now needed by your staff.  This is a challenge that most organisations are facing.  Here, I drew on my own experience of shaping and launching InformedACADEMY, Informed Solutions’ professional and skills development framework.  In deciding on a strategy for sustainably up-skilling and re-skilling our people, we felt that it’s important to help them understand their core strengths rather than just current skills, as well as map those against the jobs and skills needed tomorrow.  This helped us put in place a programme of continual learning and development for all staff, supported by coaching in leadership and team working best practices.

And, my closing thoughts?

  • Successful digital transformation is as much about culture as it is about strategy…
  • Build a culture of collaboration and partnering based working relationships to tackle innovation challenges…
  • Equip your teams with the capabilities & skills they need to build, operate & continually improve their digital and data driven services…
  • Look outside your immediate world for inspiration, because you have more challenges in common with others than you might think…

It was a thoroughly enjoyable, engaging and stimulating conference, where the conversations around the conference were balanced and focused as much on business opportunity and successfully delivering transformation, as on overcoming challenges and barriers.

As one of our longstanding clients, it is a privilege to observe and share Shell’s transformation journey. Kevin McLay (General Manager Geomatics & Technical Data Management; Chief Surveyor Shell) kindly noted,

‘Informed Solutions and Shell have enjoyed a successful relationship over many years, and it was greatly appreciated that they were able to share their valuable insights and experience of transformation from other sectors and industry with our global Geomatics community.’

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