Digital tools do more than enable communication and collaboration. They allow engineers and operators to plan and monitor operations remotely, automate manual tasks and streamline processes, and support operational integrity and process safety.
Given that digital technology has proven itself across the industry — during a time when cost reduction is critical — consider what should happen next. Do companies need multiple regional offices and a large headquarters staff? Digital tools shift where talent is located, enabling companies to deploy financial and human capital more efficiently.
A strong digital backbone makes it possible for companies to take advantage of different national and regional tax and expense structures, eliminate legacy computing systems, reduce corporate overhead; and much more.
There are challenges. Data security is an issue, especially with employees logging in from home. And not all remote locations have strong bandwidth capabilities.
Cultural change will be necessary, too. The adoption and proper use of new tools will require time and training. And new employees will likely still require some form of onsite, hands-on orientation and onboarding. But these issues are solvable.
Moving quickly to capture value
The biggest obstacle to implementing a complete upstream digital strategy is determining where to begin. As companies look to expand their infrastructure, how should they proceed to capture maximum value?
There are four critical elements to the rapid and thorough adoption of digital:
- Implement a digital infrastructure that people can quickly and easily transition to — tools to help employees keep pace with the current environment. Usability is critical, and technology tied to existing user experiences is always easier to implement.
- Put rigorous processes in place to ensure new tools deliver real value and involve key end-users in development. Companies can’t cut corners in design and implementation. Employees will embrace new technology if it works correctly, enhances their ability to do their jobs and if they feel they had a hand in its development.
- Be transparent about communicating results and make a concerted effort to share lessons from implementation across the business. How are functions using the tools and what can others learn from those experiences? Digital tools can’t just be “turned on” like a light switch; there must be communication and education about their uses and benefits.
- Create quick wins to build trust. Engineers must feel confident they can trust digital sensors and automated platforms. Is the data correct? Can I believe what that dashboard is telling me? Creating a level of trust is one of the most challenging elements of digital adoption, and critical digital tools must work correctly from the first day.