Former BP Exec Drills Into Oil-and-Gas Sector’s Digital Landscape

John Leggate talks challenges and opportunities for digital leadership in one of the world’s biggest and most complex industries.

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From geopolitics to new technologies, the oil-and-gas (O+G) arena has always presented great challenges for those who work in it. Today is no different. Currently, Middle East tensions are on the rise, the U.S.-China trade dispute is dragging on the global economy, and the exponential growth of data is putting pressure on companies to invest in scalable digital strategies and ecosystems that can be future-proofed.

Fortunately, with challenges come opportunities. I sat down with the former CIO of British Petroleum (BP), John Leggate, and got his thoughts on what some of those challenges and opportunities are—as well as his take on how business executives and digital leadership can take advantage of what’s possible.

I’ve heard you say that running an O+G company is a bit of a juggling act. Why?

The way I see it, you have to do two things simultaneously, and they are challenging and paradoxical. You must pay close attention to the near-term, quarter by quarter, which requires holding profit margins and delivering market expectations through the intrinsic sector pricing cycle. And you have to lead corporate digital transformation—often with legacy digital ecosystems—without diverting too much corporate resource. Those are tough things to balance.

Each O+G company will differ in its corporate history, strategic intent, and current priorities. When you advise O+G companies, what are you most focused on?

I’m always focused on gaining full participation from the board, the C-suite, and all members of the executive team on a collaborative digital transformation agenda. The opportunity is to drive value and strategic intent, and to make companies attractive places for millennials to work.

How has the Internet of Things (IoT) affected the way O+G leaders are thinking about the future and their strategies going forward?

The opportunities and possibilities for the O+G industry are still extraordinary. Rapid adoption of digital technologies powered by IoT can unlock the ability to remain highly competitive and relevant. Improvements in operational efficiency, faster and better decision-making, and empowering and upskilling the workforce are only a few of the dimensions of potential business impact. The challenge is how best to allocate resources, and how to orchestrate the myriad of digital initiatives, at the corporate level.

How would you use technology to leverage the astronomical amount of data in global corporations?

My biggest fear is having to spend millions with consultants to clean up and conform mountains of legacy data. I’d look very seriously at modern data-management solutions that enable a fast-track process for digital transformation and can deliver tangible results in 90 days. For example, Domo’s platform is secure and scalable and is proven to work with global corporations. Being able to join the dots digitally and with real-time information means that the C-suite can get a 30,000-foot view of the business and drill down through the data to any extent required. It also helps make major M+A integrations so much easier.

Anything else you’d advise today’s O+G CIO/CDO/CTO?

Certainly. While there’s urgency to deliver near-term results from digital transformation programs, we must never forget the digital adventure has only just begun. Even those of us who have worked building digital capacity for more than a decade understand that we have only taken the first steps toward what is truly possible. When the physical and analogue worlds have been fully digitized and automated end to end, we can start to unlock the benefits of digital twins, predictive analytics, robotic technology, and high-impact artificial intelligence. The best is yet to come.

 

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