Nowadays digital is all too often lauded as the be all and end all to business woes. Digital transformation is thrown about as if it will be each and every business’ ticket to success. Yet, this is not only unrealistic but also untrue. The all fabled ‘digital’ is just one part of a much bigger picture and often the root of many problems.
Recently I was talking with a friend who is a senior engineer in a major gas and oil company. We were talking about how digital technology has enabled his industry to rapidly advance, from improving the economics on wells to advanced real-time data that allows for operators to make informed decisions in trading. From his perspective, better tools and software are empowering him to do his work quicker and more effectively, such as the creation of 3D digital models.
However, the flipside of this shiny coin is that while his job is facilitated by technology, others (largely an older generation) are struggling to grasp the new tools of the job. There are individuals with decades of practical and industry experience, who are massively valuable to these companies, but who cannot keep up with the rapid pace of change in delivery.
And it is here that the major problem arises. Not only does technology in this instance create a barrier and skills gap, but it is also having further negative impact. Jobs are costed out to clients in the same way that they always have been, yet in many instances tech-savvy employees can deliver in far smaller time periods. Businesses cannot risk reducing rates on jobs when there may be an employee tasked with the job who is unable to deliver at this new speedy rate and so jobs are often over-costed (or indeed these tech-savvy employees are encouraged to ‘slow down’ so as not to raise alarm bells). The outcome - demotivation across the board and a missed opportunity to advance as an industry.
“On work that would take me a day to deliver, I’ve literally been told to go and spend a few more days going over it, just to make sure everything is ‘in order’. The business don’t want to waste client’s money but they are also aware that if it was a member of staff who typed slower (for example) then the work would take longer to deliver. It’s a strange predicament and I’ve seen it across many of the major oil and gas corporations.”
Where once we lived in a top-down working society, in which those with years of experience passed down their knowledge, now, we see younger generations who are new into industries bringing different types of knowledge, which also needs to be effectively disseminated.
So, how do we overcome such issues? We stop ‘business as usual’. We embrace change. We address skills gaps and restructure our processes and ways of working so that jobs are delivered more effectively, leveraging each individual’s unique skills. We view digital and technology as an opportunity that must be thoroughly assessed at levels to understand its impact on our businesses.