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Oil and Gas Software: Start with Problems, Not Solutions

We Need Oil & Gas Software Solutions – Or Do We?

The Harvard Business Review published an article by Bart Barthelemy and Candace Dalmagne-Rouge called, “When You’re Innovating, Resist Looking for Solutions,” that every decision maker should read before committing to an oil and gas software solution.

As the authors bring up, the general response to a problem is to start looking for solutions. “But as soon as you start thinking of a solution, you unconsciously begin shutting off possibilities for getting a deeper understanding of the problem and therefore of finding a truly breakthrough solution.”

Instead, we should stay in what Barthelemy and Dalmagne-Rouge call the “problem space,” or “front end” for a longer period to “get a deeper understanding of the problem.”

The Front End for Oil and Gas

To highlight this problem as it arises for oil and gas companies, perhaps there is a need to track lease dates, clauses, contract explorations, and the like. The team has this problem, and it is very easy to develop tunnel vision and jump to the choice of Excel or Access because it’s what everyone is comfortable with.

As one of our software consultants discussed in a recent post about using Excel or Access as your database, there are inherent limitations to this solution. For example:

  • Multiple copies of slightly altered data build up over time
  • Multiple copies can cause confusion over versioning
  • Stakeholders struggle with sharing a large file out to the team every weak
  • Access and Excel can be tricky collaboration tools when they are numerous parties involved
  • There is no central location where the data can be found, particularly if someone is remote

Exploring Obstacles

For this problem, or one like it, the authors recommend that the team hold back from comfortable solutions and look at the underlying issues. “What’s the real obstacle you face? Once you’ve found it, go deeper still. What’s the essence of that obstacle?”

Oil and Gas Software ObstaclesThe real oil and gas software obstacle for lease management is not so much the data, but that leases must be managed effectively for the company to be successful. As leases go into the secondary term, or as acquisitions add new, unexamined leases to the roster, the risk of lease jeopardy, lawsuits, and other expensive consequences become more of a reality.

After the obstacle has been examined, Barthelemy and Dalmagne-Rouge recommend that companies “search for different viewpoints on the obstacle…Look for people who have faced that same essential challenge, and tap their insights…call an unfamiliar organization that includes people who face your challenge on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to bring outsiders into the discussion.”

Moving on to Software Solutions

After the obstacle has been fully explored and any outside sources have been consulted, your team will be much better prepared for making a decision about oil and gas software. Maybe after examining your process, a custom software solution will make the most sense. Despite the extra cost, that custom application will match your current process so well that the time savings alone will make the investment worth it.

Or perhaps, after the examining the true nature of the obstacle, the team will come to the conclusion that a few monthly reports aren’t worth a huge investment, so an off-the-shelf solution can be tweaked a bit to meet the need.

Either way, sticking in the problem space, while it might seem more open-ended and time consuming, will help ensure that whatever you invest in meets the business problem. As the authors state, “staying in the problem space is worth the effort. If you rush to a solution, you run the risk of solving the wrong problem.”

For more on making smart oil and gas software choices, check out our new series on the buy versus build spectrum. 

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