Company Connecting asked Graeme Gordon of IFB for his views on technology in the Oil & Gas sector and the impact of the recent downturn. Graeme provides some great insights including a comparison between transferring Oil & Gas assets with transferring Ronaldo!
A bit about you
I am a qualified Electronics Engineer and the first part of my career was largely spent working with ROVs and dynamic positioning systems in the North Sea. I moved from engineering in to more project management roles and finally flipped in to sales and business management in the late 80's early 90's really riding the wave of the first generation of personal computers and what these could do for the business and the people in them.
I joined IFB in its first months of creation and with a great team along the way taken it to being one of the most relevant and innovative service providers in our sector. In between all of that, I've managed to work as a night club and radio DJ, get married and bring up three children, be part of local and national trade bodies and organisations representing businesses and advising government on technology, skills and economic differentiation.
A bit about IFB
As leaders in our marketplace, IFB is committed to maximising and supporting our customers’ uptime in all that we do. Our focus is on providing connectivity, security and data management services that solve our customers’ evolving needs and demands.
More and more, we play an increasing part in our customers progression through digital transformation, we do this by providing the platforms, partnerships and expertise they need so they can get on with their business.
Our focus on providing the best customer experience at every stage of engagement for over 22 years, means we have a foundation of long-term relationships and a reputation as the team to be trusted as a business service provider. This is tough, as there is a lot of choice out there but by offering relevant and easy-to-use digital services that improve business efficiency, our customers can focus on the growth and performance of their organisations.
Innovation is also key for us to remain trusted and relevant for our clients, we delivered our Tartan Cloud service back in 2011, delivering cloud based services and infrastructure from our own regional data centre,in partnership with CityFibre, we brought the first Gigabit City in 2015, increasing the reach of fibre to the premises Gigabit connectivity to businesses, as well as a trans North Sea connection between Aberdeen and Norway helping Oil and Gas clients improve efficiencies and lower costs.
How big a part of your business is O&G
We have been a key part of the Oil and Gas supply chain since we started, our top 10 clients achieving a combined turnover in excess of $45bn – which does demonstrate our key clients have a global impact and we are proud to be part of this. Being pin this supply chain for so long has opened up many great opportunities for IFB, not just by being asked to support our clients in more international locations, but by taking the expertise we have gained from this demanding sector and applying our skills and knowledge to other industries. We deliver services supporting a range of 800 enterprise and SME organisations UK wide and Internationally.
Impact of the O&G downturn
There’s no denying that the downturn has had an impact not just across the industry itself and well beyond, the contribution Aberdeen and Oil & Gas has made directly in jobs and contracts alone has been felt much further afield than the ABZ postcode.
The brutal truth is that there are simply less people using less office space in Aberdeen than there was pre-downturn. At any other time, the impact for a service provider like IFB with its core clients in downturn could have been disastrous but our strategy of remaining relevant and innovative for these clients means we have maintained and developed our place and continue to accelerate and deliver our growth plans.
What changes have you noticed in O&G
This particular downturn has come at a time when many businesses were being driven more by data in their day-to-day and longer-term operations. Some of this was the direction of travel anyway as traditional engineering and exploration business take advantages of new technologies, some of this is due to vendor and supplier changes in how we deliver, particularly software companies now preferring to deliver more and more services from the cloud. Creating, managing, analysing and moving this data has never been more important so the drive to do this for us means delivering smarter and more accessible service across connectivity and data management.
What's new with tech in Oil & Gas
Digital transformation has been here for many businesses for a while – it is not a new thing so let’s not get caught up in that – but the drive for cost reduction and improved efficiencies while maximising and supporting uptime has certainly accelerated many companies digital thinking and more importantly doing.
Real-time data analytics driving automation and enabling mores assisted intelligence across people and devices and Things, all as part of Industry 4.0 is great, especially for IFB as we are all about pushing, pulling and managing data. As these volumes of data increase, doing all of this with greater certainty and security becomes a real challenge. For example, old critical systems being replaced by new systems designed to always be connected so that they can deliver the operational benefits everyone is seeking in an aged and poorly connected, multi user environment is tough.
What projects are underway
Core to what we do at IFB is about providing more – that’s more choice, more certainty, more bandwidth, more security, more service – all geared around our clients demands. We have very exciting announcements around doing this directly and with partners coming in quarter 2 of 2019.
As the landscape changes in the North Sea, there are a couple of things relevant for us. Firstly, nothing digital works as well as it could or should without great connectivity – offshore to onshore and back again, and also globally – so to become even more efficient in a highly complex environment, you need great connectivity to support. What this space.
Second is, how do you transfer assets without giving away your operational secret sauce. Think about it like Chelsea buying Ronaldo and with him you get all his fitness data – because you wouldn’t buy him without a log book. Unless you are careful – or don’t care – you could also give away all his training data, the clubs training programs, nutrition programs, training and food suppliers. Sound simple? The challenge is doing it across a complex supply chain and also at the point you decommission, needs distributed digital ledger type thinking and technologies.
Any predictions for O&G Anything else you think is pertinent.
Skills across just about every industry, especially those with specific STEM needs are in high demand, and O&G will have its own challenges like any other.
Sure, great opportunities in companies will always attract great people, but the competition to fill digital vacancies in big and medium sized O&G companies are now being challenged by the pure tech sector here in Scotland and further afield. This does bring opportunity also for further and true collaboration between companies like IFB who have a rich and deep talent pool that love working in an SME environment and our larger O&G clients looking for persistent delivery and innovation.