In this episode of Emissary Live, we’re joined by two technology experts in the energy sector — Joe, former Technology Principal at British Petroleum, and Bob, former VP of IT at Exelon.

In this panel discussion, we hear first hand from the two leaders how the energy sector will prioritize IT this year.

Four main takeaways from the panel:

  • There’s a “Great Crew Change” taking place – meaning there’s more interest in innovation, startups, and new technologies than ever before as regulations shift and the industry innovates itself.
  • The industry is deeply challenged by environmental concerns, which will necessitate innovation. 
  • The utility way of thinking, which was slow, considered, and controlled, has changed as new technologies like blockchain and AI disrupt the industry.
  • Although it’s a time of great chance, that doesn’t mean the energy sector will throw a lot of money at innovation for its own sake. Value must be present, investment will be selective, and business value must be clear. Be sensitive to understanding the business deeply so you can approach with a clear value proposition as the most important step.

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Panel Discussion Highlights

Q:

What are some of the qualities that are inherent within the industry that vendors ought to be able to speak intelligently about and understand? In other words, if you were sitting across the table from a vendor, and they were missing the understanding of these few key points, then you would say they hadn’t done their homework?

Bob:

First is execution on your product. It has to work all the time. We are a 24/7, 365-day operation, right? We deliver power. When you flip the light switch, you just expect the power to be on. So if this product needs to be down for maintenance once a month for four hours, you know that’s not going to work.

Second is diversity. The organization needs to have diversity in it, whether it’s a consulting organization, whether it’s a product organization. We want companies that we buy into to look like us, and to look like our customers. That’s a big deal for us, so we have put that into every contract that we have.

Third is having skin in the game. You need to be sitting next to us when there’s a problem and be truthful when something’s not going to work. We would rather find out early in the process rather than after we’ve been sold a bill of goods. We are long-standing companies, and we don’t forget. We’re knowledgeable in the industry, and we’ll speak at conferences if a solution isn’t going to work for us and let people know. It’s to your advantage to be upfront and honest with us right from the get-go.

Joe:

To build on what Bob said – oil and gas is not for the faint-hearted – with energy particularly. These are big players, and you can’t waste their time. You have to know how you’re going to deliver a solution and keep it sustainable. Otherwise, that memory is very, very long and very, very damaging. Particularly for a small company, you can’t afford to have that reputation. Another take is to really spend the time to listen to the business problems and understand the really big issues within oil and gas.

If you do so, you may very well have a solution that is actually very, very powerful with a simple tweak or so. Particularly if you’ve applied it to an adjacent market, but if you take the time to sit down and listen to the business problems and show empathy in getting a solution which is trouble-free, then you could be recommended.

Q:

How do your respective former employers prefer to deal with technology vendors? How does the sector relate to solutions providers? And are there any consistencies culturally, that you’ve seen over your careers?

Bob:

If somebody wants to get into our organization, there are thousands that want to come in every day. Once you get past the threshold of the door, one thing we do is a proof of concept to see the value of your product on your nickel.

But I don’t want you to show me a tool that’s going to mine a sales organization or mine a consulting organization with data. We’re a large physically asseted company, so build a model in your tool, whatever your tool is, that mimics our kind of organization. And that will show us that your product is robust enough, that it will add value to us as long as the end result is what we’re looking for.

Then once it’s in, we want you to stand by your product make sure it works for us and not the other way around, meaning don’t make us work for your product. I know you hear everybody saying, “Well, we really will change our processes. And we’ll make it work with the product,” They’ll do that for about 10 minutes, and then we’ll realize “You know what, this isn’t going to work for us, so we need to see some modifications here.”

Showing your flexibility and your willingness to work with us shows tremendous value. It really is all around the value.

Joe:

the team I was a part of as CTO was the best kind of access point for technologies being adopted in the organization. We would help you to understand the business a little bit more, and really challenge you before then introducing you to the business which potentially, you could add value to, to really underline.

You can’t approach an organization with just trying to deliver technology for technology’s sake. Coming in and demonstrating the value you’ve shown already to an adjacent market to energy is a huge help in understanding how you can then be adopted to our organization.

Being able to articulate very clearly and simply what your unique selling proposition and the value of your product is really important. And then, to underline Bob’s point is, that there’s a low barrier for adoption because we have to allocate valued resources to even test your solution. If you make it easy for us to take the technology you’ll stand a far better chance of being adopted as a result. If in fact, you asked us to put huge teams and resources into adapting your technology to fit, that simply isn’t going to work in this day and age.