Tackling the information and systems challenges of acquisitions

Asset Transfers can be complex from an information and technology perspective but can be the springboard for innovation, as well as delivering the expected productivity. The critical path is for the transfer of services agreement, safety case, readiness, and transition of operations. This article highlights the types of transfer, the issues we face, and Sword’s tried and tested approach to dealing with them.

The divestor may not have detailed plans of what to transfer or how to do it, and the acquiring organisation may have limited experience of transfers. The team at each end may be undertaking this work on top of their current jobs, with timescales that are often outside of their control. This creates demands that are stressful for key personnel and impacts their ability to quickly make critical decisions.

The impact on contracts and procurement is often underestimated. Limited time for tenders and approvals for expenditure, as well as a lack of expertise in the contract scope and novation, all need an appropriate strategy. Sword helps drive that efficiently as we coordinate a range of vendors, use specific templates from our procurement catalogue, understand the technical scopes, and can validate pricing. We understand the importance of the early identification of contracts that cannot transfer, or custom and out of date systems that will need replacing. Watch out for surprisingly long-lead time items such as radio licenses, network circuits, software customisation, and offshore deployment.

A changing landscape

The UKCS landscape is evolving. Supermajors are changing their portfolios and mid-tier organisations seek opportunities, but the most dynamic area is new entrants. Rising prices are increasing investor appetite, but this is likely to be balanced by the Energy Transition and ESG pressures.

The approaches to an asset transfer take account of the practical differences in systems maturity and capability between companies of varying scale. The challenges faced reflect the different types of transfer; from a non-operated asset, unmanned platform or subsea production system, to a major platform or FPSO. The timescales, and corresponding project and capex costs, can range from one or two months at one end of the scale, to six months or a year at the other.

Phased approach

The primary objective is always hit the transfer deadline. That creates the mindset of “move everything over ‘as is’, start using it, and then worry about the details later”. Transfer projects can involve dozens of systems and huge amounts of information, paper, tapes, samples, and other data. There is a clear need to maintain the Chain of Custody to govern how information changes hands. Not all systems are appropriate for Cloud technology, and that certainly won’t help with physical archives and samples. On-site systems take longer to deploy, and private datacentres can have short-term capacity limitations.

Don’t try and implement radical innovations unless you have proven methods and funding already in place. Post-transfer project fatigue can set in, creating a risk that the performance the new owner seeks will not be realised. Leadership and investors will expect increased performance so plan for it. Make sure corporate information, engineering and subsurface are all taken care of. This ensures you can apply your people and financial resources to make future modifications to your production assets and make the most of your reserves. Sword’s approach consists of 3 separate phases:

Closing thoughts

Sword has successfully completed many asset transfers and related services on behalf of a range of UKCS companies including NEO Energy and Serica Energy alongside the best-known Operators in the industry.

Contact Neale Stidolph (Sword Energy Sector, Information Management Lead), neale.stidolph@sword-group.com

Sword IT Solutions has embarked on an exciting new chapter with the creation of the Sword Energy Sector. This approach underlines the commitment to placing the needs of energy industry customers at the heart of the organisation, by bringing together Sword’s full breadth of domain experience, digital enablement, and managed service excellence. Building an Energy Sector is a natural next step for this business technology and data company, which has doubled in size over the last 5 years and has the ambition to double again by 2025.

Despite the past 12 months being recognised as the most challenging in recent memory, Sword has created 50 new roles in Energy while protecting existing jobs. Sword’s goal is to create at least 250 more positions within the Energy Sector in the next 3 years with continued investment in new talent, training, and skills development.

Sword’s Energy Sector has over 350 employees in locations across the UK, Europe, Asia Pacific, and North America. This global structure enables Sword to support customers of all sizes, maturity, and location, ranging from international blue-chip companies to local independents. Sword places critical importance on partnering with customers as ‘Trusted Advisors’ and applying an in-depth understanding of business needs. In doing so, Sword draws on extensive consulting and technical expertise to create a platform for future operations and innovation by delivering Digital, Data and Infrastructure Services.

Phil Brading, Sword Energy Sector Director, explains:

“We are shaping our business to make sure we are best placed to support the evolving needs of the energy industry. It’s important that we integrate our data and technology expertise from across the asset lifecycle to support our customers’ digital strategies and drive greater value. Our success is built upon listening to and working with our customers, and that ethos remains as fundamental as ever.”

Sword is delighted to announce the appointment of Helen Ratcliffe in the role of Technology Consulting Lead for the Energy Sector. Helen will be helping to build the next phase of Sword’s digital technology strategy to best meet customer demand for the next generation of specialist advice, projects and services.

Helen has over 30 years of experience in the Energy industry, predominantly in Upstream Oil & Gas. She has a great track record of delivering technology-enabled, business transformation programmes that include Mobility, Big Data, Digital Oilfield, Integrated Operations, and Organisational Change Management.

Helen Ratcliffe, Technology Consulting Lead, said:

“I am excited to join Sword as we embark on the 2025 strategy. Each individual part of the Sword Group has been successful in it’s own right, but I believe the Energy Sector will be greater than the sum of its parts. I am keen to work with our existing clients and bring in new ones with whom we can partner to drive positive business outcomes for each.”

The focus from Phil, Helen, and the wider Sword leadership team, will be to expand upon Sword’s foundations to develop flexible new services that address the challenges the industry is facing. This means applying a data-driven approach that promotes the adoption of best practice, efficiency and new insight.

About Sword Energy

Sword delivers practical business support to our customers in Energy. Spanning Oil & Gas, the Energy Transition, and Renewables, we provide day to day operational support, digital solution deployment, transition projects, and technical consultancy. Our expertise runs from IT, business technology, and infrastructure, to subsurface, production, engineering and corporate data and information.

Sword IT Solutions is part of the international Sword Group, which, with over 2,000 domain experts, is active in more than 50 counties and specialises in software and services across a range of industries.

Today we’re shining the spotlight on recently appointed, Sector Technology Consulting Lead, Helen Ratcliffe who makes up an integral part of our Energy Sector leadership team.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey before joining Sword?

I have been really privileged in my career to work with some of the world’s largest Energy companies, IOCs, NOCs and some clients in the supply chain as well. I have experience in Pharmaceuticals and have provided services to a very large busy airport. My employers have ranged from large technology focused systems integrators to boutique consultancies. For the past 20 years I have focussed on Consulting; this has provided me the privilege of seeing many different organisations from the inside, helping me experience a wide view of their businesses. I have put my effort into a range of technical and business focussed initiatives, always with business outcomes for the client at the forefront.

Looking forward to the rest of this year, what big issues do you expect to help our customers address?

Digitalisation is on everyone’s mind, some organisations are advanced and have a great track record already, others are just embarking on the journey. Bringing together strong consultative skills, the fundamentals of data and information, deep domain and experience, I think we can help move the oil and gas industry forward.

Why did you choose to progress your career with Sword?

Sword have a great set of capabilities, skills and a strong track record over many years in Oil & Gas as well as Utilities and Public Sector.  Why wouldn’t I want to work with a company that couples that with a great growth record and values that I really believe in. Sword really care about client’s businesses, ensuring that our highly valued employees all contribute towards keeping things simple and doing the right thing by our customers.

You have joined Sword at an exciting time for the business, what services and specialties do Sword provide in your region to energy customers?

Sword delivers practical business support to our customers in Energy. Spanning Oil & Gas, the Energy Transition, and Renewables, we provide day to day operational support, digital solution deployment, transition projects, and technical consultancy. Our expertise runs from IT, business technology, and infrastructure, to subsurface, production, engineering and corporate data and information.

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to women thinking about their careers in the Energy Sector?

Over the past 35 years I have seen the Sector move, slowly at first and more rapidly over recent years to address diversity. The Energy sector has re-invented itself; it is no longer all about the heavy industry aspects often portrayed in media and film.  While this aspect is still a reality for key parts of the industry; science, technology, innovation, and business acumen have come into public focus. The Energy sector needs new talent and Women can play a major part.

What does the International Women’s Day 2021 slogan, #ChooseToChallenge mean for you in your work life?

Diversity of thinking in any team is very desirable. Don’t be afraid to share your thinking, sometimes people will agree with you, sometimes they will not. If you don’t give them the chance how will you know!    

Read on to learn more about careers with Sword or our Information Management solutions.

Find out more about International Woman’s Day 2021.

When Serica Energy acquired the Bruce, Keith and Rhum assets in 2018, Sword was engaged to build the IT services they needed as a new North Sea operator.  Andrew James led the IT transition team and subsequently took on the role of Serica’s Information Services Manager, responsible for Sword’s small but perfectly formed managed services team.  In this article, Andrew explains what’s happened since 2018, as Serica enters its third year as operator of BKR, and how Sword is helping the company on its digital journey.

During Serica’s acquisition of Bruce, Keith and Rhum, IT services were built in readiness for cutover with the focus on satisfying essential business needs.  It was important that core services and business systems were available on “Day 1” to support key business functions and ensure operational continuity.  The principle of “Transition Now, Transformation Later” was observed during this phase.

With core IT systems in place following cutover, we entered a stabilisation phase when we made sure everything was working correctly, applied small fixes and enhancements, and introduced some new systems to improve ways of working.  A lot of this work was opportunistic or reactive, based on short term or tactical business needs.

Strategic Transformation

As we approach the end of the second year of IT operations, we are entering a more strategic, transformative phase when we will make more structural changes to how the company maximises value from digital solutions.  In doing so, we have two main aims:

  1. To make sure Serica is equipped with modern tools to help fulfil its business strategy and plans, enabling the company to use technology to work smarter, be safer, and maintain its position as a leading mid-tier E&P company in the UK North Sea.
  2. To ensure sustainability as the business evolves.  Serica is actively looking to expand its portfolio in the North Sea, through development and further asset acquisitions, and it is important that systems and services we operate are flexible and scalable to accommodate growth.

Digital Strategy

To take us forward, our digital strategy and roadmap will define improvements to be made on a rolling 3-year basis.  Recognising that a digital programme is not just about introducing new IT systems, this will embrace four elements:

Planning for the future

Digital is all about bringing these different elements together, working out how to use information, applications and technology to enhance business processes and achieve better performance.  To do this consistently across the organisation and make sure we don’t miss opportunities, it will be important for all of Serica’s business teams to be involved to some extent.   With this in mind, we have formed a Digital Steering Group including representatives from the IT function and all business disciplines.

The steps we have taken to date have allowed us to frame opportunities, explore benefits, agree our priorities, and deliver some quick wins.  First, we recognised that the data which is available in many systems can provide a good insight into business performance and help us to identify improvement opportunities.  We kicked off a project with three aims:

  1. Establish a central data hub to bring together data from different sources, giving us a single “source of the truth” for reporting and analytics.
  2. Develop standard business intelligence (BI) dashboards, refreshed automatically, to help business teams to understand key performance metrics for their processes and activities.
  3. Provide a self-service capability, allowing business users to interrogate the data and create their own bespoke reports.

As the data hub evolves, we will extend this to enable more advanced analytics capabilities.  It has already proven extremely valuable, and our dashboards based on Power BI are used by business teams on a daily basis.

Another theme we are pursuing is to put mobile technology into the hands of mobile workers, allowing them to access the information and digital tools they need without being tied to the office.  We’re beginning with a new tool to improve how we perform inspections of electrical equipment offshore – an important and resource-intensive activity – and we will move onto other uses cases in due course where we see opportunity to add value or work more efficiently, streamlining how we work across many areas through better collaboration and more direct access to tools and data.

Since data is so fundamental to digital solutions, we are also focusing on making sure enterprise data is well managed, with strong data governance controls defining where master data resides, how it is updated, how it is used, and how it can be accessed.  This will allow us to integrate key systems to a much greater extent – maintaining data quality and consistency across business “silos” – and develop digital workflows which are driven by processes and data.  An early priority has been improving our engineering data warehouse, allowing us to feed trustworthy data from there to other systems used for transactional business activities.

Although it is still early days, we have already seen potential benefits of enterprise data governance with our adoption of GDi Vision, an asset visualisation solution.  The core product allows us to perform virtual walkthroughs of the offshore asset based on geospatial and photographic data.  We are now looking at augmenting this with data from our engineering and maintenance systems, allowing engineers to plan work based on a digital twin, reducing the need for costly and time-consuming offshore surveys.

There are many exciting ideas and demands across the business, and our digital strategy and roadmap will help us to make sure we focus on the right opportunities, working hand-in-hand with business colleagues.  Digital solutions will play an important role in Serica’s future, enabling the company to safely reduce operating costs and generate value by innovating, and we are looking forward to helping to deliver those solutions.

To learn more about the original asset transition project, read the full Serica case study and for more on the considerations of IT and IM, Operations and Finance and Board on Asset Transition, please follow the links.  

Recent research between Sword IT Solutions and AIIM has shown that there are 6 key reasons why business are failing to deliver effective digital workplaces:

  1. SharePoint is failing to live up to expectations;
  2. people are not supported to work the way they live;
  3. information overload gets in the way of collaboration;
  4. mobile access is an afterthought;
  5. lack of a central launch point to intranet activities; and
  6. the most important part of the company is the people - but they done feel that way!

Download our info graphic for more details......

Our own Neale Stidolph and Greg Anderson are co-authors on a new AIIM report looking at how organisations can establish a true digital workspace and the role our Sword Connect product can play in making this a reality.

For a free copy of the report please go the AIIM website.

For more information on our Connect product please download our PDF

Sword Connect for SharePoint Online provides an exceptional toolkit for promoting collaboration. Connect makes it easy to share information and collaborate. Connect enriches user experience, generating real engagement.  Sword IT Solutions is a Microsoft Gold Partner based in the UK with longstanding, proven expertise in building enterprise Intranet solutions for
both public and private organisations using SharePoint and Office365.

The Connect framework has evolved from our years of experience of working with local government customers to drive the very best from SharePoint, working with our clients to develop their information architecture and governance practice, deploying and supporting solutions. Our approach is grounded in fast user adoption and engaging with people - the technology plays a supporting role.

Sword Connect is a suite of brandable, pre-built apps designed to maximise productivity and collaboration in SharePoint. Deployment is quick and effortless. Information is intelligently surfaced to each user based on their department and role. Each app provides a clear, accessible and responsive launch point for common areas of Intranet activity.

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