Q&A with Neale Stidolph on IT and IM considerations in Asset Transitions

We talked to Neale Stidolph, Head of Information Management and Energy Transition at Sword, about the considerations for IT and information management (IM) when kicking off an oil and gas asset transition project.  

What are the key IT and IM considerations you would advise a potential buyer looking to acquire an asset on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS)? 

“People often say, “we’ll take all the information” and set up the systems to use it, that should be quick. Information is often buried in many systems, so the challenge is in getting clear definitions and being able to separate and extract that information. Being able to show you have all the right critical information is a key part of making the safety case and getting regulatory approval to operate the assets.” 

How complex is it to extract the data and information on a particular asset out of the owner organisations’ clutches? 

“Many applications are old and highly customised, or bespoke. Setting up new systems can be quite rapid but getting the data in the right form and making it useful takes time. There can be permission issues, with multiple data handovers and that all needs to be properly controlled between seller/buyer and any intermediaries – which is where we specialise.” 

How long would you anticipate needing to transition the IT and IM on an asset from one owner to another? 

“The nature of the assets is key. Small unmanned platforms could be done in a few months, but large onshore facilities or multiple major offshore assets could take a year. Some transition activities can continue post-transfer of operatorship, and many can run in parallel. We always work out the critical path, define long-lead items or systems and work around the buyer/seller timetable.”

What tasks tend to surprise new owners in terms of timescales when project planning asset transitions? 

“It can be the non-technical challenges, such as contracts & procurement, with novations, bids and license transfers all extending the timeline. Asset transfers will usually involve dozens of systems, about 50-80 for the last two projects. That requires lots of vendor co-ordination, which we can smooth out.” 

“Approvals to act from buyer/seller management are crucial, and there will be many decisions to be taken during the transfer process. The nature of the information can be very broad, from emails to databases, archive boxes, core samples, old magnetic tapes, etc.” 

“You may start by working the way the previous owner did, so that is a common initial goal. However, as a buyer you are likely to want to change over time to work in your own way and do things differently.” 

Do Sword ever act on behalf of the buyer and seller of an asset, and does that lead to any conflict of interest?

“It helps if we handle transfer activities for both buyer and seller as it makes the communication and data handover issues more efficient. This worked very well on the most recent transfer of GP3 and associated assets & licenses from Total E&P UK to Neo Energy.” 

“The conflict of interest aspect tends not to be a problem since we are achieving the same objective for all parties and have a clear and documented processes for managing the transfer, with an audit trail of activities and approvals.”

What opportunities for change do you see new asset owners embrace?

“Having overcome the first hurdle, acquiring the assets and putting in place the data and systems the real work begins! New owners will initially focus on running things safely, maintaining production and checking on things like maintenance backlogs.” 

“The future strategy will depend on the projected life of asset or field. Ways to extend the life will be very important and seeking to increase recoverable hydrocarbons so the challenge is in two parts, run production as smart as you can and looking at the subsurface to possibly reinterpret old data, new seismic work and drilling.”

“Where we can help most is in making the right information available more easily, so that it provides solid decision support in those areas. Reducing cost through fewer people offshore, simpler and slicker work processes and making engineering management of change easier – as this may include energy transition such as offshore wind & platform electrification or the potential for CCUS and Hydrogen production.”

Can you give us any examples of cost savings that you have seen new owners of assets achieve by changing the structure of the IT and/or IM approach?

“Yes, such as the trials of robotics for inspections and integrating drones into the client’s data systems. We have also seen improvements through increased safety, by making sure all asset information is ‘as-built’ and ‘as-operated’.”

“The back office processes have also been improved so that business administration is less burdensome. There is usually potential for more consolidation of systems, so that you need fewer applications and their associated support and license costs.”

In a nutshell, the notion that it’s possible to ‘lift and shift’ the IT and IM from one asset to another is sadly only a myth. The reality is that it’s worth investing in a realistic, integrated project plan to make the most of the change in structure. Changing an asset’s ownership gives opportunities to migrate only the relevant information into a new home, and streamline technology requirements that set up the asset for new ownership and growth well into the future.

“A successful asset transfer needs to consider not just the information that you think you need now, but the information which may be of high value later. This includes design information that could make decommissioning easier and old well data such as cement bonding logs – as they may be needed for CCUS. Make sure you don’t lose things of potential future value. Also know that the seller may not give you everything, as it is a complex task – we can help you identify the typical blind spots from many previous projects of this type.”

For more information, please read more on our business technology solutions and stay tuned for a new case study on our recent work with Neo Energy when purchasing an asset package from Total earlier this year.

Despite all the hard work of the last 25+ years, we still face enormous challenges in Oil & Gas data management. Recently, the focus has shifted from managing structured data repositories to the enormous volumes of ‘dark data’ that most of our clients still have in their digital vaults. 

Gareth Smith, Head of Consulting at Sword Venture, explains that this shift is driven by the need to feed large volumes of high-quality data into analytics and data science-driven processes; growing regulatory pressure to report data; and the need to ensure safe, efficient operations (especially for the many assets that have swapped hands). However, most of this data is locked away in collections of documents and legacy proprietary formats, is nearly always poorly indexed and is often not machine readable. We have seen a surge in requests to help our clients do something about this. 

Most of these Oil & Gas data management projects break down in to three core challenges:

  1. Find It: Trawl through large volumes of files and understand what we have.
  2. Sort It: Classify, tag, de-duplicate, make it machine readable.
  3. Use It: Search for valuable content and extract it into a form that can be used in ‘traditional’ E&P (exploration & production) applications and data-driven analytics. 

Crucially, this has to be done without years of manual effort. It needs a different approach, using highly automated data science and analytics solutions to tackle these core challenges at scale and pace. 

1. Find It

The first step is to build a pipeline that can ingest, store, process and extract/index data at scale. Unless our clients have the required compute resources to hand, we make use of the major public cloud platforms, e.g. AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Azure (by Microsoft), to provide the tools and processing power to tackle this challenge. A re-usable, cost-optimised and efficient data processing architecture based on cloud infrastructure reduces the costs and overhead to the client and allows us to move quickly through this stage of the process.

2. Sort It

The next step is to clean up the data, understand what we have and identify the data that has some value to us. This is where we apply data science and analytics to automate and massively speed up what once was a laborious, labour intensive process. For example, we have developed a model using a machine learning algorithm, or neural network to predict the classification of a given document based on its text content, contained images and structure. Accuracy levels are often in excess of 95%. We combine this with analytics-driven clean-up and cloud-based optical character recognition (OCR) to create a repository of well structured, machine readable content ready for further analysis and processing.

3. Use It

The ‘Find’ and ‘Sort’ stages are just a means to an end; the goal is to extract value from data by putting it to work. We use a combination of machine and deep learning to identify and classify specific data within a document or text and extract that data in a machine readable format.​ For example, identifying deviation survey data (essential to all well interpretation) within documents and scanned images, extracting and making available to engineers. ​

We are working on the use of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning techniques to draw meaning out of documents in order to generate greater insight.​ For example, to automatically recognise the findings and outcomes of final reports for thousands of wells, reducing the requirement for manual analysis.

Beyond the Core Challenges: Insight & Intelligence

Our goal going forward is to develop and deploy techniques such as deep learning and data engineering to synthesise large amounts of information and provide recommendations to assist human decision makers.​ For example, assisting with decisions on where to target exploration investment or how best to configure engineering parameters to reduce failure rates and maximise uptime.​ We recognise the value of combining data and knowledge to create unbiased predictive reasoning tools to support complex decision scenarios.

The combination of on-demand cloud computing and advanced data science and analytics techniques is revolutionising the way we manage data and extract value. We can tackle data at scale and pace, reduce manual effort and automate processes in a way that just wasn’t possible even a few years ago. 

To find out more about how we can help you with your data management challenges, read on about our data and information management solutions here.

Gareth Smith, Head of Consulting at Sword Venture, delves into the detail of data management as an agile approach versus the more traditional waterfall project delivery commonly adopted in the UK Oil & Gas industry.

Oil & Gas: An Industry Struggling to Change

I sat in a fascinating session run by the Society of Petroleum Data Managers (SPDM), where Dan Brown, Executive Director at Common Data Access (CDA), talked about the challenges we face digitalising the Oil & Gas industry in the UK. Despite the many billions of IT spend over the years, apparently we still sit at the bottom of most ‘digital maturity’ league tables. One of the key questions raised was are we ‘agile’ enough in the way we work to reach the goal of delivering a digitalised basin on the UKCS? Does the long-term, physical asset management mindset of our industry, more aligned to manufacturing, lend itself to an agile approach?

Constantly Evolving 

I’ve discussed in the past about the rapid changes we’re seeing in Oil & Gas data management (DM); in particular the ability to apply new data analytics and data science techniques to address data management challenges at scale and speed. These approaches are more akin to science-based R&D or software development than the people-heavy, process-driven approaches of old. We are constantly finding and applying new tools and techniques to improve delivery and derive more value. The toolset is literally changing day-by-day as the underlying toolsets and algorithms improve and expand. The good news is this lends itself perfectly to an agile approach. In fact, it’s probably the only way you can do it. 

Our Clients Say They Want Agile ….

Nearly all our clients are talking about agile. Some have already reengineered their internal IT and DM project delivery processes to take advantage of an agile approach, where the focus on an early realisation of value, continuous delivery and a mindset that accepts and embraces change. However, this is a massive shift in mindset from the days of 18-month+ project and budgeting lifecycles and waterfall project management that the industry has worked with for decades.

Many Fear the Leap

Many others say they want agile and all that it might deliver but can’t get over the line when it comes to the detail. An agile mindset requires an acceptance that the outcome is unknown. You can’t define the absolute time, effort and cost for an agile project. You can’t define a GANTT view of the project before you start. You work one sprint at a time towards your goal, focusing on continual value delivery and learning and adapting as you go. It also requires the continual involvement of the client, with day-to-day feedback guiding the work. As the client, you must retain ownership of the solution, not farm it out and hope that in 6 months’ time you have something of value back.

You try and narrow down the ‘cone of uncertainty’ as you progress through an agile project. You are always delivering value but there is always the chance you won’t do everything you set out to at the start, unless to decide to extend the project. You might argue that’s also the case with traditional project approaches, but it is baked in to agile. Change and uncertainty are core elements of the approach.

So, Are You Ready?

When it comes down to it, many say they want agile but really still want the (supposed) certainty of a waterfall approach to a project: a detailed scope & spec, a nice GANTT chart with lots of defined milestones and fixed estimates of cost, time and final deliverables. 

Helping the UK Oil & Gas Industry deliver a digitised basin is going to take a conscious leap of faith to trust the relevance of an Agile approach to addressing the challenges in our industry. Read more about Sword’s data and information management solutions here.

Location intelligence is a key compnent of the solutions delivered to Sword clients. GIS Specialist Iwona Jakubowska shares her technical insights from the annual conference by Esri, an international supplier of geographic information system (GIS) software. 

A Virtual Conference at Scale

This year’s Esri User Conference was unlike any other. Billed as an immersive, fully virtual event, it gathered thousands of GIS users from all over the world. Over 80,000 users from 180 countries registered for the event that took place between 13th and 16th July 2020. 

The event was designed to enable users to actively participate in the live sessions via chats, as well as watch pre-recorded sessions on demand. Esri has since made all of the sessions available online.

There were also some challenges, mainly around search/filter functionality (finding a proper session) and obviously time difference, as the event was hosted in Redlands, CA and watched live all around the world.

ESRI’s president Jack Dangermond led the plenary session, highlighting great Esri’s achievements in the field of Covid 19 response as well as many useful GIS implementations and solutions for various industries, like GIS integration with enterprise systems, including Microsoft Office, ETL (extract, transform and load) workflows, CAD (computer-aided design) and BIM (building information modelling). He announced a new education programme partnering with the National Geographic Society. Esri continues working with the UN on their Sustainable Development Goals.

Jack also announced new features and improvement to the Esri platform. He put a lot of emphasis on deep learning and AI (artificial intelligence) techniques available in the Esri platform.

The plenary session is available on the Esri Conference website

The following developments in particular caught my attention:

New Online Map Viewer

The new online Map Viewer was built on the latest JS (JavaScript) technology and it allows many new options of data visualisation, labelling and charting. Enhanced, more intuitive user interface makes it easier to create beautiful and meaningful maps. Cartographic blending is a new addition to the web map viewer to show the terrain texture for better understanding of the landscape.

ArcGIS Experience Builder

ArcGIS Experience Builder is an application that allows users to create multi-page web applications using both 2D and 3D data. A great selection of tools and widgets enhances the look and feel, so that applications can be customised to a higher level. Users can now create new multipage, complex sites, which wasn’t possible before. Experience Builder is now available in ArcGIS Online (AGOL) and is soon coming to ArcGIS Enterprise.

Esri Notebook

Esri Notebooks are now available across the platform, from AGOL, through Enterprise to Desktop. There has been a Notebooks manager and admin API (application planning interface) added recently, that enables to create a custom template for your Notebooks. Multiple charts options are now available as well as a scheduler for automated tasks.

Python API enables administrators, publishers, analysts and data scientists to script and automate their workflows. All Python functionality is available through ArcGIS Notebooks. The ArcGIS Pro Python environment can also be extended with open-source libraries.

ArcGIS Analytics for IoT

ArcGIS Analytics for IoT (internet of things) is a new real-time and big data processing and analysis capability in ArcGIS Online platform (an extension). It enables users to ingest, store, visualise and analyse data from IoT sensors. It allows to connect to almost any type of streaming data, perform real-time analytics and processing on the streaming data, and automatically disseminate information. It also enables users to design analytic models to process high-volume historical data in order to gain insights into patterns, trends, and anomalies in the big data.

In Esri terms: ArcGIS Analytics for IoT = (GeoEvent + GeoAnalytics) in the cloud

3D Voxel layer

Voxel layer is a new data type introduced in the latest ArcGIS Pro release (2.5). Voxels are 3-dimentional cubes that can store various information. They allow you to visualise and explore multidimensional phenomena. You can now can easily create a cross section and slice through the voxel volume to investigate the distribution of the values in your data. Using transparency, you can focus on the most important information. You can also add fourth dimension, time, for better understanding the given phenomena (e.g. temperature). This video from Esri gives a great overview. 

Summary

The conference brought together a host of insights into developments of Esri’s products and solutions and we’re really looking forward to bringing the benefits of these developments to Sword clients.

For more information about our information and data management please read more here.

Following on from Sword’s deep-dive into unlocking digitalisation value via our top 10 information and data management themes in Oil and Gas, Neale Stidolph, Head of Information Management & Energy Transition Lead, revisits these themes to consider the implications of Energy Transition. 

Energy Transition is picking up speed and there are major investments being made, in a new landscape of operating companies, suppliers, regulators and many intersections and crossovers with the current Oil & Gas sector. There is an opportunity to take advantage of information and data for better business performance, and avoid delays, cost overruns, regulatory impact and to make best use of existing skills.

Digitalisation needs data, needs data management

There are new streams of data from sensors and applications, with a need to closely monitor greenhouse gas emissions. New collaborations are emerging, for example the Seagreen windfarm project. Connecting companies from different sectors is greatly helped by making information and data readily available and in a form that all parties can trust and know how to use.

Asset transfers and the crucial role of data

Just as decommissioning is a crucial factor when taking on an existing production asset, so is the status and trending of emissions. Plans can then be made for Energy Transition such as electrification through floating wind, wave systems or connecting into emerging renewable energy hubs. Good data will help make the case to the regulator when taking on additional assets.

Governance is making a comeback

Emissions goals are being set at increasing levels of detail, and this needs to be easily rolled up to see company performance all the way up to national emissions levels. Legislation is defining the macro targets and changes to carbon taxation are likely, as the UK is below other levels such as CO2 tax in Norway. Good data on CO2 output and trends at a granular level will help plan what can be captured and stored. The Oil & Gas Climate Initiative has a new CO2 storage resource catalogue that shows locations and potential capacity.

Stuck at the ‘proof of concept’ (PoC) chasm

As Energy Transition is in flux people are working on many aspects, however joining that up more collaboratively across the industry would help save time and money. Work on emissions dashboards and reporting is something that suits a group initiative. Currently offshore wind seems to be very much about individual projects, all tied back to shore. The emerging strategy is about a grander plan that would form regional offshore hubs and international connectors, as a backbone for enabling many more projects to move ahead. It seems similar in terms of information and data, as a clearer framework that helps everyone from suppliers to regulators makes life simpler. This approach has been applied successfully by the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) and the National Data Repository (NDR), the new version of which is likely to include Energy Transition considerations next year.

Dropping down the digitalisation hype curve

Yes, there’s still lots of digitalisation hype around. The Energy Transition twist is that folk seem to be more open as it is new and less familiar. The questions are familiar enough. Companies need to know where they stand, see how they’re trending, make plans and monitor their effectiveness – which are all information and data driven. Hype is reduced if there are good sets of requirements emerging which people can get involved with and adopt. That’s how the Oil & Gas UK IM Forum is proceeding, to assess the current state, gather views and see what the OGTC, OGA and trade organisations in renewables are doing. There are dozens of trade groups which makes the landscape complex, hence best to navigate that intelligently via a group like the IM Forum. That will help avoid duplicated effort or ideological conflict. It looks like this work will link up well with the Open Subsurface Data Universe (OSDU) and their emerging New Energy charter.

Oil & Gas core business: hydrocarbons or tech?

In our last article we spoke about core Oil & Gas activities such as exploration and production and how that can be at odds with an entrepreneurial start-up IT approach to digitalisation. Those forces are still very much in play, but Energy Transition brings new angles to consider. Operators may choose to buy-in renewable power for offshore facility electrification, but some may acquire more capabilities of their own. How hands-on Operators decide to be is going to be interesting, to see how they will adapt.

Net Zero sentiment and “oil shaming”

The last few months have brought multiple impacts of the pandemic, oil demand collapse and resulting fall in Oil & Gas prices. Many conference calls and webinars have looked at the likely impact, will this hit the Energy Transition pause button? Will investors rush away from Oil & Gas? It seems not. That’s not to say it will be easy or that there will be winners and losers. The industry is necessary and contributes to cleaner energy through gas and hydrogen, and can capture and store huge amounts of CO2. This helps tremendously, accelerating plans by making best use of existing facilities. The new skills needed for Energy Transition could offset many potential job losses. This creates a more positive feel that will actually get things done.

The search for talent

Some skills will adapt, such as subsurface specialists working on reservoir suitability and long-term management for CO2 storage. New types of equipment will need to be designed, deployed, monitored and maintained, making best use of existing skills in those areas. We recently presented to the Society of Petroleum Data Managers on this topic, to help raise awareness so that people can consider how they can enhance their skills.

Collaboration is key

Having mentioned the OGA’s NDR it is also worth adding the changes going on in the ΩSDU, and their ‘New Energy Charter’ under development. Ensuring that these, along with data transfers standards all fit nicely together would be great. Best not to rush forward without taking a moment to see what is out there and how it is changing.

Innovation

Many companies are involved in amazing projects such as Acorn, Northern Lights, and PosHYdon. It’s an exciting time to see the practical progress towards clean energy, see how our working lives are changing too, reducing dependence on travelling for work. We’re fortunate that smarter ways to work with information and data were put in place so that many people are now not dependent on being in offices. This digital revolution will play a key part in bringing about Energy Transition.

Read part 1 and part 2 of this article on EnergyVoice or read more about Sword’s data and information management solutions here.

We are pleased to announce the acquisition of Codify Ltd, custom software developers based in Aberdeen, UK. Codify has an excellent reputation in the marketplace and have provided custom software development and support services for over 20 years.

Codify design, build and support software applications (apps) for mobile, web and desktop platforms. They have completed hundreds of successful projects, both helping customers build internal bespoke systems and bringing commercial software products to market.

Both parties are very excited about the possibilities of this partnership, in terms of the breadth and depth of support offered to the combined customer base and the innovation that can be delivered.

Dave Bruce, CEO of Sword UK, said “I’m delighted to welcome the Codify team to the Sword Group. We targeted Codify because they are leaders in custom software development. We are excited about what the future now holds for the combined business. We believe that as part of Sword, we can support and accelerate Codify’s growth plans while adding a valuable enhanced capability to the Group.

Mark Griffiths, Business Unit Director of Codify, said “The combination of Codify and Sword will enable us to grow – building on our existing strong foundations. This will further our mission of leading the way in delivering successful custom software projects. We are excited to join the group and look forward to the future.”

Sword provides Business Technology Solutions to the Energy, Public, Commercial and Financial sectors throughout the UK, employing over 330 people across its primary locations in Aberdeen, Glasgow and London. For more information, contact Craig Swinburn on +44(0)1224 506116 or craig.swinburn@sword-group.com

We turn the Sword Spotlight on Sam Omidi, who recently joined the Energy team as a Data Scientist. Here he talks us through a little background and reflections on his first few months with Sword.

“I think the most surprising thing I’ve learned is that I’m not a fake data scientist among real ones. They call them unicorns for a reason. I can now say with confidence that I can code and I do know software development lifecycle and statistics. Without these skills, life as a data scientist would be difficult and one would struggle a lot. In general, people have their strengths and experience in one or two things and are weaker at others. I now believe a data scientist needs to know more than just a couple of things. They need to know how to handle out-of-memory errors, data structures, and expectation maximization or where heteroscedasticity is coming from.

“I switched into a focus on data science and machine learning during my final year project in my bachelor degree by working on a data mining project and social network analysis. This interest truly materialised when I got Masters in Data Science.

“I joined Sword three months ago as I found the team very passionate about their work. Also, the projects they are working on are very unique and exciting.

“I got heavily involved in my first week with designing a data pipeline and evaluating various novelty detection algorithm, along with my lead. It has been absolutely fantastic seeing myself hitting the ground running from the start and feeling part of the team immediately.

“Additionally, in the subsequent projects I had a chance to boost my knowledge about neural networks and focus my research on them, developing more in-depth understanding.

“A typical day for me starts around 8:00am, when I catch up on my social media accounts related to machine learning and data science. I switch into work projects around 8:30am and finish around 5:00pm with a break for lunch. About 40% of my time is spent on research and development, with a strong focus in mathematics to be able to understand what is actually happening under the hood of every algorithm that might be a good candidate for our project. The work involves anything from developing and testing new algorithms to writing mathematical proofs to simplify data problems. 

“Another 30% of my time is spent on research about best coding practice in data science, which often identifies problems related to data capture, data pipelines or specific implementation of an algorithm with needed modifications. This is probably one of the most crucial aspects of the job. As a data scientist, it is important to communicate with a wide range of stakeholders, so it helps simplify my explanations of machine learning algorithms to a layman's level.

“The other 20% of my time is meeting with my colleagues. We discuss the projects and support each other on our tasks.

“Each project is unique, and I try to let the project and its initial findings guide me to next steps. I mainly use Python and Azure platforms for projects, though R, and SAS are occasionally helpful with specific packages or R&D requests. I can usually recycle the code, but each problem has its own assumptions and data limitations with respect to the mathematics. 

“Overall, it has been a great start and I am looking forward to what the future will hold for me and the team.

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

Data science

In the second of our new series of Sword Spotlight articles, we talk to Gillian Innes, who recently joined Sword’s Oil & Gas team as a Service Delivery Manager based in Aberdeen.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before joining Sword?

I’ve worked consistently in IT, across a mix of IT service providers and in-house IT teams. For several years I concentrated mainly on delivering technology projects however I am really enjoying a return to the operational side and focusing on IT service delivery. Having worked both as a contractor and as ‘staff’, I’m really enjoying becoming embedded with a company whose ethos I respect.

What does an average day entail for you at Sword?

As a Service Delivery Manager (SDM), I’m responsible for the client relationship with one of our major global energy companies to deliver their core IT services and a few projects for more substantial change initiatives. The majority of our team are largely based on the client site in Aberdeen, apart from the IT service desk team who are based in our city centre offices. However, we have been in lockdown since I joined so we are all currently working remotely, which is a different way of working for all of us. We are always fine tuning our delivery via internal process improvements and making sure we keep on top of the client’s priorities.

What do you enjoy about working at Sword?

I genuinely love it all! Even though I have joined Sword at the most surreal time, there is a real team feeling that permeates while we are all working at home. Everyone has been extremely welcoming, and it really helps that I have worked with many of the management team and my peers in previous roles in Aberdeen. Trusting those around me has meant the potential challenges of starting a new role during lockdown have not been an issue and together we are delivering a united service to our clients.

Tell us about a work-related achievement that made you feel proud?

Joining Sword the day before lockdown started added to the intensity of starting a new job, especially as I needed to build a relationship with my client over the phone throughout a period of unplanned upheaval. In response to lockdown, the global energy company that I’m SDM for needed help to support their hundreds of people who normally work in an Aberdeen office to switch to working from home. I’m impressed with the way our teams have risen to the challenge and we have had fantastic feedback from our client, which is a great way to start a new job!

Why did you choose to progress your career with Sword? 

Sword is clearly growing at an impressive rate and that brings lots of interesting opportunities. It’s inspiring to see Sword adapting to the changing world around us and understanding the way our focus is evolving, such as Neale Stidolph’s work in energy transition. It makes Sword an exciting company to be involved with as we continue see new ways that we can use technology to help transform our energy client’s operations.

What would you say to someone considering a role at Sword?

There are so many opportunities and ways to progress that I would definitely encourage others to apply. This might sound corny but there really is a family feel here at Sword. The management structure and their communications are spot on, they have a real personal touch that is hard to describe but really works to motivate us all to work together as a team and strive to do the best we can for our clients.

Read on to learn more about careers with Sword or our Business Technology solutions.

Data partnership signed Sword Venture and Target Energy

Sword Venture and Target Energy Solutions have signed a partnership agreement to deliver their technology and services as a combined offer in the areas of data foundations, data management and business consultancy on digital transformation solutions.

The two companies will combine their market-leading services and technology to deliver next generation trusted data platforms to the Oil and Gas industry that offers data integration and insights, reducing costs and value through better informed decision for its clients.  This offer will include leading-edge loading automation, Google-like search and data science techniques to reduce manual overhead from a client and service delivery perspective and significantly improve data quality, accessibility, performance and regulatory compliance. 

Gareth Smith, Head of Consulting with Sword Venture said; “We’ve been working with Target for some time to explore opportunities to leverage and integrate our mutual capabilities. We are both developing new technologies and approaches to tackling the data and information challenge all our customers face on a day-to-day basis. We feel the combination of Target’s MEERA Trusted-Data platform and our data science and analytics-led services provide a potential step-change. There’s never been a better time to unlock the value of data in Oil and Gas and address the very real challenges we face around supporting energy transition, improving operational efficiency and managing risk.”

Matthias Hartung, President Digital Transformation with Target Energy Solutions added; “More than ever, our industry is demanding data foundation and management capability to enable cost control, adoption of digital technologies in pace and scale, and insights to address current economic, environmental and social-acceptance challenges. Finding and getting trusted data to any end-user app requires data foundation technology and domain-competent services which is what the partnership of Sword and Target can jointly bring.  We look forward to working our new partnership with Sword to meet market demand.”

About Target Energy Solutions

Target is an international technology and services company focused on delivering on enabling digital transformation solutions for data-driven industries . Formed in 2004 by Oil and Gas industry professionals  and headquartered in Muscat, Target now operates globally with 9 offices from Houston to Beijing and a total staff of 750. Target has expanded its client list to include regulators, NOCs, IOCs, investors and service companies around the world. 

For more information visit https://www.target-energysolutions.com/

About Sword Venture

Formed in 1990, Sword Venture designs, implements and supports practical technology, data and information solutions that enable Oil and Gas companies to gain insight and make effective business decisions. Sword Venture is part of the global Sword Group, an international consulting, services and software company and global leaders in digital and technology transformation, with over 2,000 employees working in 50 global locations.

Read more here about how we help to design, implement and support practical information management services and solutions.

In the first of our new series of Sword Spotlight articles, we talk to Service Desk Analyst Erik Avdulov about how he is finding life as a recent graduate in our Oil & Gas centre in Aberdeen.

Erik Avdulov

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before joining Sword?

“I joined Sword in July 2019 fresh from studying software development at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. Leaving my lecturers behind for my first graduate job, I’ve really appreciated how helpful all the managers and my colleagues have been at inducting me into the working world of business technology solutions and providing training that is a natural extension of my degree.”

How has an average day at Sword changed for you in your time with us?

“Like most new graduates at Sword, I joined the IT Service Desk, Resolve. After 6 months I was delighted to move onto PowerBI development projects and I’m finding the mix really interesting. I usually start my day with a coffee and check my emails to catch up on items that have come from offshore overnight. Depending on customer requirements, I either work at Sword’s Aberdeen city centre offices or out on Oil & Gas customer sites (at the moment I’m obviously working from home like the rest of lockdown office workers!).”

What do you enjoy about working at Sword?

“I work on a mix of first line (IT service desk) and second line support (usually on customer sites) which I do enjoy, but I find the development work the most stimulating. One of the best things about working at Sword is that when you prove yourself to be capable and hardworking, you know you’ll be rewarded.”

Tell us about a work-related achievement that made you feel proud?

“An important part of Sword’s service delivery process is seeking customer feedback and I really thrive on receiving perfect scores as well as the comments that customers are kind enough to provide. Being promoted into development work after only 6 months in my first graduate job also rates pretty highly on my achievements!”

How is your career progressing working at Sword? 

“There are opportunities everywhere at Sword; my promotion into development work has opened up so many opportunities to work with new people in our business. The demands for new ways of working from Sword’s range of Energy sector customers is also opening up opportunities in some really ground-breaking projects.”

What would you say to someone considering a role at Sword?

“Don’t be afraid to join from the lowest position. Graduates may feel qualified to start at a higher development role, however they need to learn broader business skills to succeed in a job like that. If you do well and show you’re capable, you will make your way up and forge a career in technology that is fun, challenging and rewarding.”

Read on to learn more about careers with Sword or our Business Technology solutions (including our IT Service Desk Resolve).

Sword Venture and Sword DataCo Integration

Following the recent acquisition by the Sword Group of DataCo, Sword Venture and Sword DataCo will be merging to form a single entity that will specialise in Energy sector data services and solutions. The combined organisation will be known as Sword Venture from April 1st 2020. This is a natural progression that builds on the excellent working relations we have fostered since joining forces last year. 

With a combined workforce of over 120 data and information management professionals, Sword Venture brings unparalleled expertise in maximising the value of Oil and Gas data and information assets for our customers, via capabilities such as:

Sword Venture and DataCo have both invested in data science and analytical capabilities in recent years, bringing these two teams together as the Sword Venture Digital Solutions Factory will provide our customers with class-leading technology. The Factory comprises of an in-house R&D department and a commercial analytics delivery team, with the goal of solving common Oil and Gas industry problems across the technical and corporate domains. Our blend of technical data scientists and data domain subject matter experts form agile delivery groups that deliver practical value to our customers. 

We focus on delivering solutions that enable insights and inform business decisions, through the application of data science and analytical techniques. Our solutions are proven to help reduce time, cost and risk, and improve insight and efficiency in operational decisions. For example, in a complex data migration triggered by organisational change such as an asset transfer, we bring an independent lens to the discovery, access and use of data. We ensure the vendor extracts only the information relevant to that asset and that the new owner is armed with the data, information and licenses needed to deliver seamless operational production from Day One of ownership. 

As part of Sword Group, we also have access to IT, visualisation, and digital workplace expertise to help build solid technology foundations that are designed to enable successful digital transformation and embed intelligent data solutions. 

We have the joint ambition to firmly establish ourselves as the leading global provider of data and information management expertise and service support to the Energy sector. Building on our existing global footprint from Sword Venture (with offices in London and Aberdeen) and Sword DataCo (with offices in Aberdeen, The Hague and Perth, Australia), we are actively looking to expand our presence in locations that include Houston, the Middle East, and South East Asia.

We are confident that this integration will enhance the service we provide to our customers today, as well as help us to shape the next decade of data management in the Energy sector together.

Read more here about how we help to design, implement and support practical information management services and solutions that enable our Energy sector customers to gain insight and make effective business decisions.

The annual Microsoft MVP Summit took place last week under strict NDA. This blog does not contain any product content. However, it does contain insights that can be shared by two UK MVPs, Gregor Suttie from Sword IT Solutions (Azure MVP) and  Lesley Crook (Office Apps & Services MVP) Minttulip

Lesley. The MVP Summit was cancelled 3 weeks ago due to obvious reasons but did not stop Microsoft Teams Team pulling out all the stops, using COVID19 global crisis as an opportunity to shift Teams into infinity and beyond. Microsoft put on the most amazing virtual show with 820 Channel sessions scheduled over 4 days for 3000 attendees!

This was no mean feat. Here’s my 4 takeaways you might find helpful with customers deploying Teams.

1. Sessions were in a massive Teams SharePoint list (-7) hours behind UK time. MVP, Yannick Reekmans created a way to extract all 820 sessions as .ics files, that could be imported into our calendars. Some might find this workaround helpful for other customers.

2. I joined another virtual space called AltspaceVR with some MVPs. It was a fun trip, and we could virtually see how VR assists product development with wearable headsets, great asset for First Line Workers. Read more on this neglected work force and how Microsoft is on track improving their jobs in this Microsoft story and another here.

3. The summit is not just about attending deep dive techy sessions it’s also about networking, cross-pollinating ideas and a time to have some fun after another big year of MVP community contributions all over the world. Teams delivered an amazing event with Chat in live meetings that were recorded. It’s fantastic the sessions were recorded as many of us were multi-tasking with the day job as our international travel had been cancelled. We can now watch sessions we missed. During the week I toggled between Minttulip Teams tenant to join customer meetings, and the Summit. I managed this across 3 devices skipping back and forth between the two tenants using:

4. Running in parallel to the techy sessions was the wild and whacky Community Zone Channel. The place to get to know each other. By the end of the week we’d shared a few thousand light-hearted comments, images and gifs. There was quizzes,  charity efforts with Missing Maps and fundraising. I loved these ice-breakers reusable for Teams or Yammer networks to ignite employee engagement:

Handing over to Gregor. So, for me this was my first ever MVP Summit, which turned into the MVP Virtual Summit. Microsoft Teams was used to organise it and to be honest my hopes weren’t that high, lots of random meeting invites flying around and being added to test Teams sites etc.

The actual event minor a couple of tiny hiccups was brilliant, Microsoft Teams worked great for the majority of the Virtual Summit and it was announced that 44 million users were on Teams last week in total across the globe, it was easy to find the sessions and move from one session to the next.

As Lesley said already we are not allowed to talk about the content covered as its under very strict NDA, but it’s clear to me that being an MVP has many benefits which companies should take more advantage of, we get access to the teams of people who are building the software and can give feedback etc directly to the Product Groups.

The sessions for me started at 3pm till 3am. I learned a lot! I learned about myself, the community, and where Microsoft are heading which is very cool.

My favourite things which I can talk about during the week in the Community Zone Channel included Virtual Yoga and the Virtual Bar! The Virtual Bar was a Teams channel where MVP’s could have a real drink (at home) and chat virtually about whatever took their fancy.

It was a shame we didn’t make it to Seattle but the Virtual Summit run very well and was a huge success. There is so much great stuff to be shipped!

We would both like to wish all MVPs the very best with renewals in the coming weeks and look to seeing you in person in April 2021 in Seattle if not before.

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