Energy Execs Tout E-Business Strategies

In less than two years, the energy industry has been transformed from a traditional service industry into a real-time convergence of information, work flows, e-business and knowledge, and those companies that don't keep pace to benefit from the new age will become victims, regardless of what they have to offer.

That was the thrust of a keynote presentation yesterday in Houston at the Energy Economy 2000 conference. But how do energy companies keep up? Robert Heinemann, chief technology officer for Halliburton, said one of the most important factors will be in developing "close, intelligent relationships with customers." Heinemann said that human resources "are the knowledge base" for any company, and will be especially important for the energy industry to not just survive but to thrive.

"An increasing issue for industry is the reduction in manpower," he said. "Where is the next generation of energy employees going to come from?" He said that in the 1960s, the entire energy industry, which was smaller than it is today, had about 1.6 million employees. Today, that number is about 650,000. "We have a declining and aging knowledge base. How to attract people to the industry is something that's going to require a lot of attention."

"There are three times more Internet users today than there were 18 months ago," said SAIC's Kent Greenes, chief knowledge officer. SAIC works with BP Amoco on its Internet, intranet and extranet. "B2B spending has tripled from $50 billion to $150 billion. Time is not money. It's survival." He said that in less than two years, BP has been transformed into a different company because of the Internet. And it's not alone.

Greenes, who defined "e-knowledge" as the ability to learn and perform at the speed of change, said that "business is strictly personal today. Customers want to get close. The pace of change today is so fast, and on top of that, the new breed of workers coming into the business is not afraid to try new things. But it falls to the established energy people to teach the new employees how the industry works, then let the experimentation begin."

Schlumberger's Jean Chevallier, vice president of information technology, said that his company has begun an Operations 2000 Initiative, which entails establishing a global knowledge base to distribute consistent information throughout the company using the Internet.

"The battle for change is won or lost in the front office," he said. "Sharing best practices is important, and human issues are key. You have to adapt to benefit. If you don't adapt, you'll become a victim."

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