A D&C Executive and a Consultant Walk into a Bar and Order a Best Practice . . .

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Those with firsthand oil and gas industry experience are familiar with best practice discussions with third-party consultants. So, feel free to add your own punchline.

When I worked in various management roles for oil and gas companies (resource play development and IT), I met with a lot of consultants who talked about how I needed to adopt best practices. Granted, having worked prior in the oil and gas practice of a Big Four consulting firm, I understood that the term best practice is as much a marketing buzzword as it is a consulting term of art. In theory, a best practice represents the ideal, a model, something to strive for. In practice, however, a best practice should start simple and lead to continuous improvement.

That said, many consultants and software companies go overboard with the idea of best practices as the right solution for any defined business problem, whether it’s process optimization or analytics or whatever. In truth, a best practice-based solution is superior on paper. But in application, a best practice-based solution can often be heavy, adding too much rigor, more process, and more demand on staff. And that’s a surefire recipe for failure.

At Stonebridge, we’re oil and gas professionals first and consultants second – which means we understand how to take a calibrated approach to best practices. So, while we know best practices and champion them in our engagements, we utilize our industry experience to help clients make steady, incremental improvements that stick, and help them do better in the long haul. In this way, we recommend light solutions over heavy solutions to minimize the risk caused by wholesale “change for change’s sake” and to accelerate user buy-in and adoption.

Here’s a case in point. A vice president of D&C recently confided in me that his rig operators enter all daily information into the 24-hour summary comment. So, one WellView® field contains a wide range of disparate information: footage, bit details, safety concerns, cost adjustments, etc. And that’s what he and his managers go through each morning for their daily review.

Let that sink in for a moment. Their morning reporting consists of a big blob of comments and observations in shorthand. They can’t report against that kind of data. They can’t quickly see and address day-to-day variances that alert them to where they risk well control, drill plan, cost parameters and so forth. Instead, they must go through all the comments, have a steel trap memory and figure if something’s out of sorts.

That’s hardly a best practice in morning reporting, and in truth, this VP of D&C would be the first to admit that it isn’t even close. But he’d been talking to consultants and software reps who proposed “heavy” solutions, requiring a monumental technical effort and asking people in the field to do 20 new things – in effect, creating a huge, and perhaps insurmountable, change management problem. For him, that was a no-go. He’d been there and done that.

He made the right call. Even though he’s aware of the problem and knows he needs to fix it, making the process heavier for his department isn’t the solution. So, we started a conversation focused on the root cause of the problem: insufficient field-to-office understanding of needs and poorly configured software. Next, we sketched out a game plan. First, he can leverage an upcoming acquisition as the business impetus to introduce process change. We will leverage examples of refined WellView reporting to help his managers and field personnel see the value in adding incremental tasks to their daily routine. Finally, we will highlight incidents in the past that may have been avoided with the right field reporting (i.e., loss circulation, short on footage, bit replacement, monumental accounting/invoice reconciliations).

This light approach will move his organization toward a best practice. It allows them to make steady progress and to avoid falling into the trap of best-practice absolutism, a common mindset with consultants who don’t have direct experience in the oil and gas business. Respect for the client’s unique business environment is primary, and in fact can over time accelerate process optimization. And that’s no joke.