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Digital Transformation Fueling Turnaround Innovation in Energy Sector

Jenna Harvey, Global Manager, Emerging Industries
June 14, 2018

Turnaround processes are a logistical nightmare that requires incredibly careful management and significant time and financial investments. Completely rebuilding a process or work unit involves tearing down existing policies, training workers on new procedures, implementing supporting technologies and dealing with any hiccups that arise along the way. The result is frequent mistakes and turnarounds that often go beyond schedules and budgets.

Digital transformation initiatives are taking hold in a variety of sectors, and effective digitization can play a pivotal part in enabling downstream energy companies to revitalize their turnaround procedures, establish organizational visibility and create a clear path to continued innovation.

The Turnaround Process Problem

In the whitepaper, "2018: Achieving Operational Excellence in Maintenance and Turnarounds," Appian's Vice President of Sales Glenn Healy laid out why so many energy organizations end up struggling so much with complex turnaround tasks. Because so much of this industry is built on acquisitions as opposed to general company growth, companies end up mixing and matching the various technologies different units have used as new organizations enter the corporate silo.

"Digitization can play a pivotal part in enabling downstream energy companies to revitalize their turnaround procedures."

According to Healy, the disparity of the underlying business units creates a situation where each department ñ finance, procurement, maintenance, etc. ñ is strong on its own, but struggles to interact with the other teams effectively. For the most part, this occurs because these groups all use disparate technology within their silos even though the business processes they complete require interactions across these organizational boundaries. As such, turnarounds become unnecessarily complex and onerous because stakeholders can't collaborate easily and leaders lack visibility into data.

These problems are further exacerbated when businesses are relying on paper-based processes across their various units.

The Turnaround Process Solution

Digital technologies that automate turnaround tasks and integrate data can empower employees to work at their best at all times, driving major gains across operations. With Appian, organizations can:

    • Integrate data housed in software from SAP, Oracle Primavera, Microsoft and other major technology vendors into a central platform.

    • Automate repeatable processes to trim down time spent on non-productive tasks.

    • Extend data access to mobile devices so users can freely access key information and complete workflows in the field.

    • Generate reports to provide visibility into turnaround performance and make it easier to analyze operations with a bird's-eye view.

Taken together, these capabilities change the way businesses manage turnaround procedures by allowing all stakeholders to share data and collaborate without having to replace the legacy solutions they already use. Instead, those older software systems can integrate into Appian so teams can work in whichever way is best for them and use Appian as a service hub to coordinate data and operations across the entire team.

Healey explained that these types of capabilities lay the groundwork for operational excellence in a way that wasn't possible in the past. The days of having siloed lines of business that can't operate in a unified way are disappearing as digital transformation initiatives enable people to work more collaboratively without hassle.

Establishing a Framework for Successful Turnarounds

The problem of accidental technology ñ a situation in which diverse IT systems exist due to acquisitions instead of intentional deployment pathways ñ can be dealt with through a digital transformation platform. This can resolve many of the immediate issues of coordinating and streamlining operations, but the long-term benefits that come in the form of reporting and transparency are also essential.

To understand the full benefits of better reporting, consider the typical situation energy companies face when trying to analyze a turnaround.

"When we look back at historical turnarounds, often what happens is we have completed this turnaround and it was a 30-day turnaround and we missed our deadline by five days, so we ask why did we miss," said Healey. "We don't know. No one knows. We don't have the answers. Everything is all paper-based, so we have to look back at all the paper documents and track back. It becomes an exercise of analysis. Analysis causes paralysis, and nothing gets done."

"Transforming around digital technologies lets your workers spend more time on the most important tasks."

When your processes are digitized in a central platform, the system can serve as an automated audit trail, providing immediate visibility into who did what, when and why. As a result, you can look back at every phase of a turnaround and identify problems that emerge, why they arose and what you can do about them.

Appian is transforming how businesses interconnect their technologies, processes and people. With energy companies facing pressure to minimize operational expenses to drive revenue opportunities, eliminating inefficiencies is key. We can help organizations improve the underlying processes that make their businesses function, creating invaluable flexibility and agility.

Turnaround processes aren't ever going to be easy. However, transforming around digital technologies lets your workers spend more time on the most important tasks and expend less energy on clerical work. Contact us today to learn more about how our platform can revitalize your turnaround efforts.