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IT Strategy - Turning Trends into Long-term Value

By Cynthia Johnson, VP & CIO, California Resources Corporation

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Cynthia Johnson, VP & CIO, California Resources Corporation

Everyone’s talking about the technological trends these days. The latest outreach from a major computer systems vendor tells me that storage, content management, and big data are trending. However, when I hear of a trend, I think about something for right now that may be overshadowed when the next big thing comes along so, even though it interests me, I am cautious with my investment. A classic, on the other hand, is often worth more investment because it offers steady value over the course of time. As CIO for California Resources Corporation (CRC), the largest independent oil and gas producer in the state, my job is to define the strategy for business transformation through technology. I see it as an opportunity to steer a course through the many technology trends, seeking the new classics worth a strong investment.

“In a business strategy, a company identifies its unique position in the market; every CIO must identify and define an IT strategy which leverages the unique position of IT”

In any year as an oil and gas CIO, I’m challenged by the company leadership to “do more with less” and 2015 has been an especially difficult year due to low commodity prices. The challenge to get more value from IT isn’t unique to our industry; I hear it echoed from CIOs across all industries. In a business strategy, a company identifies its unique position in the market; every CIO must identify and define an IT strategy which leverages the unique position of IT. This will require first a deep understanding of the customer and second a thorough knowledge of services offered in the marketplace.

For CRC IT, we have looked to the principles of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to set up business engagement processes which create a full picture of each business group, beginning with knowing the current technical issues as well as future strategy and business objectives. The opportunities identified for technology along with the information gathered in these engagements are shared internally across our IT disciplines. Our vision is that any interaction between a business group and an IT staff member is effective to get results, no matter the actual technology group where the IT staffer reports.

Our strategy incorporates mission and vision statements of the IT organization, which describe how the company will be better, cheaper, and faster at achieving its business objectives. The business understanding developed during the CRM process is yielding timely opportunities for technology to impact the business. The bottom line question is ‘how can we get the right information to the right individual at the right time?’

Although it’s tempting to rely on technology direction and selection for success, an execution plan is needed to deliver results and for that I rely on a strong IT team. Each individual on the team deserves an investment to understand his or her strengths and match them to the appropriate role in the organization as well as education programs. We are looking for ways to promote innovation by combining business analysis with breakthrough thinking and expanding project management expertise. Broadening the competency set of IT professionals is also offering an attractive, challenging workplace for top tier employees. A talented and motivated team focused on the business needs and innovative thinking will deliver results, collaborating with partners across the asset teams and support functions and navigating through the myriad choices for systems and technologies.

Technology trends are opportunities to increase technology value to the company. As an example, recent technology introductions in big data and storage have gotten my attention for the potential value for CRC and its strong appetite for technology. The advances of seismic imaging to see deep beneath the earth’s surface combined with the coming of age of the digital oilfield has driven our storage consumption to new levels. The unknowns of our earth and its supply of hydrocarbons require an application of complex geological models based on historical production and operational data combined with numerous scenarios and projections.

Highly specialized asset teams of geologists, geo-physicists, engineers, and planners work to understand the natural resource potential and commercial viability of each property. In addition to the multitude of geological and engineering permutations, unknown future market conditions heighten the need for a large number of repetitive calculations tabulating a massive amount of data in a short amount of time.

Oil field properties go through analysis many times over with changes in technology, priority, or market conditions. Analysis work completed several years prior has value to a newly formed team if it can be utilized efficiently. Innovations to manage content so that extensive unstructured files and documents are indexed and correlated to operational data will enable us at CRC to accomplish this goal. We’re exploring how big data can connect structured and unstructured data across today’s data silos and enable cross-over utility across the drilling, engineering, operations, and commercial disciplines of the company.

The opportunities are endless and the IT value proposition is to partner with the asset teams, operations, and support functions to turn one group’s data in to another group’s information. With an IT strategy built upon a vision of business transformation, we are positioning our IT team to test new technology trends and ferret out the next classics. By implementing innovative solutions, we will maximize IT’s value to the company.

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