Industry has yet to fully utilize e-business opportunities, OTC told

A panel of e-commerce professionals at the Offshore Technology Conference agreed Wednesday that the impact of the wave of electronic-businesses that surged through the oil and gas industry a little over a year ago -- despite the fact that many of those ventures are no longer in existence -- will still be strongly felt.


Steven Poruban
Senior Staff Writer
Oil & Gas Journal

HOUSTON, May 2 -- The impact of the wave of electronic-businesses that surged through the oil and gas industry a little over a year ago -- despite the fact that many of those ventures are no longer in existence -- will still be strongly felt.

A panel of e-business professionals at the Offshore Technology Conference agreed Wednesday that much of the hype surrounding the launching of dozens of information technology and other internet-related companies has fizzled. They said now is the time for industry to evaluate what it should do with the survivors.

"The dot-com meltdown was a necessary event," said Robert Peebler, vice-president, e-business strategy and ventures for Dallas-based Halliburton Co., "But the drivers are still in place -- one such driver being the computer."

After a poll of the audience, Peebler concluded that the vast majority of the crowd did not represent e-business suppliers -- as had been largely the case at last year's OTC e-business-related talks -- but rather, they were primarily the supplier's customers, who were attending the discussion to comprehend the e-business shakeout.

Operator's view
Even though the romance between Wall Street and e-commerce ventures is over, said Greg Vesey, vice-president of e-business for Texaco Inc., there still remain some very important components to e-commerce that industry should reexamine and develop further.

One vital aspect is knowledge management, which he said would improve efficiency and effectiveness of the work conducted by and between companies. "We're going further and further outside our walls" to make the most of the tools that are available, he said.

Texaco has worked to establish "knowledge management communities," which he said would connect workers remotely on a daily basis. Next for development, Vesey said, would be the implementation of "live collaboration," where workers would communicate in real time with one another at an appointed time daily.

Steve Peacock, vice-president of digital business for BP America, said the oil industry possesses the components to fully utilize e-business opportunities. These include being global in scope, information-intensive, and having countless value chains that could be connected more effectively.

And despite the stormy past that e-business has had, Peacock said that when evaluating its e-commerce options, industry should concentrate on the pace of development rather than current conditions. "At times like this," he noted, "we tend to overestimate the short-term impact [of under a year] and underestimate the long-term impact [of 5-10 years].

Wall Street spin
Michael LaMotte, managing director of equity research with JP Morgan, said one of the most important things to remember when developing an e-business strategy was to "keep moving."

Also, he noted, "Just because Wall Street isn't paying any more attention, doesn't mean you shouldn't." Ultimately, he added, Wall Street would have to recognize achievement.

LaMotte advised that when starting out, a targeted approach was essential. One of the easiest places for industry to start, he said, was in cutting transaction costs. After that is achieved, other benefits -- such as broadening relationships with suppliers and organizing work groups -- will add to a company's cost savings. One of the final steps in terms of industry's evolution, LaMotte noted, is integration.

Contact Steven Poruban at Stevenp@OGJonline.com.

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