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COVID-19: What's Next for Oil and Gas

The oil and gas industry needs to balance the short-term challenges in light of COVID-19 and long-term tasks to build more resilient business model.

The oil and gas industry has fueled the growth of the global economy for more than a century, and now it is learning how to navigate the dramatic loss of global demand and historically low oil prices. With the COVID-19 crisis, it is more important than ever to further the industry’s efforts to rapidly adapt to new ways of working smarter in these unprecedented times while looking for ways to go beyond the current business model to become more resilient.

As things stand, 2020 is expected to have the biggest decline in oil consumption in nearly 60 years and this uncertainty may spill over to 2021 as well. Transportation across Asia, Europe and North America is at a virtual standstill as many governments are asking people to stay home. Adding to these woes, a war for market share between Russia and Saudi Arabia has led to plummeting oil prices. The April 12th agreement between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries+ to end the war may not be able to account for the worldwide demand decrease but may provide the much anticipated price support in the near term. The United States is also bracing for one of its most difficult yearswith rising unemployment, oil exports dwindling in an over-supplied global market and storage capacities across the globe nearly filled to the brim.

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Legacy organizational models that have stood the test of time need to be looked at in conjunction with the role of technology and what it can do to supplement their effectiveness.  While many organizations are turning to cost cutting in order to survive through this crisis, leveraging digital technologies will likely be the key to working smarter in both the short and long term.

A major part of oil and gas businesses’ end-to-end value chain (supply, trading, logistics, accounting, etc.) still rely on antiquated legacy systems and solutions. In light of COVID-19, especially when a large amount of the workforce is working remotely, it is becoming imperative to bring in automation to those processes.

COVID-19 has changed the way we have been functioning. The extensive loss of demand and value of basic commodities has now trickled down to several layers in the economy. This could change our fundamentals of demand, possibly setting some new lower demand patterns. This is the time for the industry to re-look at their traditional business models from a resiliency standpoint.

Companies need to build a more in-depth understanding of the ultimate customer of their product in addition to the intermediaries in the supply chain servicing those customers.

One way to look at this could be to shift towards being more ‘customer-centric.’ To achieve this, some players in the industry could consider a model where they provide services beyond just selling the molecule, or traditional products like oil, such as integrating with connected ecosystems in cars.

Customer Centricity is the most important link in this transformation process. Companies need to build a more in-depth understanding of the ultimate customer of their product in addition to the intermediaries in the supply chain servicing those customers. A good place to start is by creating a customer data strategy to understand the ever-evolving needs and expectations of the customer. By creating that visibility and having access to that information, businesses can begin to make inroads into truly serving their customers from end to end and creating customer loyalty.

Energy companies can learn from some retailers, for example, and their missteps during the past decade in not shifting to online sales and a customer-centric model and mindset. At that time, some of the more forward-thinking companies decided to take a closer look at their consumer base, made digital investments and worked towards building new business models that have delivered immense customer value.

While it is clear that public health and safety are driving the current narrative around COVID-19, over time it will be driven by companies who turned this crisis into an opportunity to adapt and thrive. To do this, a shift towards newer business models that are customer-focused is key.