Russ: Hi I’m Russ Capper and this is The EnergyMakers Show, coming to you today from Downtown Houston, Texas at the offices of Accenture and I’m in the Innovation Lab and my guest is the Managing Director of the Innovation Lab, Brian Richards; Brian welcome to The EnergyMakers Show.
Brian: Nice to be here Russ.
Russ: You bet, tell us about the Innovation Hub.
Brian: So the Innovation Hub is really to help bring innovation to life for our clients. So it’s about 6,000 square feet where clients can learn, experience and develop their own innovations. So what we found in the market is that there’s many trends like Blockchain or AI or things like that that people aren’t as familiar so they need to learn about them. Then they want to see it and touch it so we’ve got many different experiences around here for them to do that. And then they need to develop their own solution – so prototype, rapid development – so we’ve got about 20 folks working on that.
Russ: And there’s so much innovation going on these days it seems like an ideal time to do this because people do hear about it, they read about it, but they don’t necessarily get to see it, touch it and feel it.
Brian: Yeah, and innovation has kind of continued to change and evolve, right? And so it’s not just about you and what your company are doing, it’s how you’re plugged into the broader ecosystem. We’re really fortunate here, especially in Houston, to be just a few floors below Station Houston; so tied into the community, tied into what the startups are doing, working with our clients, kind of co-creating or collaborating on things. So it’s not just about Accenture and what we’re doing, but how we’re plugged in to all of these other pockets.
Russ: That’s a pretty significant change, was there resistance within Accenture to say wait a minute, we still develop the technology, we don’t need to bring in startups?
Brian: Well we still develop plenty of our own innovation and we’re still doing plenty of that on our own, but there’s the need for more collaboration. When you look at innovation today the most innovative companies in the world they don’t do it in silos, they do it individually; they have to be a part of this broader ecosystem and this broader partnership.
Russ: So talk a little bit more about oil and gas; it seems to me like at the same time in the whole energy sector technology is more important than it ever was.
Brian: I think that’s absolutely right. I mean it’s not just about how can technology take incremental costs out or how can I bolt on something and make it go from paper to a digital solution. What technology today allows you to do is to reimagine the entire business process and what that means is I just don’t take 5% or 10% of the cost out, I can start to really change how I explore for, produce, develop, refine product.
And so what we see happening is it’s no longer kind of in the back office or an IT function, it’s a strategic imperative to innovate and innovate with digital solutions. So these companies are going out and getting the data scientists, the cloud architects, the mobile developers and they’re not just looking for small little solutions, they’re trying to transform entire processes. And that has changed just in the last 5 – 10 years to go from that kind of smaller view of digital and technology to this much, much broader view.
Russ: Well I’m a huge fan of Mark Mills who we had on the show probably about a year and a half ago at one of our Digital Leader Series events and he wrote this book back then called Shale 2.0 about how the technology used in shale production, I mean we captured a lot of data with all the sensing devices but we didn’t use it when oil was $100 a barrel you didn’t need it. But now we’re going to learn how to use it and he said it’s going to change the world and put us into even a better and more competitive position.
Brian: Yeah, I think if you look at all of the data that’s coming off of the rigs and you look at for example machine learning – probably one of the most over-used terms of 2016 – when you look at that and you say take a car, all of the data coming off of a car, and the ability for me to build machine learning algorithms that allow it to drive itself autonomously – which the auto industry is going full force on – and you look at a rig and you say driving a drill bit is definitely different than driving a car. But it’s the same kind of thing where I need a lot of data, I need to process it in real time and I can observe how a human is doing it and then I can start to use the machine learning to provide more insights and eventually do it where the machine’s just drilling for itself.
Russ: Speaking of drill bits and capturing real data and using it, man you have some real cool technology right here in the Innovation lab that you show and isn’t’ that actually based upon big data that was captured during drilling that warns you of problems?
Brian: That’s right. So we have a couple dozen different solutions and when people come in they want to see kind of the state of the art today that’s at scale and then they want to see the vision of where this is going in the future. So show me the IOT for the pipeline and then show me the drone for the future of it. And the one you’re talking about, show me how I can take all of my subsurface data – and this was developed by one of our acquisitions Chaotic Moon, now what we call Fjord Austin – and what it’s doing is it’s taking all sorts of data from down hole and it’s allowing a drilling engineer to visualize that using a gaming engine so that they can see if they’re putting too much weight on bit or if they’re not doing the right thing and make those changes in real-time. And what it took was not just someone who understood drilling, but someone who had a completely different skillset and understood gaming and saw the problem as just an extension of gaming in needing to take a lot of data and process it in real time.
Russ: I heard a story about the development of that and it was so interesting because the big data people at ConocoPhillips that could lay the data out and say look, we knew that we had this drill bit break over here and if you look at our big data we could see what was happening right here and we knew it. Of course we didn’t see it for about 2 months after it broke and so that’s what your guys took together and put into real-time, it was just phenomenal.
Brian: Yeah, and I think it goes to the point of what’s the biggest challenge with innovation today? And the biggest challenge is not the technology, the technology can do anything; we’re marching our way towards driverless cars and autonomous drones, we can do anything. The real thing is changing people’s behaviors and processes. When you look at the projects and you look at what’s succeeded, what’s failed, why it succeeded, why it’s failed, it typically is not some sort of minutia in the technical component. It’s typically we didn’t get the right buy in, people didn’t actually change their behaviors.
Russ: So I also saw this kind of real-time version of looking at an actual operating minefield, tell us about that.
Brian: So that was one where we had a mining company and they had 2 or 3 decades’ worth of solutions that they put in to measure where their trucks were and how alert their operators were and the slope of their mine and all these different systems and they all existed in a command and control room. And what would happen is someone who’s out in the mine needed this data, they’d radio in, the control operator would pull up the application, look at the data, radio back and that’s fine but it’s not taking advantage of all of the development and all of the technology that they put in. And I think it goes to closing that last loop with the people and the process.
And so what we did is bring all that data into the cloud and then create a single interface on a tablet that allows you to see all of my trucks, all of my loads, how I’m doing on my production, any safety alerts. And as a supervisor it’s not just that I have the data but that I can actually see it, interact with it and make decisions on it. And so you talk to anyone in the energy industry they’d say the data is somewhere – it’s with our finance group, it’s with our HR group – who knows where it is, it’s somewhere but I don’t have access to it or I don’t see it. So it’s not just about collecting the data, we’ve been spending decades collecting the data. It’s about allowing me to visualize it and change how I’m making decisions based off of it.
Russ: Well Brian I really appreciate what you’re doing down here, it’s real exciting and thank you for having us down to talk to you.
Brian: Thanks Russ, glad to have you here.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Brian Richards, the Managing Director of the Accenture Innovation Hub and this is The EnergyMakers Show.
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