A construction worker integrating mobility into his work

“The best examples are those that reduce ‘paper and pen’ processes that have been in place for decades that are replaced with real-time data input capabilities,” – Troy Davidson, Cenovus Energy

IT World Canada conducted a survey seeking to understand strategic issues facing Canadian CIOs and IT leaders. If you haven’t yet reviewed the results, it is worth spending the time digesting the information. The survey was conducted across the industry and focused on several topics – top of mind for many IT leaders being mobility, security, and cloud. After reading the results, I found myself thinking that the challenges expressed also represented many of the best opportunities for organizations looking to transform how they work to achieve higher levels of operational efficiency. Given the current economic environment, forward-thinking companies and IT leaders will look at this time to put new strategies in motion to distance themselves ahead of the competition.

Troy Davidson of Cenovus Energy, is one of those forward-thinking IT leaders. With over $19B in revenues, Cenovus is a leading Canadian integrated oil company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta. I reached out to Davidson, lead for mobility and technical security, to gain insight across several topics from strategy to innovation and user experience. In today’s digital world, mobility and security are inextricably linked and should rarely be talked about in isolation.

Brian Clendenin: What trends are you seeing in the oil and gas industry that are elevating mobile and information security strategies to be top of mind for organizations?

Troy Davidson: “Both mobility and security are hot topics of discussion for organizations, but for different reasons. Mobility brings the potential for organizations to realize major operational efficiencies and cost savings through process improvements with greater adoption and utilization of mobile technologies. Organizations are slowly embracing the consumerization of mobile technology platforms to allow employees to select devices that they feel most comfortable using in order to complete functions associated with corporate and field related roles. However, mobility should not be considered or deployed without first taking into account security implications that could place the organization’s data or information assets at risk as a result of these trends. Security is front and centre each day, bringing news of a new breach or data loss from large scale organizations. Mobility introduces challenges for IT staff who have been accustomed to providing access to information services that reside within a corporate facility, and that sit behind a firewall. Mobility allows access to those information repositories that can be very beneficial to an organization but put some of the most prized data assets at risk of leakage.”

Clendenin: With respect to operational excellence, what processes today do you think can be most impacted by looking through the lens of a mobile strategy?

Davidson: “The biggest financial and operational impacts for oil and gas are being found in field related roles where traditional paper-based processes still exist today that still result in delays in data input and analysis. Providing users with the ability to access systems where data can be entered and consumed in near real time by other supporting job functions provides the opportunity for quicker business decisions and actions to be taken within the overall value chain.”

Clendenin: You speak about mobile adoption being dependent on the user experience. How so?

Davidson: “Given the consumerization trend and the general savviness of mobile users within an organization, employees want functional enterprise-based apps that follow the clean and easy to use features that people have come to expect from publicly available apps. Most enterprise applications have traditionally been consumed in a client server setting with many fields of data and larger screen sizes, whereas the smaller screen options today need to present only the information required for a job function or process, and in the right context. If an app provides too much data, is tough to read or has too many input points, then users will not adopt mobile apps and organizations will have spent a lot of money for nothing. It is important to understand what options exist for a clean user experience and focus on delivering just enough functionality for the first iteration. That may mean having two buttons that allow for simple decision-making, then introducing functionality changes in future iterations – slowly.”

Clendenin: From an information security perspective, how should the oil and gas industry think differently?

Davidson: “Oil and gas is no different from other verticals in trying to find that balance in security and functionality through effective user experience design. Try to build in security controls that are as transparent as possible from the application interface, to again ensure functionality and user experience. Focus controls on the information asset with a heavy emphasis on alerting and logging capabilities for lower critical systems and greater authentication and access controls for those systems deemed to be ‘crown jewels’, which may include intellectual property or critical systems, such as industrial control systems. Be careful with mobile access to those types of systems where life safety or physical damage could be at risk.”

Clendenin: What does mobile computing mean to you when you think about improving productivity at Cenovus?

Davidson: “As previously mentioned, the best examples are those that reduce ‘paper and pen’ processes that have been in place for decades that are replaced with real-time data input capabilities. Quicker, more accurate data input means it can be more quickly consumed by various functional areas within the organization for quicker decision-making and outputs.”

Clendenin: What advice do you have for those thinking about crafting a secure mobile strategy?

Davidson: “Take the time to invest in developing a solid strategy. Too many organizations continue to work on tactical initiatives and don’t put any focus on understanding: 1) The business demand for mobile (know what the business wants and needs to be successful); 2) How they are going to tackle not only one off mobility projects, but find the interdependencies across all mobility initiatives to ensure minimal service overlaps and duplications.”

Clendenin: What should be done to ensure success?


  • “Find the right people. A solid team will make all the difference. Forward thinkers and change agents are a must for any mobility initiatives to be successful.
  • Develop KPI’s and metrics that outline what success is for your mobility initiatives and program so that you can track growth and success.
  • Find the right tools that fit your organization’s evolving mobile needs (MDM, EMM suites)
  • Define policies, guidelines and practices up front rather than jamming them in later.”

Clendenin: Any final thoughts on driving innovation in the oil and gas industry?

Davidson: “Today’s current market conditions allow organizations the opportunity to look at key business processes that could find efficiencies through the use of mobile technologies. Challenging times provide the opportunity to think outside the box and look for the efficiencies that mobility can bring to an organization through the use of mobile computing. Embrace consumerization and listen to what your users are looking to achieve in their respective business areas. They know their job functions, and together with IT and mobility, everyone can be successful.”

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