Microsoft, Accenture Study Points to Increased Use of Social Media Tools by Oil and Gas Professionals.

Social media is coming to industry, according to a recent study by Microsoft Corp. and the consulting firm Accenture Plc. that found nearly 75 percent of oil and gas industry professionals using tools such as instant messaging and social networks for business collaboration.

When an old line industry such as oil and gas takes on social media tools to advance business, it's likely to mark a trend among industry in general.

Indeed, the survey of 205 professionals among international, national and independent oil and gas companies, the results of which Microsoft delivered at its recent Global Energy Forum in Houston, TX, pointed to a significant increase in the use of social media tools from last year to this year, specifically a 12 percent rise in overall usage, an 11 percent bump in instant messaging and a 17 percent uptick in internal company social networks.

Overall, 34 percent of oil and gas professionals said that they are collaborating now more than previously, a trend that Microsoft and Accenture believe is likely to gain momentum as an aging workforce replaces itself with new leadership.

"As the industry continues to expand globally with workers dispersed across multiple regions, oil and gas companies are challenged to find new, innovative ways to help employees collaborate and share information remotely, in a security-enhanced manner," said Craig Hodges, Microsoft general manager, U.S. Manufacturing and Resources.

Nearly one-third of the study's respondents said that increased access to information as afforded by technology could dampen the impact of an aging workforce. Moreover, the global nature of the industry has made the ability to collaborate anytime and anywhere in the world to share information and knowledge vitally important, the participants said.

"Diversification, developments in oil and gas technology, talent, and regulatory policies are just a few factors demanding oil and gas companies to make information available to their work forces and partners in a timely and efficient manner," said Brian Miller, Accenture senior executive, energy industry group.

To overcome barriers to collaboration identified by the participants such as broken workflows that prevent information exchange (47 percent) and an absence of a unified solution to share knowledge (45 percent), the respondents suggested technology enhancement including improved timing to streamline decision-making (52 percent), improved interaction capability through any device (42 percent), and improved computing power for data analysis and computer simulation (35 percent).

 "The survey results show the industry's recognition of the strategic benefits in utilizing IT solutions such as cloud computing, enabling easier accessibility to data and knowledge sharing within a security-enhanced environment," Miller said.

"Companies need to accelerate the implementation of these solutions to help them innovate, operate more successfully in dynamic environments, and increase their productivity and business performance," he said.

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