A what if: the Gulf disaster and e2.0


Share on LinkedIn

As someone who started her career working on oil rigs, the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico really hit home. I know first-hand the intense and often times dangerous activities on a drilling platform, and the enormous coordination effort involved in every drilling program. As I have followed this accident I have been struck again by the potential for Enterprise 2.0 software not just to improve how companies work, but to save lives and ecosystems.

A disaster of this proportion almost always has a series of cascading failures. One was the failure of the Blow-Out Preventer (BOP). The BOP, sitting on the seabed, is the last line of defense in the case of a blowout in a floating rig setup. We have learned that the blowout preventer was modified “in unexpected ways”. But these modifications were not rippled through the dependent processes, systems and tools, or across the different organizations involved. In those crucial hours following the blowout and fire, critical time was lost due to this fact. “When they [BP] investigated why their attempts failed to activate the bore ram [part of the BOP], they learned that the device had been modified. An entire day’s worth of precious time had been spent engaging rams that closed the wrong way.”  A collaboration platform would have shared the modifications to the blow out preventer and ensured that the impact of these modifications would have been understood and acted upon.

The BOP had several issues in the weeks and days leading up to the blowout. There were many red flags during the drilling operation as well. Many decisions were taken by the (many) different companies involved that could be rationalized in isolation. The cumulative effect across such a complex operation was not, however, really understood by anyone. The last few days and hours prior to the disaster are especially telling.  I realize that hindsight is 20-20, but what-if a social network had been part of the culture and tool set of BP (the Operator), Transocean (the drilling company), the mud company, the cement company, the wireline company and so on. A social network would have surfaced the increasingly vocal worries of the crew beyond the confines of the rig, so that more light could have been shed on key decisions leading up to the blowout, perhaps preventing the tragedy.

A drilling operation is a tremendous undertaking – a carefully choreographed integration of moving parts requiring sophisticated operating techniques and advanced technologies. Yet the challenges and failures of collaboration and communication in this global, multi-cultural industry are universal. I joined Schlumberger to see the world and did wireline work on rigs all over the world. Since then I have worked for large Fortune 500 companies, consulting firms and startups. Across all these very different enterprises, and in many different countries and cultures, I have seen these same problems of collaboration and communication occur again and again.

As companies have become more virtual and more diverse, as they have replaced vertical integration with widespread business webs, the execution gap has grown: the difference between what they mean to do and what they actually do grows ever wider. Companies need a social business platform that connects their workforce and their partners, that enables collaboration and that counteracts failures in decision making caused by narrow and isolated points of view.

This disaster would not have happened if the disparate groups in the the many different organizations involved in a drilling operation had been able to collaborate more effectively. A framework of enterprise 2.0 tools that created a social business network would have made a difference.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Meri Gruber
Meri Gruber is the VP of Business Development at Decision Management Solutions. Decision Management Solutions provides consulting services in all aspects of Decision Management, predictive analytics and business rules. Meri blogs on the intersection of business execution and innovation at Competing on Execution.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here