Cybersecurity has emerged as the top focus of upstream oil and gas companies’ digital investments, according to a new report from Accenture.
The “Accenture Upstream Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey 2019,” the seventh edition of Accenture’s report on digital technologies in the upstream oil and gas industry, is based on a global survey of 255 industry professionals, including C-suite executives, functional leaders and engineers.
When respondents were asked which digital technologies their organisations are investing in today, cybersecurity was cited more than any other, by 61 percent of respondents five times higher than the 12 percent who made that claim in 2017.
The report suggests that the focus on cyber resilience is increasing sharply as oil companies seek to protect their assets and reputations.
Cybersecurity was also cited by more respondents (16 percent) than any other digital solutions when asked which were driving the greatest impact in terms of business performance, up from 9 percent in 2017.
Furthermore, the Accenture study also noted that with increased investments in cybersecurity today, only five percent of respondents see increased vulnerability to cyber-attacks as the biggest risk from a lack of investment in digital less than one-third the number (18 percent) who made this claim in 2017. This might explain why only 35 percent of respondents plan to invest in cybersecurity over the next three to five years.
“As oil companies’ operations come under increasing threat, cyber resilience becomes more important to stakeholders, consumers and government,” said Rich Holsman, a managing director at Accenture who leads the digital practice in the company’s Resources operating group. “Managing attacks isn’t just a matter of protecting reputation, share price and operations, but it’s part of a greater responsibility for national services and security. Upstream businesses must continue to invest thoughtfully and substantially in cybersecurity measures, as they often underestimate their exposure to such attacks, which are also increasing in technical complexity.”
The survey also identified cloud technologies as the second-biggest focus for digital investment, cited by more than half (53 percent) of companies. In fact, 15 percent of respondents identified cloud technologies as the digital solutions driving the greatest business performance impact.
The report suggests that oil and gas companies are still investing heavily in cloud technologies because they are a foundation for their digital transformational journeys and for greater operational security.
Additionally, the percentage of respondents who cited artificial intelligence (AI) as driving the greatest business performance impact more than doubled from 2017, from four percent to nine percent.
As such, when asked what digital technologies they plan to invest in over the next three to five years, the greatest number (51 percent) cited AI/machine learning — up from 30 percent in 2017 — followed by Big Data/analytics (50 percent), the Internet of Things (43 percent) and mobile / wearable technologies (38 percent). Almost half (47 percent) of respondents cited a loss of competitive advantage as the biggest risk of a lack of investment in digital, with 42 percent citing cost reduction as the most significant business challenge that digital can help address.
Broadly however, the rate of digital investment by upstream companies has remained almost the same over the last few years. For instance, the number of executives who said their companies plan to invest more or significantly more in digital technologies over the next three to five years — 72 percent — was relatively unchanged from the number of who responded similarly to the same question in the 2017 survey (71 percent).