PETRONAS Head of Innovation on navigating the technology solutions market

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Fadhlan Nik Abdul Aziz, Head of Innovation at PETRONAS.

As the downstream sector enters Industry 4.0, a booming technology solutions market is developing to help operators address their rising digital demands. 

But with an increasingly crowded landscape, operators can face challenges in choosing the right solutions to suit their business needs. 

Fadhlan Nik Abdul Aziz, Head of Innovation at PETRONAS, tells Asian Downstream Insights about navigating the challenges of finding the right technology partner, and how the online technology crowdsourcing platform is giving PETRONAS a competitive edge. 

Challenges of too many choices 

Virtual workplaces and new business demands are feeding a boom for technological solutions. It’s predicted that the digital oil and gas solutions market could grow up to 500% over the next five to six years. 

But operators can get stuck in an over-saturated vendor ecosystem. As Fadhlan explains, there are several challenges affecting an increasingly crowded solutions landscape. 

Firstly, there is an ambiguity on  the readiness level of technology for deployment. Even when the pressure to digitize quickly is high, rolling out technology too fast can be a costly oversight, and more likely result in the mismatch of the solution in relation to business pain points. Secondly, what changes will need to be made to the current asset facility to suit the integration of technology, and how will we address the challenges associated with retooling the workforce with the operations and maintenance protocols needed for this technology deployment?

In a busy vendor market, there is still no silver bullet solution. Operators may face a challenge in the lack of integration of multiple solutions to address one issue. This can make it harder to ultimately gauge and understand the value creation each technology brings to the asset. 

With these multiple issues, downstream business leaders need simplicity: an accessible and transparent process to gain a clear perspective of the solutions market and source the right technology to stay competitive in a connected age. 

Plugging the gap in the technology solutions search

PETRONAS’s solution to this is Innovation Gateway@ PETRONAS (iG@P): an online technology crowdsourcing platform that has scouted more than 800 technology solutions to deliver operational excellence to its businesses. As Fadhlan explains, “iG@P is a window for PETRONAS to have access to the technology solutions available in the market as well as the window for technology providers to have the knowledge on PETRONAS’ business pain points.”

PETRONAS Technology Marketplace, which is a section of iG@P, provides a single submission point for technology providers to introduce new technology that brings value to PETRONAS. And through their Technology Challenge Series, PETRONAS shares their business pain points with technology providers in the form of a technology competition.

The winner will have the opportunity to deploy and replicate the technology at PETRONAS’ assets as well as jointly develop to further enhance the winning technology solution. PETRONAS staff also can provide feedback on the performance of the technology to their peers involved and to the technology providers, similar to popular e-commerce sites. 

PETRONAS plugs the gap in technology solutions search with Innovation Gateway@ PETRONAS (iG@P), an online technology crowdsourcing platform.

This is very much in line with PETRONAS’ fervent push towards technological and digital optimisation, aimed not only to stay resilient throughout the current uncertainties but also to future-proof the business with a culture of innovation.  

The result is an effective way of drawing talent to where it’s needed, facilitating the solutions search and, bringing, as Fadhlan describes, “Technology at our fingertips”. 

Access to the worldwide technology marketplace 

The process of technology crowdsourcing – turning to the wider community for innovative solutions and collaboration to address today’s technology challenges – is, as Fadhlan points out, “not a new concept”. In 2016, experts and analysts were already noting that “the future of oil and gas is through “internal crowdsourcing”, which is turning to internal stakeholders for a better “ground truth” when it comes to technology solutions. Even in respect to the wider external technology crowdsourcing, Fadhlan candidly points out that there are platforms which provide these services to local technology providers in which the companies operate in.

But what sets iG@P apart is its broad scope: an “open innovation concept across the globe”, that involves both PETRONAS staff and technology providers in the acquisition, deployment and replication of technology through  its  Technology Catalog. 

By creating this worldwide technology marketplace, iG@P is able to cast its net wide for technology solutions talent, then hone in through a rigorous review of each proposal, to ensure that solutions are entirely suited to the operator’s specific business needs. 

Bringing solutions to you 

In the aftermath of the pandemic, where there is a glut in demand and energy consumption is at a freefall, Fadhlan describes the collaboration between PETRONAS and technology providers as “key in riding through this perfect storm”. 

At the eye of this storm, he pointed out, is iG@P: a “solution for us to focus the collaboration under a single online platform”. 

In a future where embracing new technologies will be key in maintaining market position, finding the right solutions partner can create value through deployment and replication as well as turning technology into a revenue earner. The challenge is set, the search is on.