Calgary’s top oilpatch executives who feel adrift in the confusing sea of “e” will find safe harbour next week at a conference which aims to familiarize energy industry leaders with the new e-business environment.
Billed as the first major exhibition of its kind in Canada, the Calgary Energy & E-Business Conference and Trade Show has attracted a full roster of IT and e-commerce experts from the oil, gas and electricity sectors across North America and abroad to explain the impact of e-business on the energy community’s corporate bottom line.
“This is sort of a convergence of the IT world and the business world,” says Paul Ziff, CEO of Calgary-based consulting firm Ziff Energy Group, which has organized the conference and lined up sponsors including Andersen Consulting, EDS and IndigoPool.com
Ziff says the two-day conference and trade show, to be held Nov. 15-16 at the Round-Up Centre, will help bridge the knowledge gap for energy industry leaders who may not fully understand how e-commerce is already affecting their futures.
“It has to be embraced,” says Ziff. “It’s up to you to decide how, but doing business the old way is not going to cut it.”
While some Calgary energy companies are already up to speed on e-commerce strategies, “there are much larger pockets that aren’t,” Ziff says. “We wouldn’t want to put across any sort of image or perception that the Canadian industry is not highly technical or accomplished,” he adds, but the sector is still not keeping pace with its U.S. and international counterparts.
The first day of the conference will be a “crash course” in the fundamentals of energy e-business, including business-to-business strategies, e-trading, and the corporate cultural challenge of making the transition to e-thinking.
“There is very much of a conservative nature pervasive in both the utilities and the oil and gas business,” observes Karl Jessen, director of energy and Internet strategies for The Yankee Group. “They want to see things proven before they’re adopted . . . some of the choices they make affect a lot of people, can cost a lot of money, and do a lot of damage if you make a bad choice.”
Companies risk being left behind if they ignore the full potential of e-business, he says. “It’s really increasing the speed in which business can take place. And it more easily expands the global scope of it. Petroleum already is global, but it makes things happen a lot faster.”
It’s expected that 40 per cent of attendees will be senior executives, including CEO’s, CFOs and CIOs, mostly from the exploration and production areas of the oil and gas sector. The conference is also being targeted to e-business and software specialists, utility companies, pipeline firms and energy marketers/traders.
The second day of the conference will focus on workshops, including B2B commerce, B2C (business to customer) management, e-resources, portals and a cyber workshop.
Andy Boettcher, vice-president of the Calgary office of EDS Systemhouse, estimates the Canadian energy industry is lagging 12 to 18 months behind its U.S. and international counterparts in embracing e-business practices.
“I would say there has been a lot of folks standing on the sidelines, wondering when it makes sense for them to begin the business transformation,” he says.
Why are they waiting? Boettcher believes oil and gas companies want proof in the pudding – that changing their way of working will fuel a minimum 15 per cent return on investment that will drive shareholder value. There’s also a “traditional mindset” in the business community that may be slowing down progress, he adds.
More than 70 per cent of the business conducted in Calgary by EDS — a global provider of e-business and technology services — is in the oilpatch, and Boettcher says the Ziff conference is an important opportunity for top execitives to get up to speed.
He adds: “We believe this conference is going to pull together some of the best . . . leadership in the industry.”
Ziff says there’s plenty of evidence showing that both a company’s equity valuation and its growth are directly linked by its e-business abilities. “This is starting on Wall Street, and it will definitely spread to Bay Street,” he predicts.
“Companies that don’t get on board won’t get as much for their stock as other companies that have been more proactive.”
Other presenters include experts from Goldman Sachs, Shell Canada, TELUS, The Yankee Group, SAP Canada, and computer security specialists JAWZ Inc., which will present a seminar on Security, Privacy and the Fear of ‘E.’ Microsoft Canada president Frank Clegg will also speak Wednesday evening.
Ziff hopes the conference will help executives better position their companies for their electronic futures.
“The issue has been raised . . . in five years or so, given current trends, are decisions going to be made in Calgary or in Houston?” he asks. “We do have some world-class independent companies, but it’s important that they and others be informed and participate on a broader international basis on what is happening.”