It is not any secret that dramatically lower oil prices have had a profound impact thereon departments in energy companies throughout the U.S. From sector giants to mid-market enterprises; most are feeling the pressure to manage the impact of declining prices on revenue and departmental budgets. The tough reality is that a lot of companies are often highly hooked into oil prices to fund their internal spending, and lately that dependency has wreaked havoc thereon and company budgets.

“IT should enable business users to act as self-service consumers, to get rid of IT from basic functional processes where possible”

In addition to the pressure thereon budgets, other corporate departments face similar challenges to try to more with less. This pressure leads department leaders to ask IT for assistance in automating key processes to scale back costs, while it's being asked to chop the exact same resources which will deliver the specified automation. This conundrum leaves CIOs facing a really daunting question.

How can IT deliver the required system and process improvements for other departments, while managing an overstretched IT team that's facing its own resource and funding challenges?

Listed below are some ideas from the front lines of this battle. And for those that aren't a part of the energy sector, here may be a chance to glean some insights to use when times inevitably get tough in your own industry.

Deploy IT automation tools

Automation offers the promise of truly “more for fewer.” By investing during a technical tool, IT departments can potentially reap big rewards. Examples are in this area, like monitoring, system testing, and management. Within the right circumstances, automation can replace time spent by critical resources on highly redundant tasks, and CIOs got to be very conversant in opportunities during this space to realize leverage and time for his or her resources.

However, automation isn't a panacea. Automating a nasty process won't help; the method must work well to be automated. And be prepared for the inevitable perception that it's focusing internally, rather than on critical business needs.

As a result, CIOs will get to ensure they're communicating the priority of those investments, and why they're predecessors to other business projects that are coming. By freeing up key resources through automation, those resources can then be re-deployed on more value-add projects, creating a winning formula for IT and therefore the business.

Leverage business self-service

Virtually every CIO is conversant in the criticism that it's a process “bottleneck”. Those outside of IT see our critical governance and compliance protocols as a nuisance and obstacle to getting “real” work done. Of course, those self same leaders are going to be the primary to complain if IT skips a key testing step and causes an outage, thanks to bad governance.

In order to combat this mindset, consider putting key business users within the driver’s seat, where it is sensible. IT should enable business users to act as self-service consumers, to get rid of IT from basic functional processes where possible. Naturally, this must be balanced against maintaining appropriate internal controls and governance. However, if applied effectively, self-service can dramatically reduce IT workload while enabling it to specialize in other, value-added initiatives.

Force decisiveness

Time is money, and decisiveness equals speed. If you'll drive true decisiveness in your organization, you'll reduce time wasted on unnecessary analysis, or possibly even eliminate entire unnecessary initiatives.

While you certainly shouldn't force your executive team to form a choice only for the sake of it, you ought to specialize in fostering a process which will cause accurate, rapid, one-time decision-making. Get your facts straight before your meetings. Make sure you have all of the small print. Steel oneself against the inevitable questions you'll face, and have the answers. Bring the proper people, and don’t offer to require things “off-line” which can delay getting the answers you would like. Drive for the choices, document them, and communicate them to the acceptable stakeholders. Take swift, bold action, and show leadership. Difficult crises like we face today require extraordinary leadership. Take this chance as a CIO to point out you've got what it takes to be a real executive leader, and help others to try to do an equivalent. You would like to be a baron, not just the leader of IT.


Governance and transparency are always critical, but during this environment, truly every dollar counts. CIOs got to spend significant time and energy communicating with their peers on priorities, and wish to incorporate internal IT projects within the mix, as mentioned previously.

Priorities got to be set using an objective methodology. While virtually every CIO has been inundated with “business case” models, a big effort should be made in simplifying the approach to urge to decisions accurately and quickly.

If there's any doubt regarding your current priorities, you ought to be communicating more. Be sure you've got the chief stakeholders at the table. If the most important IT critics in your company aren't willing to interact within the dialog, go spend time with them.

Get nimble

Every crisis brings opportunities. This is often a time where you'll challenge your staff to try to do more, and enable them to grow into more capable professionals. While everyone is clearly different, your stars should be ready to cash in of resource gaps to grow new skills, or hone existing ones. By laying down the challenge to your team, you'll give them an opportunity to accelerate their own professional development. When the crisis ends, your team is then better positioned to deliver solutions across a broader spectrum of requirements.

For CIOs, IT leadership comes with astounding visibility to corporate method and objectives; you ought to be trying to find opportunities for private development beyond IT, as this may help promote your own growth, increasing your value to the enterprise.

Conclusion – Taking advantage of the crisis to maneuver IT forward

CIOs in energy companies face significant challenges in meeting the growing demands of their businesses, particularly during this cost-cutting environment. However, by taking the steps listed above, CIOs can cash in of this challenging downturn. you'll ultimately emerge not even as the manager of the IT department, but as a senior executive and trusted baron, who leads and influences the general organization far beyond the narrow definition of IT. When the inevitable rebound comes, then you'll be positioned to broker far stronger outcomes for yourself, your teams, and your company.