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PETRONAS’ downstream journey: digital not just a tool

Nov 14, 2018
3 min read
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The digital journey for downstream in Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS) is founded on a simple realisation: digital is no longer just a tool, according to Arif Mahmood, managing director, EVP and CEO of Downstream at Petronas.

In setting the context for a look into PETRONAS’ digital transformation, Mahmood, says, “Digital is no longer just a tool that you plug in to make things happen. The digital strategy is very much the business strategy. So, in the beginning we may approach in it the sense of initiatives, or a project, but eventually it has to be a norm in the way of working in the industry.”

Undoubtedly, digital technology is a great enabler in this day and age. It has created tools that allowed ease of access to people, services, facilities at an unprecedented scale. However, it is important to note that a mindset and culture change across the organisation is imperative to the success of the digital transformation, he said.

The key to unlocking the potential of digital for an organisation lies in willingness to embrace change and the new way of working, beginning from the vantage point of leadership, as Arif emphasises, “Leaders need to take charge. To certain extent they need to immerse themselves in the new space, understand well, set the directions, make the commitment, take the risk and lead it.” Permanent change, that will eventually become the norm driving the organisation forward, can only happen with a sound leadership commitment and readiness to unlearn, relearn and be uncomfortable in this space. Acknowledging the need to de-silo the organisation across the full molecule value chain, Arif gives an overview of PETRONAS’ digital initiatives that aim to create data transparency, improve operational efficiency and operating as an enterprise. Customer centricity is at the heart of the business; efforts are also being put into responding to customers’ needs and enhancing retail experience through digital interventions and non-fuel businesses.

Sharing the recent achievement of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1’s fifth consecutive win [of the World Constructors Championship] at the Brazil Grand Prix 2018, Mahmood likened the aspired vision of a new way of working to the Formula 1, “We have been the Technical Partner and the Title Sponsor in the fluid solutions for this. The amount of data that the car produced in a race, the 50,000 channels of data that they analysed on a real-time basis, that feeds into the drivers so that he can have real time response, to push the boundaries, to win the race in just a couple of milliseconds ahead of the second car.

“The same data then go to couple of hundred engineers in Brackley, Brixworth, on the track that analyse this and prepare for the next race in terms of improvements. Because what could happen is that the competition will do the exact same thing. So the couple of millisecond that you won in this race is no longer useful in the next race. If you think about that kind of scenario, that, will be the aspiration of the company – to be able to activate every single one in the organisation, thinking in this mode. Looking at data, see what else they can do with it and win.”