The oil and gas industry must move from having a focus on processes to putting people at the centre of its business, even while embracing digital transformation.

Behind every company in the industry — large and small — there will always be people, Fabio Costa, Brazil president for US-based software giant Salesforce, said on a Rio Oil & Gas 2020 panel on Wednesday.

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Costa said that, while technology has an important role to play in supporting digital transformation within the industry, the transformation itself has “all to do with putting the customer in the centre of the strategy".

“The biggest challenge (from) our point of view is that there is a journey to go from a process-centric organisation to a people-centric organisation,” Costa said.

The industry has siloed processes, meaning companies are "not collaborating as they could or as they should with their ecosystem".

The need for this switch to more of a focus on people does not, however, conflict with the need to get on board with the digital transformation sweeping the oil and gas industry, as with other industries.

Digital transformation is not all about technology, Costa said, but also about how businesses can put the customer at the centre of their strategy.

The industry is facing regulatory and peak demand challenges, along with challenges from emerging technologies, such as blockchain, Costa said.

“When we look at the oil and gas industry, we know (companies) are under pressure, like the other segments that we work with, not only because of Covid-19 but because of other transformations that are happening today in the world,” Costa said.

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One of the biggest concerns Costa sees is with the fossil fuel industry’s whole business model, which will eventually need to be replaced to address the growing demand for renewable energy and guarantee sustainability — not only for the businesses themselves but for societies that are affected by the industry's operations.

“We are in a moment where all the investments that companies choose should be positive from a societal perspective,” Costa said.