Survey Your Organization for Digital Readiness

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Survey Your Organization for Digital Readiness

How do you know if your organization is ready to embark on changes enabled by digital innovation? Why not collect some data?

Know Your Current State

As I write in earlier posts, the usefulness of a digital strategy is at least partially measured on how able an organisation is to implement the strategy’s recommendations. There’s little point in developing an elegant, sophisticated and disruptive game plan only to discover that the organisation doesn’t think management is serious, or the team lacks the capability to execute, or the changes so threaten the workers that they slow walk it forward or refuse to go along. As Peter Drucker reminds us, culture eats strategy for breakfast. As you work on a digital strategy, you need to get a handle on how ready your organization is to cope with the outcomes of the digital strategy, and for this you need data

You need to know if there is a difference between how managers think about change versus the troops. Sometimes managers, who are measured on high reliability and minimal upsets, can feel pretty ambivalent about introducing digital innovation. It just feels like more work. Sometimes the troops can see change as simply “more work same pay”, or “big brother is watching me” or “automation is after my job”. They too can be pretty cynical about any kind of change. 

How about between the corporate office, whose people are possibly more exposed to conversations about digital innovation, and the field operations? Sure, there are probably lots of opportunities to apply digital solutions to corporate work, but most (if not all) of the really useful digital advances in oil and gas originate in the field. 

How about between different employee groups, such as technical, professional and managers? You think that the technical and professional cadre are the most open and best aware of how digital changes are impacting the industry, but is that true? Frequently their jobs are tightly coupled to specific technologies which they are loath to replace. What about procurement who insist that any digital innovation actually be implemented in the market already (if it’s already in the market, perhaps it’s not innovation). 

If there are significant differences in attitudes towards digital across your company  you need to craft some actions to help improve the adoptability of the strategy. But collecting data about attitudes involves reaching people who are widely distributed across big geographies and lots of field offices. The assets run round the clock, which requires multiple shifts of workers to keep the machine running, making it hard to reach everyone via interviews or focus groups. Just getting to the field can be a multi-day journey.

The Digital Survey

Since you’re developing a digital strategy, why not conduct a digital survey of the company? Survey tools are ubiquitous, readily accessible, inexpensive, and robust. As my research analyst points out, the simian twins, Mail Chimp and SurveyMonkey, seem to have a corner on engaging with lots of people, so why not start there. 

Your first challenge is the overall design of your survey—how long, how detailed, how much time to complete. Shorter surveys can yield higher response rates, but you collect less data. Anonymous surveys can give you higher quality responses, but you can’t follow up with anyone directly. At the very least, set up your survey so that it is “responsive”, meaning it works reliably on any phone, tablet or browser, and can be completed anywhere. 


The first data you need to collect are the characteristics of the respondents to allow you to segment the data. It’s been my experience that there are meaningful differences between head office and field offices, workers and managers, technical and professional, even specific assets and sites. For example, corporate might rate digital highly, and the field might rate it as irrelevant. The average is then misleading.

At least one question should help you situate the respondent by location. Your second question should ask the respondent to self-select into an employment category. In a perfect world, you can use job categories that are defined your Human Resources department.

Overall Digital Awareness

There is little point asking detailed questions about digital’s potential if the respondents don’t really understand what digital means. Your third question should aim to set a baseline of awareness of the topic of digital. Segmentation then lets you see if some parts of the company are ahead or behind in digital awareness, which in turn shapes the interpretation of other responses.

Digital Innovation awareness

There are a handful of digital innovations that are dominating the broader conversations about digital in oil and gas. You need to see if your company is participating in these conversations. Test the awareness level of a small set of leading digital technologies on a 5 part scale (no awareness, some awareness, highly aware). The technologies that I recommend include phone apps, cloud computing, internet of things, blockchain, analytics, artificial intelligence, robots and augmented reality.

Competitive awareness

You need to get a handle on the sense of urgency for your strategy work. If there’s no urgency, the digital strategy likely struggles to get legs. To gauge urgency, ask how people perceive the relative position of the company against the competition. You don’t really need to define the competition in any robust way (ie, by naming specific companies). Instead assume the respondents already compare themselves to others in the market on a casual basis.

Company receptivity

There’s little point in deluding yourself that your digital strategy will work if the employees actually believe the company is not receptive to employee suggestions about improvements enabled by digital. Your next question should test to see if the company is perceived to be receptive to change. This question is best framed on a likert scale that ranges from “zero receptivity” to “leadership is highly receptive”.

Overall Opportunity

Spend enough time mucking about in digital, and you see opportunity everywhere, but is that true for everyone? You don’t want to bias the survey results by leading the witness, but it is sensible to see if the respondents in general have any preconceptions about how digital might impact the company. Most people are aware of how digital innovations have been disturbing other sectors, such as retail, the media, banking, gaming, entertainment and transportation. Ask a question about impacts using a Likert scale of 1 to 5, ranging from “digital will have no impact on us”, to “I see lots of potential”. 

Use cases

Digital innovations have different impacts on different businesses, but which ones matter most for your digital strategy? I recommend asking where people believe the performance gap is greatest or where the opportunity is most easily captured. Here are some of ways that digital helps. Again, rate these on a Likert scale of “no value” to “high value” to see which ones stand out. 

  • Improve the quality of our information
  • Lower our costs of production
  • Improve the utilisation rates of our assets
  • Improve the productivity of our assets
  • Help us make better decisions
  • Transform our processes
  • Automate repetitive tasks
  • Help accelerate cash collection
  • Improve the quality of services we receive

Blocks and Barriers

You also need to know what sorts of barriers or blockages are in the path of future digital adoption. Armed with that knowledge, you design into your roadmap specific tactics to help overcome these barriers. Barriers are worded either as positives (“we need training”), or negatives (“we lack awareness”). Here’s the positive version: 

  • We need training on digital innovations
  • We should set aside work time to explore digital innovation
  • We need to improve our data quality
  • We should make digital innovation part of the job
  • We should have a budget for digital innovation
  • We need to recruit for digital skills
  • We need to improve our track record at introducing change

Business Priority

You need to know if the respondents are prepared to place a priority on digital adoption. Frame a question on how much of a priority your team places on this topic. Again, a likert scale does the trick, with answers between one (“don’t waste any time on this”) to five (“we should transform the company”). 

Opportunity areas

Last, but not least, your team undoubtably has very specific use cases and ideas about where digital tools can make a difference, but unless you ask, they won’t reveal their ideas. The very last box on the survey is a write in comment box to pick up any suggestions or specific examples that the team thinks should be investigated. 


If you’re asked to help set out a digital strategy for your organization, your efforts will be enhanced if you base it on real data. Consider using a digital survey to support your efforts.

My new book, Bits, Bytes, and Barrels: The Digital Transformation of Oil and Gas, will be available for purchase in January, but if you sign up now, I’ll give you the first chapter free. I think you’ll be delighted with the result. 

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