Every industry has their unique challenges and the energy sector is no different. They operate incredibly complex businesses and rely on thousands, even millions, of documents to achieve safety and environmental requirements, efficient operations and compliance with government regulations. But, the two most difficult challenges still linger - regulations and technology changes. This blog will demonstrate how SharePoint can solve these issues and reduce inefficiencies in the energy industry.
The energy and utilities sector is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the market. There are numerous regulations set forth by the government that dictate how business is conducted and how information maintained by companies is handled and audited – from contractual reporting to health and safety oversight.
In fact, 28 percent of senior corporate executives in energy companies, interviewed as part of Acritas’ 2015 global Sharplegal survey, count regulation and increased scrutiny as very challenging to their businesses. Some talked about complexities, some the sheer volume; others were more concerned about “regulatory uncertainty and changes in the energy market.”
In 2016, aggressive enforcement of regulations will continue as will increased fines for non-compliance. Energy companies need clear processes for dealing with the CFTC, FERC, EPA and other agencies. Well documented processes and a robust compliance infrastructure is fundamental.
Energy companies can also expect higher standards for compliance evidence management. It is no longer acceptable to have complete records. The next step is reconciling those records with those of counter parties. Good analytics can provide a deeper understanding of existing data, improving overall business functionality, as well as visibility into risks and opportunities.
Changes in technology in the energy sector is another big challenge cited by legal departments around the world. Areas of concern include technology licensing issues, cybersecurity and restructuring of electric markets being driven by technological change.
A recent study by BitSight Technologies of nearly 10,000 organizations in six major industries stated that the energy and utilities sector showed greater vulnerability to cyberattacks than other industries or the federal government.
As a result, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is focusing more attention on cyber security and in particular the Critical Infrastructure Protection, Version 5 (CIP). Protecting information from both a technological and legal standpoint is paramount.
Government policies and regulations, increased compliance and risk mitigation requirements drive the critical need for efficient document management in the industries of Energy and Utilities. And, this is why more and more of these companies are finding SharePoint to be a custom fit.
Let’s first address how SharePoint solves the need for energy companies to provide well-documented processes and compliance evidence management.
Oil and gas companies employ thousands of workers to manage wide-ranging business processes and there is a large amount of data that is gathered and stored on a daily basis in a number of different systems - customer data, project data, financial data and marketing data. In the energy field, it’s common to have systems exclusive for each country as well. This leaves a lot of room for error and inefficiencies. SharePoint is a supreme source for managing records and documents, all in a centralized system.
Versioning is another feature of SharePoint that supports energy companies, especially with regards to compliance issues. Documents that need to be updated regularly, like regulations and SOPs, will always have a track record of the most recent version of the document. It will also give detailed information about when the document was edited and by whom. Older versions of a file can also be restored.
Workflows in SharePoint create a systematic approach to getting projects done efficiently. This is especially helpful in the energy sector where multiple stakeholders are involved. By using workflows companies can streamline work, boost productivity, reduce costs, track progress, maintain visibility and reduce errors.
It is very likely that if you’re in the business of energy, you will get audited at some point. Microsoft SharePoint audit feature will be crucial in these instances. Knowing who has done what with which information is critical for many business requirements, such as regulatory compliance and records management.
SharePoint automatically integrates with your active directory and permissions can be given to specific people based on role. This keeps your sensitive data secure at all times.
Geographically dispersed geophysicists, reservoir engineers and drilling engineers are empowered to collaborate on projects. Effective collaboration among owners, operators and vendors in these partnerships is essential. But, it is also critical to ensure that everyone is maintaining the same data sets and complying with regulations. This is where the collaboration feature in SharePoint is very useful.
To add another layer of compliance protection, consider a training solution that can be added on to your SharePoint environment.
Training your staff is essential, especially on compliance and industry regulations. As mentioned previously, The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), is paying more attention to enforcing CIP version 5 with regards to cyber security protection.
CIP version 5 is basically a set of requirements designed to secure the assets required for operating North America’s bulk electric system. It consists of nine standards and 45 requirements covering the security of electronic perimeters and the protection of critical cyber assets as well as personnel and training, security management and disaster recovery planning.
One of the major components of the regulation requires companies to have a security awareness program that involves extensive training for those who have authorized cyber or unescorted physical access to critical cyber assets.
A SharePoint-based learning system is ideal because your training material is most likely already stored there – working within one system reduces the opportunity for error. With this type of SharePoint training system, you can easily assign compliance training, implement e-signatures, schedule recurring trainings, give quizzes and analyze comprehensive reports.
Another requirement of CIP version 5 is to consistently review personnel performance, training and qualifications. ShareKnowledge, a SharePoint-based learning system, allows managers to easily track talent management, whether it be through annual certification, extended learning opportunities or comprehensive assessments.