Chevron Phillips Chemical (CPChem) needed a technology that facilitated fast solutions to pressing problems. The solution needed an intuitive user interface, easy workflows, and had to enable collaboration to drive adoption and allow for cultural acceptance. They chose an analytics platform from Seeq. Seeq helped create a common framework in which the sites could collaborate within and across sites. The software was designed with operations and engineering workers in mind.
At the Seeq Conneqt conference Brent Railey gave an fascinating presentation on the importance of tackling cultural issues when implementing innovative technology. Mr. Railey is the manager of data science at CPChem. Mr. Railey described how Seeq enabled a cultural shift at the company. CPChem was able to use Seeq to make faster data-based decisions. CPChem’s digital foundation team used the Seeq platform to help them view and understand the value of data, setting a foundation for CPChem’s digital transformation. CPChem was able to solve problems that they could not solve before using Seeq.
The Influence of Culture
Chevron Phillips Chemical was established in 2000, as a joint venture between Chevron and Phillips 66. CPChem has continuously increased production over the past 20 years. They have gone from producing 19 billion pounds annually to 36 billion pounds today. Their growth has been organic; they have built new facilities, primarily in the Middle East and North America. Even with the increase in production, CPChem has the same number of employees as when the company was formed. This is a testament to the effective use of technology and cross site collaboration.
In 2000, when Chevron and Phillips combined their chemical business, the management style for each company was quite different. “Cultural differences exist in every organization, and culture is the invisible influence that drives behavior,” Mr. Railey told the audience. Incentives and worker rewards have a strong influence on culture and organizational behavior. The location where technologies are rolled out in different global areas and cultures impacts the effectiveness of the technology and organization.
Mr. Railey emphasized the importance of understanding culture because it is multi-layered. Layers and differences in culture include country or location, and corporate organization. Cultural differences can also exist between different facilities and departments, and all should be accounted for. Mr. Railey told the audience, “The IT organization may have significant cultural differences when compared with the maintenance organization or finance and procurement organizations, and all the cultural differences need to be considered when rolling out an initiative. Each one of the cultural layers provides challenges, but they also provide opportunities. And because of this, it is important to understand how to work with the cultural differences, make changes and leverage the nuances when working with different organizations.”
Because culture is multifaceted and means different things to different people, and includes shared beliefs, assumptions, values and more, the result is that culture can govern the way an organization operates. It is important to understand the culture and to recognize how people interact and collaborate with each other. To understand culture, initiative owners must recognize the company’s values, priorities, communication modes, management styles, trust levels, risk tolerance, incentives, and disincentives. Trust levels are extremely important. “Low trust environments can lead to under-performing environments because people spend too much time protecting themselves,” Mr. Railey cautioned. “Risk tolerance affects how people act. How people are penalized if they fail, along with their incentives, and this drives behavior.”
By understanding each organization’s agenda while implementing new technologies, it is possible to negotiate and modify the plan so it works best for each organization. For example, in many organizations there is a battle between the IT organization and operations over Excel usage. Engineers, business analysts, procurement analysts, finance analysts, and other workers typically love Excel. These workers know where to get the data and whether the data was in the business system or in the historian, for example, and they can use Excel to assemble the information they need.
However, while front line workers love the ease of use, IT sees Excel as the cause of islands of data that can’t be fully leveraged or even worse causes arguments about which data is accurate and up-to-date. “We had spreadsheets for everything,” commented Mr. Railey. “We were justifying multi-billion-dollar projects with economic models that were built in Excel. We managed sales and operations planning using SAP APO in conjunction with Excel. We used Excel as a feedstock balancing tool for ethane crackers.” Some workers looked at hundreds of Excel spreadsheets a day that are so large that it is nearly impossible to trace and understand all the formulas. Excel would sometimes crash because of the enormous amount of data that they were trying to process, and IT would be required to fix the spreadsheet.
How can end users shift to a more data-based culture? The right technology is critical, but the most important aspect of a data-driven organization is the ability to collaborate and make fact-based decisions. Whether it is sales, operations, research, or the supply chain teams, it is imperative that the culture supports an end-to-end perspective when evaluating the data. The focus should always be what is best for the business.
In the past the workers were not incentivized to take risks, so the safest route for CPChem workers was to stick to what they had been doing for many years. Many decisions were not data-driven. At the time, when executives made top-down decisions they were often risk averse and did not consistently make data-driven decisions. Workers were rewarded for compliance and penalized when they took risks and failed.
Challenges and Opportunities
When using Excel, the costs associated with the time to justify new projects could be as high as 10% of the cost of the total project. Additionally, because their datasets were getting larger and more complex, and thus more difficult to perform using Excel, CPChem realized that self-service advanced analytics were needed. Spreadsheets were creating data and business silos. CPChem realized they could solve existing, and new, challenges with a more modern toolset. The company needed to articulate the value of analytics and connect operations with business data to solve their problems.
CPChem clearly had to update their business intelligence systems to move from being a report driven organization to a data servicing organization. Because CPChem operated lean, the analytics had to be put in the hands of the workers who could best extract the value out of the data. IT organizations just don’t have the ability to interpret operations, research, or supply chain.
“Self-service analytics was already happening, but in an uncontrolled, untraceable way,” Mr. Railey noted. “We had to frame the message to appeal to concerns about compliance, along with expressing the potential value self-service analytics could bring.”
“We realized that some technologies could help enable cultural change,” stated Mr. Railey. “We needed software that would put the data and visibility in context, which was easy to implement, understand, and use, into the hands of the users.” The software needed to help them identify who was collaborating on the analysis, what data sources they were accessing, and who was able to view the results.
The initial challenge was to articulate the value of Seeq so that CPChem management would understand why these modern self-service advanced analytics would be more effective than Excel or Power BI. Sometimes IT and Operations do not see eye to eye. Initially, workers were reluctant to use Seeq because they did not have experience with the solution. They also did not understand why they needed another technology to do their work.
While Seeq was being rolled out, the company was also in the midst of another initiative to obtain ideas from frontline workers. The goal of this initiative was that engineers or other process subject matter experts could submit ideas for problems that had been plaguing the company for years. This bottoms up approach helped them identify, prioritize, and solve problems for their “Performance by Design” projects, which allowed them to try new processes and technologies. The subject matter experts used Seeq during a Proof of Concept (POC) phase to justify multiple projects that fell under CPChem’s Performance by Design initiatives.
The software allowed the organization to quickly identify where the bottlenecks were, establish baseline performance, and measure the value of changes before and after the implementation of the project. The insights that resulted were especially important in helping the organization understand the value of the technology.
Upon completion of the proof of concept, users were able to learn the potential value of using Seeq from trusted colleagues. Seeq was easy to use and solved a massive number of problems quickly. The time to ROI was weeks rather than months or years. The problems that they were able to solve using the technology were problems that the workers did not previously know how to solve. Because of their successes, the team was able to articulate the value of Seeq to management and other workers, which facilitated a successful enterprise roll out of the software.
CPChem’s enterprise license allowed workers the ability to try the software in different locations. As the users started to adopt the technology, its usage increased exponentially. Because of the positive impact, Seeq enabled cultural changes. The use of Seeq encouraged collaboration among users and helped them solve problems and increased productivity.
Prior to using Seeq, the organization understood that there was a lot of value locked up in their data, but they could not use the data easily. “Implementation did not take long, and the intuitive user design helped draw the workers in. Adoption was quick, the time to insights was faster. The problems solved ranged from optimization of catalysts in our reactors to ad hoc incident investigations and finding root causes in hours for problems that would have taken a week or longer to figure out previously.”
Mr. Railey told the audience, “By working with Seeq, the users have come to appreciate the technology. Even though there was still some resistance to using the new technology at one plant, the barrier was reduced substantially after the workers heard from other trusted workers about the results from other plants. This resulted in an internal pull to bring Seeq into their location even though they were not quite sure what they would do with the technology or how it would help them.”
According to Mr. Railey, Seeq had a positive impact on CPChem’s culture. “Seeq had a positive impact on the culture because we were able to get the right tool at the right time to the right people. It enabled our workers to interact with the data in new way to solve their problems.”
Mr. Railey cautioned that it is important that organizations understand opportunity costs. He said a lot of organizations do not invest in technology because they only see the risk and failures. “If we don’t implement, what are we losing without the software?” Mr. Railey asked.
“The integration of Seeq to our data was smooth because you did not have to install additional proprietary software. The software platform allowed us to directly connect to the data for the purpose of presenting to management using Power BI. We could not do this previously. And we were able to clean the data and perform the calculations we needed.”
Using the same technology across multiple sites helped eliminate data silos in the organization. Because it was a joint venture between two companies, CPChem inherited multiple historians – software that enables the logging of production data from processes that are executed in a manufacturing system – from multiple suppliers. According to Mr. Railey, “Seeq helped create a common framework in which the workers could interact with their data and increased site-to-site collaboration because of the cross sharing of data, which enabled a major cultural shift in the company.” Because of Seeq’s capabilities, CPChem started using the self-service initiatives in other organizations within the company like finance and supply chain in addition to manufacturing.
It is important to realize how culture can drive behavior. Leadership styles and incentives can be a major driver of certain behaviors; however, technology can help enable cultural shifts. When initiatives fail, it is usually due to a lack of adoption. It is important to figure out what you need to do to educate, align the technology to the culture, and plan for cultural impacts. Incentives must be kept in mind when you are rolling out a new technology or project. Impact on the user and organization is also key to analyze and anticipate, and preparation for the change should be planned.
It is important to include workers in the process to initiate a cultural shift. CPChem adopted Seeq by allowing workers to see the value. Seeq’s intuitive user interface enabled CPChem to obtain continuous real-time insights and constant feedback, enabling a culture shift. The software helped them solve problems that they were unable to solve previously.
“Because of the intuitive design [of Seeq],” Mr. Railey enthused, “folks were drawn in. The adoption was quick. The time to value was even faster. The problems we were able to solve were INSANE – and unexpected.”