Case Studies

Oil & Gas, Corporate Services: Process Mapping, Standardization and Automation Improve Facilities Management Speed, Effectiveness, and Flexibility

Fortune 500 Oil and Gas
Southern USA

Client situation

Executives at the global energy provider were upbeat when they authorized a new, state-of- the art corporate campus in the U.S. Over the course of construction, volatile oil prices periodically gave them mild cases of buyer’s remorse. More importantly, the unstable energy markets prompted them to review every aspect of Corporate Services. The objective was two fold:

  • Review spending and reduce unnecessary expense across all Corporate Services
  • Increase the speed, effectiveness, and flexibility of the Facilities Management group

As the new campus was approaching completion, the executive management team internally recruited a new Senior Vice President of Corporate Services. In addition to strong operating experience in refining, she had spent several years early in her career in Finance. Along the way, she had also obtained a law degree while continuing to work. Her new position would draw upon every aspect of her experience.

In addition to opening the campus, she faced a flood of additional issues. Costly office and research facilities around the world required lease renewals, remediation, and maintenance. The property tax bills for all facilities were growing 50 percent faster than planned. The recently-installed technology for worldwide maintenance management was not delivering the promised performance.

To make matters worse, other corporate services groups slated for review seemed immune to the most basic management methods. These groups included:

  • Courier delivery
  • Daycare
  • Employee health and food services
  • Even internal move-management operations

The SVP knew that she would need outside help to assess these disparate, far-flung organizations, but did not know where to start looking. Then she came upon materials from The Lab that described their work in these areas—along with standardization templates to accelerate assessment, standardization, and automation.

She was intrigued by the notion of “standardization,” especially since the managers of these organizations avoided comparisons, claiming that the various facilities, tax authorities, and internal organizations were each “unique.” Anxious to learn more about how standardization might help, she contacted The Lab.

Project Overview

Project Sponsor: SVP, Corporate Services
Client: Top 25 U.S. Energy Company

Implementation Results
  • Operating cost: Down 15%
  • Work order error rate: Down 75%
  • Employee productivity: Up 20%
  • Break-even point: 4 mos.
  • 12-month ROI: 5x

Client Description, Project Scope, Objectives

The company is a Top 25 global energy provider with diverse subsidiaries in chemicals and gas liquids. It maintains an extensive internal consulting capability with a successful track record optimizing conventional asset-based energy operations. However, these teams historically struggled to succeed at improving knowledge, or office-worker, operations.

The organizations involved in the Corporate Services scope included almost 5,000 employees across global locations. The Corporate Services Initiative (CSI) began with joint development of a Phase I, “frugal footprint” scope plan. The Lab works with clients to identify the minimum number of broadly representative sites to visit (in person or remotely), analyze, and sample test.

The goal of this frugal-footprint work plan is to save time and analysis cost during Phase I—while avoiding the risk of false precision or “analysis paralysis.”

Initiative Objectives:
  • Cost reduction

  • Improved management decision support

  • Increased operational efficiency

Project Scope:
  • Maintenance operations

  • Property tax and real estate

  • Employee services

Overview: Phase I, Analysis and Discovery

The Corporate Services Improvement (CSI) initiative began with an eight-week Phase I, Analysis and Discovery work effort covering most of the corporate services organizations and over 80 percent of the employees.

Facilities Management (offices, labs, data centers):

  • Maintenance and repair
  • Project development, management
  • Move management: employees, organizations
  • Tax management: Ad valorem
  • Employee Services
  • Internal customer contact
  • Courier services
  • Health and gym facilities
  • More

The Lab deployed our proprietary corporate services standardization templates, including:

  • Industry standard KPIs
  • Related data taxonomies
  • Business process maps
  • Operations benchmarks
  • Best practices
  • Automation “use cases”

These enabled rapid, remote documentation and analysis of more than 85 percent of the in scope-employee work activities (approximately two minutes each), while only requiring one hour per week of any subject matter expert’s (SME’s) time.

During the Phase I analytical effort, The Lab and the client’s North American internal improvement team identified over 120 activity-level improvements. Approximately 60 percent of these represented non-technology, standardization improvements that reduced error corrections and/or enabled automation.

  • While the remaining improvements were technology-dependent, no new systems were required.
  • Roughly half could be automated using the existing technology after the work was standardized.
  • The remainder were automated using robotic process automation (RPA), and small, low-code applications (e.g., automated forms, APIs, etc.).

Many automations could be further augmented with artificial intelligence (AI) for simple decision-making and proactive, real-time notifications. All of these improvements, moreover, could be implemented in eight months or less. Better yet, benefits from non-technology standardization “quick wins” began to accrue within six weeks of the start of implementation. These quick wins built momentum and helped to fund further improvements throughout the enterprise.


Although each organization and group within Corporate Services handled different activities, the improvement themes were similar across the company’s global facilities network. Methods and business processes varied  needlessly  to achieve identical outcomes with inconsistent service levels.

Facilities maintenance and repair.

The company invested heavily in a facilities-management module for the existing global ERP system. But adoption was not monitored, and most employees continued with local, even individual methods (essentially spreadsheets). Standard unit costs and labor factors for routine work were unrealistically high and varied by location.

Project development, management.

The company maintained a standardized, rigorously controlled change-order process for its energy-operations assets—from design through final delivery. But this discipline was not duplicated for the facilities division in corporate services, resulting in construction delays, cost overruns, and needless variation in specifications.

Move management.

Employee moves were not segmented and consolidated based on urgency, off-hour need, or similar factors. Consequently, most individual employee moves were defaulted to a “white glove” level of service to avoid employee inconvenience. These moves were implemented individually, on a short lead-time and after business hours, involving overtime and multiple trade unions.

Tax management.

The business maintained standardized business processes for acquiring and managing complex leases (including taxes) for its energy-exploration and production operations. By comparison, ad valorem taxes were much simpler. But real-estate operations in the facilities management organization treated each tax appeal as a unique event. Attorneys each developed their own appeals strategies, and the outcomes of these were not well documented.


Project Summary:
  • 8-week analysis and discovery

  • 8-month implementation

  • No new core technology

  • End-to-end facilities management

Assets and Deliverables: Phase I, Analysis & Discovery
  • 8+ major end-to-end business processes documented at nano-scale detail

  • 65+ process-standardization opportunities identified

  • 25+ automation candidates identified

  • 30+ advanced analytics and KPI use-cases identified

    • Performance measurement dashboards

    • AI/ML opportunities (e.g., error preemption, management “alerts”)

    • Ad hoc analysis: Operational, strategic

Overview: Phase II, Implementation

The self-funding Phase II implementation effort was completed in about eight months. Improvements implemented throughout the client’s various corporate services departments succeeded in:

  • Increasing organizational speed and effectiveness
  • Reducing unnecessary expenses
  • Designing and installing new standards to simultaneously improve:
    • Productivity
    • Work quality
    • Service levels
    • And More

Specific, measurable improvement goals were established by each organizational area:

  • Maintenance operations
  • Employee services
  • Tax management
  • And More

The leaders involved could perform the work with any mix of resources they chose:

  • Internal resources
  • The Lab’s resources
  • Others

Corporate Services Improvement Examples: Phase II, Implementation

The Lab implemented more than 120 opportunities across the eight major process areas reviewed. These improvements were organized into major implementation work streams, including the three examples below.

Improvement Example 1: Eliminated ERP technology workarounds

Although the Facilities Management organization maintained two workflow automation technologies (ticketing systems), these were seldom used. The Lab helped redesign the work-order intake process by improving the employee user interface and connecting all inbound orders to the recently-implemented facilities management module (in the existing ERP system). Status and performance reporting were migrated to these systems. Transactions or work orders that departed from this process were documented in real time by robotic process automation (RPA) bots, with notifications automatically issued.

Improvement Example 2: Standardized tax appeals process

The Lab helped pilot a standardized, end-to-end business process to accommodate over 70 percent of global ad valorem tax appeal volume. Coordination with the company’s IT team enabled rapid adaptation of existing workflow technology used in the land department of the exploration and production division. Best practices from that group as well as external peers were used to design the process. Performance and status reporting were built in and scheduled to proactively push notifications to relevant management. Outcomes for appeals and strategies were automatically tabulated and maintained.

Improvement Example 3: Segmented move management services

The Lab worked with the move management team to identify three levels, or service segments, for employee moves based on a standard list of factors, e.g.,

  • Flexibility
  • Lead-time availability
  • Business disruption
  • Information security
  • Other considerations

Work tasks for these were consolidated as much as possible: across trade unions, locations, and move events. Selected tasks were shifted to existing, lower-cost vendors and subcontractors. A simple, digital move-planning calendar performed most of these prioritization tasks and automatically pushed schedules to relevant managers for review and finalization.

IMPROVEMENT EXAMPLE #2 Analytics standardization and simplification

Despite more than 300 reports, executives claimed to lack the insights required to improve their operations. The Lab identified a common issue: The client’s business intelligence (BI) team had a wealth of data, but most existing reports were one-off—created to answer a specific question.

Each had a different look and feel; extensive effort was needed to reconcile different reports. The Lab defined standard KPIs for each area and launched ten simplified, reconciled, automated management dashboards. And AI-driven notifications fed specific insights to managers, e.g., performance variance, target adherence, and “red flag” compliance issues.

IMPROVEMENT EXAMPLE #  Automation program acceleration

The parent company maintained a long-term agreement with a high-profile, global IT vendor to manage the utility’s RPA program. The past year was spent developing an automation “Center of Excellence”—yet only a single, low-impact bot had been launched. The Lab was tasked with accelerating benefits.

  • Discovery – The Lab’s standardization & automation templates increased the inventory of high-value RPA use-cases tenfold.

  • Prioritization – A simple scoring system was installed to prioritize 150+ available automation use-cases for near-term implementation.

  • Documentation – The Lab installed standard, developer-friendly documentation templates to preempt common questions and delays.

  • Development – A decentralized approach was adopted; based on resource availability and skills, the utility could simultaneously develop bots using internal staff, The Lab, or other vendor(s).

Post-Implementation Support, Sustainability & Automation

The Lab provided hassle-free, post-implementation hourly sustainability support for this client to maintain automations, process standardization, and operational data analytics models implemented during the Phase II engagement.

If the client’s team was not up-skilled enough to perform any needed automation updates, they leaned on The Lab for Tier 3-level support. If analytics dashboards required additional views or data connected, The Lab’s team was a simple phone call away.

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