Oil in the DNA

By Mel Duvall  |  Posted 2006-05-06 Print this article Print

Rocketing oil prices are driving the nation's big oil companies to record profits. And ExxonMobil stands out in the industry. By investing in proprietary systems and ensuring that technology is tightly aligned with its top goals of finding more oil and ga

: The Exxon Culture">
While processes, collaborative teams and ongoing monitoring of projects play a role in ensuring I.T. alignment, one thing is mentioned time and time again about Exxon: corporate culture. Straight-shooting is built into the DNA.

"The Exxon culture is something a lot of people would like to understand better, but I'm not going to help you," chief executive Tillerson told analysts during the company's annual investor's conference in New York on March 8. "It's a big part of our corporate advantage. We get 100% out of our people every day ... and that happens with 85,000 people around the globe."

Of course, there are also no shortage of Big Oil critics. Web sites such as Exxon Secrets are devoted to detailing the company's transgressions, such as its refusal to plow more of its profits back into green energies.

Even admirers, such as ARC's Tertzakian, say Exxon's tunnel-vision focus on oil and the bottom line is leading the planet down a dangerous path.

"Technology has prevented the cost per barrel of oil from going up for a while," Tertzakian says, "but if the oil isn't there or as prolific as it used to be, it doesn't matter. That's the broader issue society has yet to address."

Exxon isn't quite ready to answer the alarm bells. The world isn't running out of oil, the company argues; it's just going to be more expensive to recover and require new, perhaps yet-to-be developed technologies. Focusing on the task at hand-aligning its technology investments with the company's corporate goals-is the best way to get there.

In its annual energy outlook, released on Dec. 13, 2005, Jaime Spellings, head of Exxon's corporate planning, predicted the world will need 60% more energy by 2030, driven by growth in China and other developing nations. Exxon can help the world keep its economic engines humming and avoid hitting the wall, according to Spellings, but to do that, it will need to maintain its discipline and focus on technology alignment.

"Experience has taught us," Spellings said, "that technology evolves and allows us to grow reservoirs. Technology continues to push back the boundaries, both in terms of finding more oil and in getting more oil out of the ground."

Story Guide:
Straight shooter: CEO Rex Tillerson Doesn't Play Games

Contributing Editor
Mel Duvall is a veteran business and technology journalist, having written for a variety of daily newspapers and magazines for 17 years. Most recently he was the Business Commerce Editor for Interactive Week, and previously served as a senior business writer for The Financial Post.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.