Headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, Royal Dutch Shell is huge, with some 86,000 employees and annual revenue topping $305 billion. Gas and oil are among Shell’s top products, but the company also offers biofuels, hydrogen and other products and services.

Harry De Grijs, an industry veteran who has worked for Shell for more than 30 years, is leading the company’s digital transformation.

 

Q: What does digital transformation mean today at Shell?

A: In a sense, we’ve been doing digital forever, gathering data and then making sense out of that data, whether it’s for our traditional seismic activities or for running our plants. We’re used to gathering data, processing it, and getting outcomes from data that will help with the business. But now with the advancement of technology, the notion that digital will be a key player going forward is even more clear. I see a couple of themes driving that, and one is agility. Where we see digital shifting the paradigm is in speed and ease. The speed of business is picking up, as is the business appetite for that speed, so there’s pull from the business to respond.

And the other thing driving digital is more awareness of the ways data can be used to improve business outcomes. Again, our industry is traditionally data-rich, but that data has not always been considered an asset by business leaders. That’s changing as leaders realize data is the key to the success of digitalization.

 

Our industry is traditionally data-rich, but that data has not always been considered an asset by business leaders. That’s changing as leaders realize data is the key to the success of digitalization.

 

Beyond that, we are looking for ways to become more efficient, which helps us to make best use of our resources. One example of this approach, which also should improve how customers experience us, is the new digital capabilities for reporting claims that we have introduced, which improve the quality and speed of claims handling and generate loss-adjustment expense savings. That benefits customers by allowing us to pay claims faster and spend more human time with customers who need this type of personalized support.

 

Q: How do you coordinate Shell’s digital strategy, given there are so many executives and departments, each with their own business strategy?

A: It’s a journey. Shell is a well-established company with a long history. Our DNA is engineering, with a great awareness of health, safety and the environment. Also, we’re very risk-aware. We’d rather spend the time to do things right and make sure we only take appropriate risks, rather than just go fast. Therefore, I wouldn’t say the only goal of the digital space is to go faster.

 

We’d rather spend the time to do things right and make sure we only take appropriate risks, rather than just go fast. Therefore, I wouldn’t say the only goal of the digital space is to go faster.

 

The first step was to get our business leaders and executives familiar with what digital actually is and what it can do. We exposed them to examples of what other companies have done, how they’ve leveraged digital to succeed at business outcomes. After that, we put some governance around it, to allow experimentation while keeping IT in the loop. Now we’re sitting at the table together, shaping the agenda. Our partnership with the business, maturing the digital agenda and showing early successes, is highly important.

Read the complete Q&A to learn how digital agility is helping Shell successfully execute massive projects and extract more value from its large data reserves.