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Our trade secret: Why clients keep coming back to Rockflow

We’re going to disclose information based on consulting experience that we have never before shared outside of Rockflow.

Of course, this isn’t our first or last word on consultancy. There’s plenty we’ve already said about the value of a multidisciplinary team and of advisers and how they can unblock stuck opportunities. No doubt there’s plenty more we’ve still to say, but this is our experience of what our clients want from us.

Broadly speaking, we identify two types of consulting:  technical and management. Technical consulting is typically when the client is an informed buyer, needing a defined scope of work performing. Management consulting, meanwhile, refers to resolving a more generalised, and less defined business problem.

Even within our specialisation, these require different consulting skills. Here we lay out the key qualities you may or may not have experienced when hiring consultants in the past, and we draw back the curtain on how Rockflow has been able to offer a consulting service that few others can match.


What do you want from an oil and gas consultant?

Consultants typically can offer three qualities: expertise, help and service. Let’s break down the importance of each one, and why they might have been absent when you have hired other consultants in the past.

1. Expertise – a genius to give you an answer

In some ways it goes without saying, but when you hire a consultant, you want brainpower. Ideally they’d be a kind of Einstein, Turing or Jung who has taken understanding to its zenith within their field. Or if not its zenith, then at least closer to the peak than most attain.

Now, you’d assume such expertise is a given when it comes to consultants. If you hire a depth conversion consultant, for instance, you’d assume they’d have nothing less than an expert’s grasp of the subject matter.

However, it’s worth noting that technical mastery goes far beyond the assimilation of a single discipline. That’s especially true in the oil and gas sector, where subsurface disciplines overlap with one another and wider commercial priorities. Few decisions can be made in a silo, and consultants can rarely be effective unless they have learned to step back from their own specialist piece and interact with the whole.

2. Help – a sherpa to carry the load

The second aspect of what you need from a consultant is simply this: help. Manpower.

People in oil and gas companies are effectively carrying burdens uphill so that energy can flow downhill to where it’s needed. If a sherpa can help them carry the load, by “getting stuff done” they’ll gladly take it. And if you do it efficiently, they’ll like you and hire you again.

It’s a rarer quality than you might think, however, particularly when you want not just help but highly experienced help. Many senior managers in the oil and gas industry know what needs to be done, but having moved on from their technical roles, rely on hiring the right technical experts to get things done.

It’s not glamorous, carrying bags up a mountain (figuratively speaking). It’s also hard work. But it’s a key part of what makes Rockflow’s consultants stand apart.

Although we’re at the height of our careers, we like our work – we choose to be the sherpas. We’re never shy when it comes to putting on our own boots and beginning the climb. Our love of the work itself better positions us to anticipate our client’s next problem, and our seniority helps us solve it faster than anyone else could.

3. Service – a butler at your call

The final aspect you might want from a consultant is service.

The butler persona is the hardest for consultants to embody. You have to be available day and night, ready to have an answer first thing in the morning. If you delay for even a week, the chance to address the problem might have passed. But a consultant with a butler’s manner will never allow a dropped glass to hit the floor.

Sometimes people confuse service and servitude, and they wrongly imagine the former to be as undignified as the latter. Service, however, is something that consultants can offer with the utmost pride, if they’re willing to go the distance and adopt a degree of modesty.

A butler isn’t hired to look good, they’re hired to make their client look good. They’re chosen for their discretion, for their ability to turn a situation around without anyone noticing but the person who paid them. In the oil and gas industry, this manifests as the ability to move delicately through a fraught or politically tense situation, to reconcile stakeholders and subtly challenge without ever communicating disrespect.


Hybrid consultant personas

 Now an upstream consultant can sometimes embody one, or two, or – if you choose very carefully – all three of the above qualities. Next, we’ll lay out what these combinations can look like, and you can measure your own experience of consultants against our analysis. There are two dimensions to this: level of service, and level of multidisciplinary integration.

 1. A pharmacist providing what you asked for

 Sometimes you simply need a single discipline expert to perform a defined task, for example a well log interpretation or well test analysis.

Here skill and efficiency are key, and you simply want the right product to be delivered on time.  You might compare it to a pharmacist conjuring what you need from behind a counter. There’s a degree of expertise required, but mostly it’s a matter of providing assistance.

You’ll often hire consultants in this fashion, and for us it’s routine business. But often you may need something different.

 2. A nurse tending to what you need

Sometimes you’ll need help with management decisions, rather than technical work to be done.

For example, a non-operating investor doesn’t need to do the technical work themselves, they can leave that to the operator, but they do need to manage their assets, and take business decisions based on the technical work done by others. In this case they may need the knowledgeable help of an experienced manager. In this case, service comes to the fore.

These are sherpas with a butler’s interactional expertise and judgement. Like an experienced nurse, they tend to what you need even if the task doesn’t always require drawing upon the highest degree of medical expertise. However, such consultants are always there and attentive. Their bedside manner, if you will, is unequivocal.

Client service is key to Rockflow. We build long term personal relationships with our clients. One to one relationships. Butler service. For example, in executive mentoring, or investor representation, we provide our clients with the technical assurance they need to manage their investments and organisations with confidence. The client doesn’t always need to draw on all of our technical capability, but they have always been grateful for our discretion, diplomacy and diligence.

 3. A surgical team performing a critical procedure

For larger tasks, you may need a fully integrated multidisciplinary team. And you might well need it fast.

This is the heart of our Technical Excellence practice – we provide fully managed, integrated multidisciplinary teams to deliver comprehensive technical projects, such as field development plans, or other major evaluation projects.

If you are outsourcing a major technical project you’ll want consultants you can trust to  manage and integrate the highest level of technical work, and deliver the finished results with great efficiency. Like a surgical team working in an operating theatre, they confront an urgent situation and turn it around with precision.

Surgical teams have a high degree of skill but you may rarely see them. They’re brought in for their technical ability more than their customer service. You wake up from the op, and it’s all done.  In the upstream sector, that’s our equivalent to outsourcing a complex project to our team, and receiving the results.

At Rockflow, we often work like surgical teams, combining the experts with the sherpas to deliver the results, particularly when a client’s need is incredibly urgent. However, where possible, we like to go a step further, offering a level of service that is hard to find in our industry.

4. An upstream doctor

 For the most demanding issues, such as negotiating deals in M&A or in resolving commercial disputes, you’ll need to find a consultant that offers all three aspects – help, expertise, and service.

For these projects, you are not outsourcing projects to our office, but bringing the experts into your office to be at your side as you analyse the situation, evaluate your options, decide on your plan, and execute it. You need people you can trust to help, and to see you through to resolution.

When you have a complex business problem with a technical foundation, that’s when to call an upstream doctor. Rockflow provide the most impactful kind of client-facing service while drawing on the deepest expertise.

Over the years, we have helped our clients resolve significant conflicts, manage long term relationships, overcome political obstacles and deliver long term value through our combined technical, commercial and management consulting teams. The success is measured in the long-term relationships that we have built with our clients.

For more information on how our consultants can support you, take a look at our management advisory or technical services.

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