Global digital services provider Asset Information Services (AIS) is expanding its global footprint with new international teams in Nigeria, UAE, Mexico, and Indonesia to provide enhanced digital twin systems for the energy sector.

Offshore Africa spoke to Managing Director Sean Huff on his company’s continental ambitions for the energy digital agenda

Offshore Africa {OA} Tell us a bit more about AIS

Sean Huff {SH} Asset Information Services is a leading global technology company that supplies digital products and services to oil and gas asset owners and operators around the world. We specialise in supporting complex industrial facility operators and owners both on and offshore. We are a very international team who pride ourselves on working in many global regions and investing in local talent to deliver our services. We are part of the James Fisher family of companies.

{OA} We are Africa-focused, so how is AIS doing across the continent?

{SH} AIS first started supporting clients in Africa three years ago, working in Angola, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria, and year by year we have seen the desire for our products and services grow. Now, we have multiple offices in Nigeria and South Africa with great local teams! We are strong believers in digital technology and are passionate about its ability to support energy sector expansion, creating new ways of working while attracting the next generation of talent.

Of course, being part of the James Fisher & Sons family, we have the added benefit of drawing on its established heritage and local expertise. Operating in West Africa for the last 30-years, there is a wealth of offshore oil & gas industry knowledge for us to draw upon when it comes to supporting clients around the continent with their specific challenges. Harnessing this, we have been able to build the most practical, accessible and perhaps most crucially, scalable digital tools on the market to meet a wealth of regional challenges. It’s truly a unique position for a software/ technology company to have access to that kind of practical domain experience.

{OA} We recognize the impact of digital solutions for the global energy sector, but how does it play out in Africa with its numerous constraints?

{SH} What we see in our engagement with clients in Africa is they have a very dynamic and eager workforce, hungry for digital transformation and the ability to develop and use world leading technology. The new generation coming into the industry are digital natives; they have incredible skills, an international outlook on business, and have been digital in their mentality since they could walk, with iPhones, Netflix, and social media at their fingertips from childhood. We see this new generation of young engineers as a real river of potential for the energy industry in Africa – as it engages businesses, universities, supply chain companies, and entrepreneurs and pulls them into the industry at a critical time.

{OA} Are there challenges?

{SH} Of course. The global energy arena is a challenging sector in every region of the world. Africa will be no different – facing unique regional challenges that need to be overcome. These range from finding and retaining talent that are tempted to work in other sectors outside of energy, or dealing with the ups and downs of the sector due to politics, global megatrends like the energy transition, and conflict. But our belief is that this new, digitally savvy generation coming into the energy industry will bring with them a tech-forward mindset, building and harnessing modern software tools to drive the industry forward for the benefit of all.

{OA} Let’s look at the energy transition, which you mentioned in your press release. Is that a factor in what AIS is doing?

{SH} Many of our global clients are starting to invest in new and different types of energy such as hydrogen, wind power and solar to diversify their energy portfolios. As this happens, our clients look to take some of the technology they use to manage their current assets (usually oil & gas) over to their new energy portfolio. Why? Because they are looking for trustworthy, capable, and value adding digital technology that is proven. This makes energy transition activities less risky for our clients as they can use their existing tool set to manage those assets.

{OA} How do you expect to build local talent and capacity as part of your Africa operations?

{SH} Our technology, as it is rolled out inside organisations, becomes a critical part of the client’s ecosystem. The best way to support clients in the regions in which we work is to hire very talented local team members who can sit inside the clients’ offices helping with training and delivery – on site and in person. In this way, our local talent grows as our technology expands – and we end up with a very talented, engaged local workforce who are digitally savvy with numerous opportunities for learning and growth.

As in every location of the world, there are local cultural aspects that are important, including how people use technology, their expectations and how they learn and expect to be trained. By using local talent, we are able to manage those cultural aspects very successfully. I, personally, have been committed throughout my working life to developing and promoting young members of my team to learn, grow, try new things and to develop their talents. As we expand our digital offering around the Africa operational environments, the opportunity to develop local talent is a huge one – and one I am very excited by.

*This article first appeared in print in July 2022 in Offshore Africa

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