Citizen development in action
Magic happened when Norske Shell employees, students from the University of Stavanger, and technical experts from Microsoft got together to discover the power of “low-code/no-code” software development. Find out how a learner mindset combined with lots of enthusiasm led to the creation of several functioning applications, in just two days!
Citizen development, the development of software applications by staff that are not professional software developers, is an important trend in industry, and a critical component of Shell’s digitalisation journey. It empowers our staff to create bespoke solutions for their daily process out of the data available to them. That is how we unlock untapped value with digital solutions, globally and here in Norway.
“We invited students from the University of Stavanger to join us in a hackathon to help us look at our business cases from a different angle. Our employees’ expertise combined with the students’ fresh ideas proved very creative as we moved fast from ideation to functioning software.”
Yiteng Zhang, Digital Technology Lead for Norske Shell and the organiser of the event.
Solving existing business challenges with real data
The teams of staff and students worked on challenges worth solving for the Nyhamna Gas Plant. For example, they had to find digital solutions to help optimise the planning of maintenance work at the facility, a very complex activity in our industry.
“All cases studies represented real improvement opportunities that our asset teams want to address today. Since production start-up 15 years ago, we have treated operational data as a valuable component of the Nyhamna Gas Plant and today this data is the backbone of our dynamic digital twin which we use in our daily work. This means we have accessible and high quality data available, data which we can leverage to improve the way we operate the facility.”
Mariann Forsberg, leading digital and continuous improvement at Norske Shell.
Nurturing Digital skills and more
To help participants get the most out of their two days together, technical experts from Microsoft were present to offer guidance and technical support. Beyond upskilling in using digital tools, the participants also developed other skills such as Agile working methods, design thinking and collaborating across multiple diverse teams.
“Technically, I have learnt how to develop software and how to initiate, execute and close a project. On the non-technical side, I have strengthened my communication skills and enhanced my teamworking skills. I would definitely recommend other students to attend a practical event like this.”
Muhammad Usman, student in Petroleum Engineering at the University of Stavanger.
A bright future for citizen development at Norske Shell
One of the prototype solutions developed during the event, an application for collating, visualising, and presenting key information to staff and contractors during turnarounds for planned maintenance work, will be further matured with the ambition to implement it during the next plant turnaround.
The successful outcomes of the hackathon proved that anyone can adopt low-code/no-code tools in a short timeframe, without prior experience in software development. It also shows the co-benefits of collaborating with our local university partners to solve business problems.
Democratizing software development at Shell is a global behavioural change programme. It relies on dedicated teams that support the developer community and an enabling framework to manage security risks, data handling and other IT concerns. We nurture a new work culture that adopts and develops apps from tools from other companies like Microsoft and Salesforce. This is aligned with our wider effort do democratise the use of artificial intelligence and support digital literacy among our staff.
In Shell, we believe open innovation is key to rapidly innovate and deploy digital technologies to help accelerate the energy transition. That is why we operate a global open innovation strategy and collaborate with our business partners, universities and research institutes, suppliers and customers. Organising digital and AI competitions such as this hackathon are an important way to support the democratisation of digital skills in the communities where we operate.