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How to manage your drilling company’s digital transformation (the right way!)

April 26, 2023

How to manage your drilling company’s digital transformation (the right way!)

Digital Transformation
Written by
Sachee Perera

So, you’ve decided to send spreadsheets packing and digitise your drilling operations. Congratulations! 

There are so many benefits to moving your drilling operations online. But, to reach your future ideal state, there are a few things you’ll need to consider before you skip to the good part and start drilling more profitable metres.

The CorePlan team have over 30 years of collective industry experience in drilling digitisation. When it comes to implementing drilling software, we’ve seen it all!

Here’s a list of six common roadblocks to digital transformation success from our experience working with the drilling industry, plus simple steps your team can take to prevent these mistakes before they occur.

Not understanding of the problems to be solved

Why mining still uses paper and spreadsheets

It’s no secret that the drilling industry is playing catch-up when it comes to the digital revolution. Until recently, digital adoption has only been accessible to a few big players with the workforce and financial resources to implement change.

Industry-specific pressures such as compliance, high overheads and a high turnover culture, combined with a limited number of expensive software options that overpromise and under-deliver, are rife, stopping small and medium-sized operations from achieving digital success. 

As a result, the drilling workforce still largely relies on traditional workflows, like pen and paper, or a complicated web of spreadsheets, shared files and other tools. Whilst these methods get the job done, the next generation of digital-native executives and managers can see the burdens this admin-heavy workflow places on drilling teams, not to mention the impact of reduced productivity on the business overall.

Data as a competitive advantage

Today, data is king. Great data collection and management capabilities separate the high performers from the rest of the pack. Slow, missing or incomplete data capture affects your entire business, from drill rig performance to inventory management, client invoicing and more. Using admin-heavy systems limits agility and responsiveness when innovation is increasingly essential to adapt and survive amidst heightened industry pressures and competition.

The potential to leverage technology to reduce wasted time and improve decision-making is massive. It creates opportunities for increased visibility and collaboration with partners and clients that could lead to new business opportunities, helps identify cost reductions, and, critically, makes operations safer for employees.

By understanding what’s at stake and why there is no time to waste, drilling professionals can start future-proofing their businesses today by implementing technology that will enable them to stay ahead of the curve. 

Not bringing your team into the fold - or bringing them in too late

Communication is key

In our experience, the common denominator across successful digital drilling transformations is communication. More specifically, when and how the Drilling Manager, Operations Manager or Managing Director communicated the need for change with their team.

Successful Drilling Managers communicated early and openly with their team, clearly explaining why the previous workflow delivered sub-optimal results and what was at stake if the status quo remained. Most importantly, they communicated the ideal outcome for the team by directly addressing their pain points within the context of the new software. Here are a few examples we love:

∙ Explaining to drillers that they can enter their plods as they go from their phone and instantly have it uploaded to the cloud. No longer having to carry around or complete paperwork in the evenings will likely provide a strong incentive for change. 

∙ For administrators, supervisors and decision-makers, having all data captured using one platform allows for increased oversight across the business. A single source of truth ensures that decisions are made based on the data, preventing mistakes in key business activities such as invoicing clients.

∙ For all employees, real-time data removes operational silos, increases collaboration and reduces back and forth days or even weeks after the fact. Working from a single source of truth can reduce frustration between the field and the office. 

It's not about replacing jobs

Some businesses fear that digital transformation may result in job losses. In our experience, successful change-makers think beyond this, envisaging a workplace where technology helps existing employees to work more effectively by reducing administrative burdens and re-deploying time toward business-growth activities. Imagine having your admin team spend more time looking at the performance of your rigs and tracking consumables rather than correcting manual data entry on plods. Imagine the benefits this could bring to your business!


Trying to retrofit your previous workflow onto a new system

Paper doesn't always translate to digital

A digital transformation is a rare opportunity to rebuild your workflow from the ground up. What has worked up until now may not continue to serve you in the future. We've seen many Drilling Managers come undone by trying to force an existing workflow onto a new platform.

Paper-based systems don’t always translate onto digital platforms. Consulting an experienced team of digitisation experts, such as the customer success team at CorePlan, can help you get in front of this issue from the beginning. A digital translator can help streamline your workflow by eliminating unnecessary details and duplications, keeping you focused on what matters.

Successful digital drilling teams keep an open mind throughout this process, preparing to see the good, bad and ugly, and maintain their focus on improvements and efficiency gains.

Losing focus on what matters

Features, features, features

Until recently, the software choice available to drilling businesses has been lacklustre. In the past few years, software companies have become aware of the greenfields potential of this underserved market with competition to release the latest and greatest feature set quickly becoming fierce. 

We’ve seen several players try to crack the market to varying degrees of success, wowing customers with futuristic features and big promises. You’d think this would be great for the market, right? Surprisingly, our experience on the road, at conferences and at the pub talking with drilling professionals firsthand tells a different story.

Drilling companies are burning through time and money rolling out these products, only to find that many of the problems they faced before are still hanging around like a bad smell. What’s going wrong here?

Well, a couple of things. To get the attention of potential customers, software players are getting caught up in developing headline-ready features at the expense of the problems faced by drilling companies. Conversely, faced with big problems to solve and a lack of time, Drilling Managers are distracted from the issues by these ‘wow’ features that they don’t need to run their operations.

Remember the problems to be solved

This is why we decided to do things a little differently at CorePlan. We get drilling and understand that the market needs a product specifically designed for drilling. We don’t retrofit workflows from another industry to our product (or ask you to do the work for us), nor do we throw features at the wall and hope they’ll stick. We’ll also never try to sell you add-ons that overpromise and under-deliver. All we do is ask you and your team a simple question: 

“What are the problems you are trying to solve?”

Then, we focus all of our efforts on helping you solve these problems within a personalised and targeted rollout specific to your needs. No buzzwords or gimmicks allowed. It’s as simple as that.

Trying to go too big, too fast

You’ve just signed the contract for a new software tool, and you can’t wait to get the ball rolling. This software sounds like it could solve all your problems, so it’s critical that you get it up and running ASAP, right? Not quite.

Before you throw away your paper plod workbooks, send out a company-wide update and action a full-scale roll-out, take a few days, or even a few weeks, to identify a test case to trial your new software.

A demo or pilot project gives you a chance to run tests and reconcile your data at the project level rather than the organisational level. It’s why we recommend the demo, pilot and scale process.

This involves trialling the new software on just one or two rigs, reconciling the data against previous records and making any necessary adjustments to your configuration before rolling it out company-wide. It is far easier to scale up a process than to scale it down, so starting small is the way to go!

Bonus tip: having a test case helps counter resistance to change by demonstrating success early in the process. 

Not taking the time to celebrate

Implementing change can be a long process. Acknowledging your team's efforts throughout the process is key to keeping them engaged for the long term. It’s an opportunity to ask for informal feedback and thank them for a job well done. Let's party!


There’s a lot to think about when preparing your drilling company for a digital transformation. It’s important to be aware of some of the challenges your team might face so that you can prepare in advance to mitigate the impact on your operations. By being proactive and making the change now, you’ll be more competitive, and your team can start working smarter, not harder.

Want to find out more about digitising your drilling operations? You're in the right place. Our drilling blog is packed with free resources to help you learn more about digital operations management.

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