Saturday, June 30, 2007

Stanford University Statistical Course

Google video is hosting a statistics course;

"Statistical Aspects of Data Mining (Stats 202) Day #"
This course is being taught by Professor David Mease and is being broadcast on Google video. Click on the title of this blog entry for the URL of the first lecture.

This course provides valuable means of which to automate the processing of data. With most software developments, the amount of data that is produced is high. The ability to review it all in text is impossible without the use of advanced tools available to the developer / advanced user. Logs and stack traces alone will inundate even the most enthusiastic. This statistics course provides hands-on use of the statistical applications of Microsoft Excel and particularly "R". Those that are able to install and use "R" will have distinct advantages over those that are unable to review these large and growing files.

The professor is young and well organized. Using real world data such as Safeway Club cards, and hands on use of the real data within the two applications themselves. He has an entertaining fast paced style.

The time spent in reviewing these course materials and videos will pay large dividends as we move more and more into the IPv6 enabled world that is a fundamental part of the "Genesys Technical Vision". Finding errors and problems may only be able to be sourced through the types of data manipulation discussed in this course. I can assure that in 5 years these types of skills will be as generic as using a spreadsheet and word processor are today.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

China Energy, A Guide for the Perplexed

From The Peterson Institute for International Economics

Written by Daniel H. Rosen, Visiting Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics, China Strategic Advisory
Trevor Houser, Visiting Fellow, Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies, China Strategic Advisory

This a comprehensive summary of the markets, pricing and use of energy in China. This document provides an insight into many of the anomalies of the Chinese market that provide an understanding about their future demands. I highly recommend downloading this file and keeping it handy for reference in the next few years. Anomalies such as;

  • "What's Driving Demand"
    • Just as the US' energy use is very efficient. "By 2000, Chinese economic activity required two thirds less energy per unit of output than in 1978."
    • "Energy consumption grew four times faster than predicted, to over 15 percent of global demand in 2006. (nearly twice as large in absolute terms as forecast in most 2002 estimates.)"
    • "Under this scenario (2030), China will account for 20 percent of global energy demand, more than Europe and Japan combined, and easily surpass the US as the largest energy consumer."
    • It is assumed that consumption and transport are the big users of energy. "This is not correct. Consumption led energy demand will be the major driver in the future and is already significant in absolute terms, but the main source of today's growth is energy intensive heavy industry."
    • "The number of passenger vehicles on the roads has doubled since 2002 to more than 25 million, with over 5 million new cars sold in 2006 alone."
    • "While the vehicle fleet in China is still less than 20 percent as large as the United States, the gap is narrowing. Based on experience elsewhere, car sales in China are set to grow faster than GDP until income levels reach about $20,000 per capita." (Currently $2,000 / year.)
    • "For a considerable period therefore we foresee consumption growth as additive to investment, rather than substituting for it."
    • "And with several more decades to go before China reaches the urbanization level of Latin America, this secular driver is here to stay awhile."
  • "China's Energy Supply Systems"
    • "As a result, until the mid 1990's was not only able to produce enough energy to fuel its own development, but had enough for export."
    • "A number of small bureaucrats try to plan supply while markets are determining more and more of the demand."
    • "China's relatively meager proven reserves suggest that annual oil output is near peaking at the current 3.7 million barrels per day."
    • "China will not be able to meet its medium term gas needs through LNG alone. A number of potential pipelines from Russia and Central Asia are under discussion, but both the economics and politics of these projects are challenging."
    • "With limited reserves and relatively flat domestic production, China now relies on international markets for nearly half of the oil it consumes."
    • "For the purposes of our discussion here, the point we wish to emphasize is that the domestic resource endowment and industry structure create a market incentive for Chinese oil companies to expand their upstream portfolios overseas."
  • "Global Impacts"
    • "China's energy markets and policies, as they exist today, are failing to reliably supply the country's explosive demand growth or adequately address its environmental consequences."
    • "Blackouts resulting from poor planning and management in the domestic power sector send ripples through international oil markets."
    • If these costs (environmental) right themselves in the years ahead, some heavy industry will no longer be viable in China and global metals and chemicals markets could be shaken up once again as excess Chinese capacity is subtracted."
    • "Going from one of Asia's largest energy suppliers to one of the world's largest energy importers in little more than a decade, China is a major force at the margin in global oil, gas and coal trade flows."
  • "Conclusion and Policy Recommendations"
    • The authors draw four principle conclusion from our study of China's energy situation.
      • The main energy challenge for China today is the shifting industrial structure of its economy, not factory inefficiency, new air-conditioners or more automobiles. These issues are systemic in nature and thus only China can effectively correct them.
      • We do not expect China to adequately fix the root causes of its structural over allocation into energy intensive industry in the next decade.
      • Structural adjustment is necessary but not sufficient to address China's energy issues.
      • Regardless of how successful Beijing or others are in altering the country's energy trajectory, in 20 years China will likely be the world's largest energy consumer and polluter.
"A point of context should be kept in mind when contemplating these recommendations: China is an 800 pound gorilla on the world energy stage that cannot be ignored; but there is a 1,600 pound gorilla in this room too - the United States. Instead of treating that fact defensively, US policymakers might see it as an opportunity. The changes needed on China's behalf seem impossibly ambitious as unilateral adjustments, especially since China feels entitled to follow an industrial path that many OECD nations have trod. Even if progressive Chinese leaders recognize a self enlightened interest in unilateral reform, there exists a natural tendency to focus more on a rival getting off easier than they should than one's own best interest. The necessity for the United States to improve the sustainability of its own energy profile may be by far the most powerful lever it has for impelling change elsewhere: The opportunity for a grand bargain in energy and environment exists to give policymakers in both China and the United States political cover for painful choices."
I think that the energy industry needs to recognize the 800 pound gorilla in the room. I am a staunch believer that the energy challenges we face require the reorganization of the industry to meet these new global realities. China is in direct competition to our way of life. Are we to let the hierarchy whittle away the time that we do have?

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Vanishing Hand: the Changing Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism

Continuing on with the review of Professor Richard N. Langlois' submission to the 2006 ESNIE Conference. This article is the third of the four that I will be reviewing and is available for download at this location. My review of the first document was published here, and the second document in this series was reviewed in a series of posts here, here, here and here. The fourth document that will be reviewed in this ESNIE series of Professor Langlois' will be the slide presentation he made at the conference.

In the first of Langlois' four documents "Transaction Cost Economics in Real Time" we learned the Dynamic Transaction Costs were incurred during times of change. The important takeaway was that the Dynamic Transaction Costs would include the software development expenses that will be incurred in the software developments discussed on this blog. That the role of the software vendor would also need to include the learning process of the entire industry. The learning of "what" and "how" it does and needs to do as an industry.

In the second article, we learned of the need for both markets and firms in the makeup of an industry. The definition of production and transaction costs, and that there could and should be appropriate organizational constructs for the market (the JOC) and the firm (the enhanced management role in the Compliance & Governance Module). This paper was written by Langlois in 2002 and begins with the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith, and the Visible Hand of Alfred Chandler.
"In The Visible Hand (1977) and subsequent worlds, Alfred Chandler focused the spotlight on the large, vertically integrated corporation. He did this not merely to chronicle the rise of that institution but also to explain it and give it a prominent place in American economic growth during the last century and a half. The force and originality of Chandler's ideas coalesce in the book's title, a provocation in the direction of Adam Smith (1776). Smith had predicted an increasingly fine division of labor as the response to a growing extent of the market; and, although he was actually quite vague on the organizational consequences of the division of labor, Smith was clear in his insistence on the power of the invisible hand of markets to coordinate economic activity. Chandler's account appears to challenge this prediction: internal organization and managerial authority became necessary to coordinate the industrial economy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The visible hand of managerial coordination had replaced the invisible hand of the market." p.2
"History is never kind to historicist's, however; and the facts of the last quarter century have made life uncomfortable for those who would project the Chandlerian model into the present. It has become exceedingly clear that the late twentieth (and now early twenty-first) centuries are witnessing a revolution at least as important as, but quite different from, the one Chandler described. Strikingly, the animating principle of this new revolution is precisely an unmaking of Chandler's revolution." p. 2
"We are left with the choice of abandoning Chandler or reinterpreting him. This essay takes the latter course. If we take the first reading of the The Visible Hand - that the managerial revolution was an adaptation to particular historical circumstances - then we can explain the organizational revolution of the new economy by embedding Chandler's story within a roomier account that admits of a range of possible historical circumstances. As a byproduct, such a reinterpretation can hope not only to explain the new economy but also to shed light on the organizational changes of the original Chandlerian revolution." pp. 2 - 3
Let the reinterpretation begin. But firstly I would like to re-introduce Dr. Anthony Giddens Structuration Theory and Professor Wanda Orlikowski's Model of Structuration. Recall that Structuration notes that society, organizations and people will move in harmony during periods of change, and if not, failure will be the result. Professor Orlikowski's model asserts that technology is an element of society that "Interaction with technology influences the institutional property of an organization, and this influence is more likely to be reinforcing rather than a transforming one." (p. 235 The Duality of Technology: Rethinking the Concept of Technology in Organization). Which supports my assertion that SAP is the bureaucracy. Lanlgois' comments appear to be reflective of these theories in that they impute a failure may be imminent.
"The basic argument - the vanishing hand hypothesis - is as follows. Driven by increases in population and income and by the reduction of technological and legal barriers to trade, the Smithian process of the division of labor always tends to lead to finer specialization of function and increased coordination through markets, much as Allyn Young (1928) claimed long ago. But the components of that process - technology, organization, and institutions - change at different rates." p. 3
It is at this point that I reflect on the conflict between those ideas and the reality of managements response to the ideas surrounding the use of the Joint Operating Committee (JOC). Society and individuals to a large extent have moved on, fueled by the available information technologies. Langlois suggests the following changes to central management.
"But with further growth in the extent of the market and the evolution of institutions to support exchange, the central management of vertically integrated production stages is increasingly succumbing to the forces of specialization. Rather it is an argument that, in a population sense, large vertically integrated firms are becoming less significant and are joining a richer mix of organizational forms." pp. 3 - 4
The consumers energy demands are outstripping supply at a remarkable rate. A decade ago OPEC was believed to be choking back production by 10 million barrels per day. No one today would argue that we are not at full capacity. The market prices are providing ample incentive for the producers to enhance their capacity. And the producers are attempting to increase their production with essentially the same methods that were marginally successful in the past, only at a metric of two and one half times as many wells drilled. Is the numerical increase in the number of wells drilled the solution to the markets demands?

The industry in Alberta is beginning to realize the old methods do not work. Even with today's current commodity prices few companies are able to make any money! Drilling 25,000 wells as they did in 2006,(vs. approximately 10,000 in 1997) replaces only small (in the teens) percentages of the production. Many of the producers have scaled back as a result. (And this situation only applies to the wells drilled today. Production from older fields, drilled under other lower pricing scenarios are of course far more profitable then before.) Has the time and costs to effectively find oil and gas now exceeded the capability of the industry, or is it time to consider different approaches to the problems at hand?
"As in Chandler, secular changes in relative prices attendant on "globalization" (driven by technology or politics) affect economic organization not only directly but also, and perhaps more importantly, indirectly through changes in technology. Production costs matter as much as transaction costs (Langlois and Foss 1999) Moreover, the kind of transaction costs that matter in history are often not those of the Williamson kind but those I have labeled dynamic transaction costs (Langlois 1992b). Costs of coordinating through markets may be high simply because existing markets - or more correctly, existing market-supporting institutions - are inadequate to the needs of new technology and of new profit opportunities. But when markets are given time and a larger extent, they tend to "catch up," and it starts to pay to delegate more and more activities rather than to direct them administratively within a corporate structure." p. 5
And it would be through this fundamental belief in the "Invisible Hand" of the market, that this problem will be corrected in the manner that Lanlgois states. Maybe my expectations of the hierarchy to fall on its sword is the misguided part of my idea. That the opportunity to proceed with these software developments will come from different sources and alternate calls. If the individual can figure out a way to get another 5 bbls of oil per day onto the market through his own innovations, the financial motivation certainly exists for him to do so. Is this the transition that management desires to see?

"The evolutionary design problem."

I feel that I would not stand alone in determining that the energy industry is an advanced state of failure. This I have postulated many times before and suggested it strongly in my original May 2004 document. Failure was a real possibility and today it is in my opinion a reality. The market demand for energy is very high and the commodity pricing continues to escalate. But as much as the consumers disappointment at the pricing, the producers are unable to respond. The suppliers costs have doubled primarily out of excess demand. In addition, the effort necessary to produce a barrel of oil or mcf of gas has also increased. What may have been done with two hours of engineering, and because of the difficulty of the remaining and prospective reservoirs, may now take four hours. When an industry is operating at 100% production and exploitation capacity. And expects that it can double its drilling activity with no requisite changes in the organization or methods of doing so. The commodity prices will escalate as an incentive to bring on the higher capacity. Drilling more wells does not provide a solution to the problems of the industry, just as the Hamster is at risk to fail at the higher speed of the wheel. A new approach is required. A new organization based on one that is optimized to handle the expansion in the earth sciences and engineering disciplines, and innovative on those new findings. An organization that uses the modern information technologies supporting the JOC as the key organizational construct of the market. An organizational model that provides the specialization and division of labor that are necessary for the increase in capacity.
"Industrial structure, then, is really about two interrelated but conceptually distinct systems: the technology of production and the organizational structure that directs production. Industrial structure is an evolutionary design problem. It was one of the founding insights of transaction-cost economics that the technological system does not fully determine the organizational system (Williamson 1975). Organizations - governance structure - bring with them their own costs, which need to be taken into account. But technology clearly affects organization. Like a biological organism, an organization confronts an environment that is changing, variable and uncertain. Also like biological organisms, business organizations differ in the mechanisms they use to process information and to deal with variation and uncertainty. Nonetheless, as James Thompson (1967, p. 20) argued, all organizations respond to a changing environment by seeking to "buffer environmental influences by surrounding their technical cores with input and output components." pp. 6 - 7
Lanlgois goes on to note many of the advantages of this modularization and definition of the boundaries of the firm as follows.
"A decomposable system is one that is cut into pieces or "modularized" in such a way that most interactions (which we can think of as flows of information) take pace within the modules; interactions among modules are kept to a minimum and are regularized through formal "interfaces." One of the prime benefits of decomposability, in Simon's view, is that it allows for greater stability in the face of environmental uncertainty: a single piece can be altered, replaced, or even destroyed with out threatening the survival of the whole. This is already a kind of buffering. Levinthal and March point out that decomposition entails (or at least allows) "loose coupling" between organization units, which effectively simplifies the information - processing problem the organization faces." p. 9
"Indeed, I will suggest before long that the decomposition of organization into market can sometimes confer additional buffering benefits well known to economists, notably the ability to spread risks." p. 9
"The managerial revolution of the nineteenth century was one solution to the buffering problem, appropriate to its time and place. But it is by no means the only solution industry has found; and it is certainly not the approach toward which the new economy is gravitating." p. 10
I would point to the modular breakdown that I have proposed for the software developments I am writing about. This breakdown of modules was on the basis of Langlois' paper "Modularity and Technology, Organization and Society" and the modularity label containing all the posts on that topic.

"Antebellum Organization." and "The Managerial Revolution"

For purposes of this review there is little in the way of value regarding the "Antebellum" period. Langlois puts this back to the early 1800's or 19th Century and reflects on the ways of progress from an organizational point of view. The one point that he does assert is that the market was more sophisticated then it appeared and the beginning of specialization was a welcomed and possible activity as the populations in Europe and the US began to expand. I would highly recommend downloading the file and reviewing it in its entirety. The section entitled "The managerial Revolution" has been scrubbed for similar reason.

"From scale to scope: the corporate century."

Langlois, through his description of the origins of the organization in the last hundred years, brings up a fascinating quotation from John Kenneth Galbraith.
"Although the problems of buffering high - throughput production have not made much impression on the mainstream literature on government and business, there is a line of thought along the fringes that takes this problems as central. Running roughly from Thorstien Veblen (1921) to William Lazonick (1991), this literature sees it as crucial that managers be insulated from the vagaries of the environment, especially those caused by financial and other markets. Veblen considered financial markets "industrial sabotage." the most eloquent voice in this tradition belonged, however, to John Kenneth Galbraith, whose 'New Industrial State' distilled through hyperbole the essence of the corporate century he could see stretching behind him in 1967. Galbraith takes it for granted that technological change always leads to greater complexity and scale. This complexity and scale requires "planning"; such is the imperative of technology, an imperative that can only grow stronger in the future. Planning means not only the attempt to foresee and prepare for future contingencies but also the removal of transactions from the market to the realm of managerial authority. "If, with advancing technology and associated specialization, the market becomes increasingly unreliable, industrial planning will become increasingly impossible unless the market also gives way to planning. Much of what the firm regards as planning consists in minimizing or getting rid of market influences" (Galbraith 1971, pp. 42 - 43)" pp. 35 - 36
And it is in this description of "planning" that we see the alternative for today's organization. Planning for all contingencies and removal of transactions from markets. Its hard to imagine that Galbraith lived in what we call Western Civilization. The level of planning certainly provided the Former Soviet Union (FSU) with the means to continue on with its form of organization. In my thesis I postulated that the Western methods of organization looked as old and tired as the FSU in the 1980's and therefore should realize a similar history. The logic of supporting the Joint Operating Committee is compelling on its own. These quotations here open a new debate on how the alternatives, that seem to be operated in the organizations today, are truly limited and futile, as I can foresee no alternative to the vision of Galbraith's methods.
"It is perhaps a fitting reward for the hubris this view of planning implies that the not too distant future had in store a picture of technology and organization that would be virtually the diametric opposite of the one Galbraith painted." p. 36
"From internal to external capabilities: the new economy."

So much of what I wanted to comment on begins at this point in Langlios' document. If I should find an audience for the work that I am doing here, it is very evident that it is not sourced from the traditional powers within the corporate community. They have been given plenty of opportunity to act, and indeed have collectively not acted. How then will these remarkable new concepts and technologies influence the organizational manner of the oil and gas industry.
"Ruttan Hayami (1984) have proposed a theory of institutional change that is relevant to my story of organizational and institutional change. As they see it, changes in relative scarcities, typically driven by changes in technology, create a demand for institutional change by dangling new sources of economic rent before the eyes of potential institutional innovators. Whether change occurs will depend on whether those in a position to generate it - or to block it - can be suitably persuaded. Since persuasion typically involves the direct or indirect sharing of the available rents, the probability of change increases as the rents increase. And the more an institutional or organization system becomes misaligned with economic realities, the more the rents of realignment increase." pp. 36 - 37
But of course. It is not the corporation that will fall on their swords but the people who are active in the oil and gas industry. They will be motivated by how they can add value to the process for the betterment of themselves. And as those employees and managers in the organizations today will retire soon to undertake those opportunities for themselves. Literally with the majority of the industry retiring in the next 5 to 10 years, the opportunity for them to keep themselves active and earn a living on top of their retirement funds. That possibility would make their lives very prosperous and full. Accessing this system through the Internet would enable them to work from home, or if they wanted to travel, anywhere there is electricity. When we think of this opportunity with this next quotation in mind, it makes it even more evident that this is the way to go.
"The American corporations mechanisms of environmental control and its charmed life in the 50s and 60s had permitted it largely to ignore ongoing changes in the scale of technology as well as the increasing thickness and realignment of markets. In startling contrast to Galbraith's (rather nineteenth-century) view of technological change, innovation often - and perhaps mostly - proceeds by simplifying and by reducing scale." p. 38
Applying this method of participation "simplifies" and "reduces" the scale of the industry. Markets are what will spring up and make things happen. Does this mean chaos and anarchy for the corporation?
"Driven by the Chandler-Penrose imperative to apply existing managerial skills and other capabilities more widely, the corporation in the 1960's took the idea of diversification to new levels." p. 40
"Conglomerates were assembled from separate firms, with a central headquarters directing the firm. Their widespread use in the 1960's taught managers that it was possible to mix and match corporate divisions. It was only a small leap of an organizational idea for a conglomerate to bring in an outside firm via a hostile acquisition by buying up the target's stock and tucking the formerly independent firm in as one now managed from the conglomerate headquarters. Form there it was only another small mental jump in the 1980's to understand that once the pieces of a conglomerate had been assembled, they could be disassembled as well. (Roe 1996, p. 114)" p. 40
"By and large," write Bhagat, Shliefer, and Bishny (1990, p. 2), "hostile takeovers represent the deconglomerization of American business and a return to corporate specialization." p. 41
And, to a large extent we have seen the integrated oil and gas firms fade to the background. The Tenneco's, Canada Development Corporation, Canadian Pacific and Dow Chemicals with extensive interests in oil and gas as well as farm machinery and railroads are broken down, or deconglomerized. The oil & gas firms that are considered integrated today, the Shell's, Exxon's, BP's and Chevron Texaco's are integrated from the point of exploration, exploitation, production, refining and marketing. I could see the latter two, refining and marketing, being further deconglomerized in the future. But this vision of Langlois' goes further then that. Such that my interpretation would be the corporation is the rightful interest owner in a number of JOC's. These firms, in turn, are provided the resources necessary to conduct the exploration, production and exploitation operations through the market. The corporation would also be in compliance with the various legislation and regulatory requirements. And this compliance would be automated to a level where the compliance was a natural fall out of the firm's participation in the market activity. Furthermore, the firm would focus on its key competitive advantage and capabilities, that being the capacity to innovate on the various earth sciences and engineering disciplines. In summary, the firm would be charged with the areas of research, compliance and governance responsibilities.
"As G. B Richardson (1972) pointed out, it is highly unlikely that the various vertical stages of a production process should all call for similar kinds of capabilities. And this is what has happened. "even a cursory examination of the industrial system of the United States in the 1990's reveals organizational patterns that look not at all like the modern corporation," writes Timothy Sturgeon." pp. 41 - 42
"If what we see today seems to have little relation to the ideal type of the modern corporation, there may be good reason. Perhaps the American industrial system has begun to adapt to the new, more intense global competitive environment that triggered the competitive crisis in the first place. Perhaps we are witnessing the rise of a new American model of industrial organization, and not simply the resurgence of the old (Sturgeon 2002, p. 454)" p. 42
And to a large extent, that is the point. Change driven by the need for higher productivity, a forced reduction in human resource availability, and greater financial returns through lower costs. These are the practical issues the industry will be faced with. Will the model of today's corporation meet these needs and demands?
"Decentralization implies an ability to cut apart the stages of production cleanly enough that they can be placed into separate hands without high costs of coordination; that is to say, decentralization implies some degree of standardization of "interfaces" between stages. In an extreme - but far from rare - case, standardized interfaces can turn a product into a modular system (Langlois and Robertson 1992)." p 46
Lanlgois' discussion of modularity rings a strong note of truth with respect to the proposed modular structure of this software application. Looking at the competitive choices (Only Oracle is 'in' the market) their modular breakdown shows how the past model of industrial organization is supported, defined and constrained within their modular description. Comparison of these two software definitions reflect the fundamentally different worlds of which they operate in. There will be no JOC or market in the Oracle software version, and hence no benefits.
"When a modular product is embedded in a decentralized production network, benefits also appear on the supply side (Langlois and Robertson 1992)." p. 47
"Moreover, because it can generate economies of substitution (Garud and Kumaraswamy 1995) or external economies of scope (Langlois and Robertson 1995), a modular system is not limited by the weakest link in the chain of corporate capabilities but can avail itself of the best modules the wider market has to offer. Moreover, an open modular system can spur innovation, since, in allowing many more entry points for new ideas, it can create what Nelson and Winter (1977) call rapid trial and error learning. From the perspective of the present argument, however, the crucial supply side benefits of a modular production network is that it provides an additional mechanism of buffering." pp. 47 - 48
"Transaction costs and the new economy."

It would be difficult to effectively argue that transaction costs and dynamic transaction costs (those that are incurred during times of change), of negotiating, persuading, coordinating and teaching have not been a large part of the oil and gas industry for many years. The capital intensive nature of the industry requires relatively few head office staff, key field personnel and almost all operations conducted through contracting. This software system does not therefore ask for radical change. It asks that we should align ourselves more clearly with the manner in which the industry is run. The JOC, the contractors and suppliers are how the industry develops and commercializes its latest land acquisition and scientific theory. None of the competitors of this software development proposal even partially recognize these facts. So when the discussion of whether the industry should make or buy, the buy decision is almost unanimously taken. It would be a fool who would attempt otherwise.
"In his famous 1937 paper, Coase had argued that transaction costs drive the make-or-buy decision; thus, since the Internet has reduced transaction costs, Coase had effectively predicted a principal feature of the new economy: the increasing devolution of transactions from firms to markets. Of course, what Coase actually said is that the scope of the firm is determined in Marshallian fashion at the margin: the firm will expand (in terms of number of activities internalized) until the costs of internalising one more transaction just balance the costs of an equivalent transaction on the market." p. 51
The concepts that originated in the minds of the software developers for SAP and Oracle were different then what has been stated here. I believe that whatever that vision may have been, for oil and gas it is misguided as it does not recognize the unique nature of the business. The unique nature of the industry had developed solutions to the problems and manner of operation. Those solutions consist of the JOC and the dependence on the market to provide its needs. I can't think of an industry that comes close to the nature of the energy business. Where even a start up may pursue global operations.

Today the technologies involved in the Internet provide the industry with the opportunity to realize the fashion that it operates is unique, and deal with those anomalies in the best Interests of the industry. A dedicated software developer to build the systems that mirror the manner of the industries operations, will enable greater innovation by relying on the marketplace and allowing the innovation to flow from where-ever and whomever.
"The coordination technologies of the industrial era - the train and the telegraph, the automobile and the telephone, the mainframe computer - made internal transaction not only possible but advantageous." It is only with the very recent development of powerful coordination technology - personal computers and broadband communication networks - that markets have been favored. "Because information can be shared instantly and inexpensively among many people living in many locations, the value of centralized decision making and expensive bureaucracies decreases. (p. 147)". pp 51 - 52
The prescription of the software development proposal is not something that can be argued as revolutionary. But in reviewing these papers of Lanlgois' it is important to remember that he is discussing all industries and all businesses. For oil and gas this prescription is not revolutionary but the results will be.
"Thus the vanishing hand is driven not just by changes in coordination technology but also by changes in the extent of markets - by increasing population and income, but also be the globalization of markets. Reductions of political barriers to trade around the world are having an effect analogous to the reduction of technological barriers to trade in the America of the nineteenth century (Findlay and O'Rourke 2002). Is this a revolution or the continuation of a long - standing trend? Again, the answer depends on one's perspective. My argument is that, just as the American "globalization" after the Civil War was revolutionary in its systemic reorganization of production toward standardization and volume, the new era is revolutionary in its systemic de-verticalization in response both to changes in coordination technology and to plain-old increases in the extent of markets."pp. 52 - 53
Change is demanded of us from many directions, but particularly the consumers demand for more energy. Whether there is a greater capacity or deliverability is questionable, but even if energy production has peaked, the remaining reserves of oil and gas are almost exactly equal to what had been produced before. With a 140 year history of providing the world with its energy needs, the industry can look forward to many new innovations, fields and methods of capturing the remaining oil and gas. That although the energy is there it will require the industry to apply much more effort in producing each barrel. The hierarchies attempt in the last 5 years has accelerated the number of wells drilled by a factor of 2.5 times. Impressive. However, only 17% of the production was found, with 33% annual decline rates, the future looks very shallow for this type of activity. For it has failed in any metric you could ask. What the industry appears to be moving towards is a more focused move into the areas of exploration. Exploration in the remote areas with complex politics, logistics and scientific challenges. In order to address these enormous tasks, I believe the industry should require that any and all producers re-organize themselves first. The first bit of good news is the following comments from Professor Langlois.
"In my view, the relationship among coordination technology, transaction costs, and industrial structure remains an open research agenda." p. 54
"Over time, two things happen: (a) markets get thicker and (b) the urgency of buffering levels off and then begins to decline. In part, urgency of buffering declines because technological change begins to lower the minimum efficient scale of production. But it also declines because improvements in coordination technology - whether applied within a firm or across firms - lower the cost (and therefore the urgency) of buffering." pp. 55 - 56
It is probably best that I mention that I discovered Professor Langlois' work through him being awarded the Schumpeter Prize. The changes we face are clearly in line with one of Professor Schumpeter's more famous theories, that of creative destruction.

The last article in this four article review of Professor Langlois' ESNIE presentation are his slides. These slides provide an interesting summary of all the concepts that he has generated and reflects the open research agenda that we all face.

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Photo Courtesy: David Sifry

Monday, June 18, 2007

Plurality should not be assumed, without necessity.

This quotation is "Occam's razor" which I used as the title of my thesis that this blog is based upon. Click on the title of this entry for the Wikipedia entry.

I've found a few comments that bring about a different perception of where we are in this technologically induced, changing world.

"If we get this wrong, it doesn't matter what else we get right."
I read that for the first time on the Singularity Institute weblog. I found it highly reflective of the times that we live in, and the critical nature of some of today's technologies influence over our future.

Another interesting point was put across by Stanford Professor Paul Romer. Instead of economies being driven by "Land, Labor and Capital," it was now "People, Ideas and Things" that mattered.

And in a critical review of Thomas Friedman's best seller "The World is Flat", Professor Edward E. Leamer states the following.
"The speed at which ideas are exchanged determines the pace of progress."
"If you think of humans on Earth as a single thinking organism, then until the 1980's we have been using only about 1/3 of our global brain because 2/3rds of humanity were shut in closets where they couldn't communicate with the rest of us."
And maybe, I am thinking, the future has arrived.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Markets and the Primal-Dual Paradigm

Another Google Video presentation.

The title of this presentation is in line with the current research being done on this blog. Markets in particular are the area that is primarily "new" in determining the boundaries of the oil and gas firm and the markets it operates in. This speaker is well regraded in his work, yet very nervous in his presentation. Although he jumps around a fair amount, I think the areas that he is discussing is something of value in opening the discussion of the algorithms that are needed to be built here. Particularly when we move forward with the software developments.

The topic of discussion is markets, from the context of the algorithms that are used to determine and maintain "General Equilibrium". Much of his work seems to be based on the Nobel Prize winning economists Kenneth Arrow of Stanford University, and Gerard Debreu (deceased) and their 1954 Arrow-Debreu Theorem. The algorithms that will be used in this development will be complex. The complexity is nothing short of what appears like a very large "Manhattan Styled" project. But with the computational power available today, I am certain that it is only a matter of time, and a bit of money too.

The area of research that this presentation opens up is the area of the algorithms for this application. And I would suggest that it does not necessarily need to be discussed extensively at this point, only to be noted and added to the long list of work that needs to be done. The presenter of this material felt that their was a current revolution in the definition of markets. Noting that Google's AdWords was an algorithm of this new revolutionary area, where new "Market Models" are emerging.

If I were to summarize the one hour talk, I would present it in this introductory, yet pertinent, formula.

Total utility of a bundle of goods = equilibrium prices = each buyer gets an optimal bundle of goods + no deficiency or surplus of any good.

A formula that provides an initial understanding of the direction of the work we will need to eventually do in algorithms.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Steve Job's Keynote Address.

Click on the title of this entry to go to Apple's CEO's delivery of his Keynote presentation to the Apple developers conference.

I am a Mac person, I have never purchased a PC, and thankfully will never have to. The manner in which I work can not be replicated on a Windows machine. I can break the Windows machine within a few minutes and have an inability to move at the PC's induced slow pace. As a result in order to do my work I can achieve more then double the productivity on a Mac. If this is vendor based lock-in, then I admit I am a dupe. Such that I would also recommend everyone discover the advances on the Mac. By purchasing a Mac and using it exclusively for the six months necessary to make the transition from Windows. Most people will experience an increase in their personal, and work, productivity.

The beginning of this process should start with the number one salesman of Apple doing his trademarked presentations. Steve Jobs shows many of the ways that the Apple interface is superior and provides this bump in productivity. The one and half hours to view this video is time well spent, and will provide an understanding of why his products are so different. I highly recommend viewing the presentation and starting on the transition to a Mac as soon as you can.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Software Concurrency Revolution

Another Google video in advanced programming languages. Click on the title to view the video.

Advanced Topic in Programming Languages Series: Effective Static Race Detection
Stanford Professor Alex Aiken

I am certain that I share a concern with many of my potential customers. That concern is of using a "web service" that services the commercial business needs of an entire industry. The concern is that not all the bugs are worked out and as a result things begin to be recorded incorrectly. One of the unique ways in which these bugs could be exposed is by pushing the science further then it has been pushed before. And, taking into consideration, the understanding of how Moore's law is being achieved through threading and multi-core processing that "concurrency" becomes an issue.

A Race Condition is defined as;

"The same location may be accessed by different threads simultaneously without holding a common lock. (And at least one access is a write.)"
Concurrency (Race Condition) is essentially the ability to have one variable overwritten by another unrelated variable and corrupting the data. This has been handled well in the various relational databases with a number of locking scenarios that ensure that the inserts, updates and deletes are done effectively. But what about the memory registers in the program itself. With multi-core and threading enabling multiple reads and writes to those memory registers, how does the program ensure that the ordering of those memory items maintains the programming logic? One particularly nasty point about these bugs is that they may be random, no one is aware of their existence and sometimes they are unique and therefore not re-creatable as other bugs are. How common are they? Professor Aiken said he found 392 race conditions in the open source Derby Database. An open source product originally developed by IBM.

As we progress down this road, and start development, these "race" conditions are of grave concern. These bugs are state of the art in terms of the types of problems that the academic community and developer of the Java Programming Language (Sun Microsystems) are working on. This video discusses this problem and the difficulty in identifying and resolving "race" conditions. Professor Aiken does an excellent job in making it known that identification of race conditions is the tough part, with their resolution very easy from a programmatic point of view.

As the tools, policies and techniques continue to develop we will be spending more time on this critical issue. The need for data integrity is first and foremost in the usability of this system. I trust the majority of these issues will be resolved and rectified when we go into commercial use of this needed software.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Devon Energy gets it.

Speaking to Reuters Global Energy Summit, Devon Energy president John Richels made the following comments.

"We are fairly bullish, we don't see any large amounts of natural gas coming on in the near term."

"He said new oil wells being discovered around the world are coming from very complex plays that require considerable skill and expense to produce oil."
Guess the hierarchy will have to redouble their efforts. Oh wait, it can't, it's already at capacity.

Then it must be time to leave the laggards behind.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Where's Yergin's Response?

Clicking on the title of this entry and it will take you to "econobrowser" for a post mortem on Yergin's comments. Some excellent analysis has been done on the "econbrowswer" blog that puts in perspective the poor, if not comical predictions of one Dr. Daniel Yergin, the alleged number one analyst in the energy business. He's on Maria Bartoroma's speed dial and every other network news anchor.

I am referring to Yergin's comments he made in July 2005. According to him there was to be an unprecedented increase in the productive capacity of the energy industry. Some 16 million barrels per day of additional capacity to an overall capacity of 101 million barrels per day. Not only were these ridiculous predictions, they are in hindsight, the most irresponsible words uttered in the 140 years of the energy industry.

When the rest of the analysts were talking about Peak Oil theory, Yergin was the go to guy for all the press minions who didn't want to share any bad news. Repeatedly he was called upon to give his analysis of how his data, information and knowledge showed that Peak Oil Theory was bunk and that all was fine in the energy industry. As a result, the consumer, investment and business environments have this assumption about this new found capacity to expect from their favorite energy company. These expectations are completely unfounded. The deliverability of the worlds fields are in dire need of support from new fields. Fields that will have to be discovered when people realize the importance of energy in the western lifestyle. (i.e. without it were all dead) A need that has been severely retarded by Yergin's comments.

Today the industry continues to produce 85 million barrels per day and is only down 1 million barrels from its peak in May 2005. The efforts and tasks ahead for the industry are much greater as a result of Yergin's comments. The need is greater and we are 2 years further behind in a very difficult job ahead.

"Econbrowser" made another post today about who the Congress will probably accuse of price fixing the gasoline prices. I hope they find Yergin cowering in the corner of his office, too ashamed to show his face. He has a lot to account for.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Transaction Cost Economics in Real Time

Professor Richard N. Langlois, The University of Connecticut.
Industrial and Corporate Change Volume 1 Number 1
© Oxford University Press, 1992

I have a series of papers that were presented by Professor Langlois at the European School on New Institutional Economics (ESNIE) 2006 conference. These are the documents that were selected by Professor Langlois for his ESNIE presentation. A presentation that is entitled "Dynamic Transaction Costs". This will consist of the next four posts and will summarize the talk and apply it to the oil and gas industry through the perspective of the Joint Operating Committee (JOC). The last post will summarize Langlois' presentation slides which appear to be a summary version of his Economics 486 course slides.

Dynamic transaction costs are a new (new to this blog) concept that Langlois introduces in this first post. Written in 1992 and published by Oxford I am unaware of how the copyright applies in this case. In reviewing Langlois material I am finding the scope of his writings accurately mirrors the scope of defining the organization for oil and gas. A quick review of the postings that have been categorized with the label "capabilities" will aid in the understanding of where some of these concepts are headed. It is also recommended that a copy of the table and module design components be available for review throughout for reference.

First up is Langlois' definition of "Dynamic Transaction Costs".
"Over time, capabilities change as firms and markets learn, which implies a kind of information or knowledge cost - the cost of transferring the firm's capabilities to the market or vice-verse. These "dynamic" governance costs are the costs of persuading, negotiating and coordinating with, and teaching others. They arise in the face of change, notably technological and organizational innovation. In effect, they are the costs of not having the capabilities you need when you need them." p. 99
"Indeed, in cases in which systemic coordination is not the issue, the market may turn out to be the superior institution of coordination. In general, the capabilities view of the firm suggests that we look at firm and market as alternative and sometimes overlapping institutions of learning." p. 99
1. Transaction costs in the long run and the short.

Placing the energy industry into a long run vs short run time frame is difficult for a number of reasons. First the capital nature of the industry demands the long lead times necessary for the discovery, production and exploitation of the assets. Yet the industry operates in a competitive market that evaluates the energy industry on the same criteria as all other industries. And whether that is right or wrong is an argument that finds no definitive solution. What the energy industry does know is that the invisible hand demands that they compete in both environments. Placing transaction costs and there relevance into this debate is interesting from the point of view of the thinking that develops. First Langlois notes;
"Since Coase (1937), economists have begun to explain observed patterns of ownership and contract by their ability to minimize the sum of production costs and transaction costs. If my corollary is right, however, this modern - shall I call it neoclassical? - theory of the boundaries of the firm is necessarily a short run theory. Transaction costs are essentially short-run phenomena. This does not by any means make such costs unimportant." p. 100
Therefore if we look at transaction costs from the long term point of view. The nature of the business demands that most of the work done on the plants, wells, gathering and processing facilities are operated at arm's length by a variety of contractors engaged with the company to implement the producers plans. To have all the field people necessary for the producers needs is of course not possible. This applies to both the capital expenditure end as well as on operational expenditures. This denotes that the "contract" is the source of transaction costs and the means to achieve anything productive in the industry. And that would apply, in my opinion, to both ends of the time perspective.
"First of all, the standard concept of the runs is - almost paradoxically - a timeless notion. That is, the time that passes between the short run and the long run is what Mark Blaug (1987, p. 371) calls 'operational time' rather than real time." pp. 100 - 101
Operational time in the energy industry appears to me the time necessary from initial thought in the geologists mind to the shutting down of the field. It is alleged that only 3% of all geologist ever find any commercial oil and gas. Most are involved in the many facets of the science. And this is the reason that we see most of the industry operated by geologists. The lead times necessary to even present the geologists idea to management for funding could be 2 - 5 years. Yes it takes that much effort. And that is for any and all geologists, some are naturally employed in what I would consider a pure research area that reflect the basins in which they operate, such as production management, reserves evaluation etc. This entire process is a scientific approach that will develop the science known within the firm. such that firm will be known to specialize in certain regions, zones or other criteria.

It was in my thesis that I noted that certain constraints will challenge the geologists. With the increase in the knowledge of the science expanding as it is today, how will they keep up, and most importantly how will they innovate on that expanding knowledge base. I am including a link to the Peoples Daily Online on some of the new approaches the Chinese have developed in their industry. I question, that if this theory is valid (and I don't understand geology) why did this new theory not originate from Houston?
"It is, Marshall says, a"
"general rule, to which there are not very many exceptions, that the development of the organism, whether social or physical, involves an increasing subdivision of function between its separate parts on the one hand, and on the other, a more intimate connection between them. Each part gets to be less and less self sufficient, to depend for its well being more and more on other parts... This increased subdivision of functions, or "differentiation," as it is called, manifests itself with regard to industry in such forms as the division of labour, and the development of specialized skill, knowledge and machinery: while "integration," that is, a growing intimacy and firmness of the connections between the separate parts of the industrial organism, shows itself in such forms as the increase of security of commercial credit, and of the means and habits of communication be sea and road, by railway and telegraph, by post and printing press. (Marshall, 1961, IV.viii.1 p.241)."
"Economic progress, then, is for Marshall a matter of improvements in knowledge and organization as much as a matter of scale economies in the neoclassical sense. We can see this clearly in his 'law of increasing return,' which is distinctly not a law of increasing returns to scale: 'An increase of labour and capital leads generally to improved organization, which increases the efficiency of the work of labour and capital' (Marshall, 1961, IV. xiii,2 p. 318) p. 101"
This last comment reflecting on Adam Smiths division of labour. It is important to recall that Smith's example of the pin shop produced spectacular performance increases in the workers at the factory. As each task was broken down to a single task for each worker the pin shop's production increased 240 times. These externalities are what make economies grow. If the expanding base of geological and engineering knowledge is going to be expanded within the firm, then the need to have a greater division of labor will be required for any economy to increase its performance. I challenge anyone to argue that the hierarchy will be the organizational method that makes this happen. It is my opinion that the Joint Operating Committee (JOC) provides the ability for the producers to pool their geological and engineering talent directly on the subject at hand. And in so doing, increase the focus on the science project that is the JOC. (A fascinating and brilliant article that has Adam Smith introduced to the Symmetric Multi Processor is located here.)
"To say that a movement to the long run involves progressive changes in organization and knowledge is really to suggest an interpretation quite different from the standard neoclassical conception, in which substitution is supposed to take place with knowledge held constant. Adopting this learning and organization view, I argue, implies a shift to a real-time conception of the long run. In some sense, the long run is the period over which enough learning has taken place that adjustments are small and come only in response to foreseeable changes in exogenous conditions." p. 102
This long run perspective is not the development or result of any grand scheme. Hayek developed the idea of spontaneous order in which the actions of people are separated from human design. To design the next iteration of the division of labor, industry needs to organize themselves in a manner to achieve the division. The natural form of organization of the industry is the JOC. I have proven the validity of using the JOC through my thesis. I have also noted, and maybe this is a diversion away from Hayek's spontaneous order, that software defines the organization. Therefore in order to define a new organizational construct requires the JOC to be explicitly recognized and supported in the software. And that would involve a large portion of the transaction costs be moved from the hierarchy to the JOC, and hence, incur Langlois' Dynamic Transaction Costs. With regard to having Hayek's theory of spontaneous order coming to an end, that I will leave to the academic community to figure out. The opportunity to have the software spontaneously exist is something that runs against reality.

Langlois has helped us categorize the industry from the perspective of the long run as being the most valid for oil and gas. This has also helped in identifying that contracting between firms is the key determinant of where transaction costs should be incurred. (Recall the two choices are the contract or ownership.) And this is through the JOC that provides a further division of labor through the pooling of corporate resources. Or what I consider is an industry or cluster capability as opposed to a corporate capability. Langlois has also helped us realize that his "Dynamic Transaction Costs" occur as a result of changes between markets and firms. How I see the debate for oil and gas is the JOC has been developed to accommodate the needs of the marketplace. The hierarchies pursuit of compliance and governance issues associated with Tax, SEC, and others, brings about the conflict in which the JOC is summarily ignored by the major software vendors. Providing short term compliance to the regulations is not the business of an oil and gas company. Irrespective of how good the SAP's and Oracle's are, they are not supporting the JOC in any form or fashion and therefore will continue to be a poor choice for oil and gas systems.

I will update the ideas that have formed here and represent them in the table that defines the boundaries of the firm and the market. The following changes are to show the direction in which the "Dynamic Transaction Costs" are derived from.

Construct Market Dynamic Transaction Costs Firm

Transaction Costs (Current) s <------------ P Transaction Costs (Future) P s Assets s ------------> P
Contracts P <----------- s s = secondary P = Primary

"F.A. Hayek (1945, p. 523) once wrote that 'economic problems arise always and only in consequence of change.' My argument is the flip-side: as change diminishes, economic problems recede. Specifically, as learning takes place within a stable environment, transaction costs diminish. As Carl Dahlman (1979) points out, all transaction costs are at base information costs. And, with time and learning, contracting parties gain information about one another's behavior. More importantly, the transacting parties will with time develop or hit upon institutional arrangements that mitigate the sources of transaction costs." p. 104
2. Organization and Capabilities

If we take the points in the previous section as valid, and the oil and gas industry is organized around companies that maintain financial interests in a variety of JOC's. Then the view from the JOC is having at some point in time the need of every field service and product offering. If we take the global view that the industry is sourced on a contractual basis through these JOC's and the management of the companies are involved in three critical areas. These three are the science and engineering capabilities necessary to operate in their chosen areas and on their corporate strategies. Secondly the compliance and governance of their assets. And lastly actively participating in the JOC's of which they have an interest in, and are responsible for guiding their development. Is this not the manner in which the industry should operate? And although this may be considered different then today, the reality is that this is far closer to the way that the industry has been formed. The corporate hierarchy was a solution to the large number of assets owned and operated by growing large companies. In almost all industries the hierarchy is now considered the last choice of how to run a company.
"Although one can find versions of the idea in Smith, Marshall, and elsewhere, the modern discussion of the capabilities of organization probably begins with Edith Penrose (1959), who suggested viewing the firm as a 'pool of resources'. Among the writers who have used and developed this idea are G.B. Richardson (1972), Richard Nelson and Sidney Winter (1982), and David Teece (1980, 1982). To all these authors, the firm is a pool not of tangible but of intangible resources. Capabilities, in the end, are a matter of knowledge. Because of the nature of specialization and the limits to cognition, organizations as well as individuals are limited in what they know how to do effectively. Put the other way, organizations possess a pool of more-or-less embodied 'how to' knowledge useful for particular classes of activities." pp. 105 - 106.
And in a firm, the company consists of a pool of interests in various JOC's. One in which the science and engineering necessary to find, produce and optimize the reserves that are owned by the various JOC's. It is the legal title to the land that establishes whom it is that owns the reserves. The capabilities necessary to run a firm in a confidential manner, that no others will be entitled to know what others may know is a impediment to the future development of the industry. Until we can take a more global view of what resources are available and employ those resources in an optimum manner, the industry will be unable to transition to a higher performance. I realize I am suggesting something that is considered very secretive. But the act of publishing the ideas is what is necessary to earn the copyright. What I can't understand is the number of geologists and engineers that are educated in collaborative environment cease to collaborate while with a firm. If a firm has good quality research that is information of value then copyright it, patent it or trademark it. Hiding the information or knowledge from critical review, is not the way of the future of the industry. The open source movement, and Sun Microsystems, have proven releasing there most valuable intellectual property has generated significant benefits to them and everyone who use it. This is considered open innovation and approaches the difficult problems that companies face today. Companies in the energy industry need to cooperate in an area of science that is too large and fast moving for one company to attempt to handle alone. This is the reason that the JOC needs to be front and centre in the corporations software. The JOC is the way that business is done and indeed is the business of the oil and gas producer. I refer you to an excellent .pdf written by Charles Duke, Vice President and Senior Research Fellow, Xerox Corporation and Ken Dill, Professor of Biophysics, University of California entitled "The Next Technological Revolution: Will the US Lead, or Fall Behind". For a lucid clarification of the issue.

Turning now to the capabilities of the firm Lanlgois notes a few items that define what the skills of a corporation are.
"'Routines,' write Nelson and Winter (1982, p. 124), 'are the skills of an organization.'" p. 106
"Such tacit knowledge is fundamentally empirical: it is gained through imitation and repetition not through conscious analysis or explicit instruction. This certainly does not mean that humans are incapable of innovation; but it does mean that there are limits to what conscious attention can accomplish. It is only because much of life is a matter of tacit knowledge and unconscious rules that conscious attention can produce as much as it does." p. 106
"In a metaphoric sense, at least, the capabilities or the organization are more than the sum (whatever that means) of the 'skill' of the firms physical capital, there is also the matter of organization. How the firm is organized - how the routines of the humans and machines are linked together - is also part of a firm's capabilities. Indeed, 'skills, organization, and technology are intimately intertwined in a functioning routine, and it is difficult to say exactly where one aspect ends and another begins' (Nelson and Winter, 1982, p. 104)." p. 106
In reading these three quotations I am able to see clearly the boundaries of the oil and gas firm. On the one hand there are JOC's that operate the industry. On the other hand corporations involved in compliance, governance and research areas. Providing me with a tacit understanding of the division and what goes where and with whom. The tacit knowledge of the industry has been gained not "through conscious analysis or explicit instruction". Invoking Hayek's theory of spontaneous law, we see that most of the knowledge of how the industry operates is tacitly held by the JOC. What this software development proposal is attempting to do is move corporations roles and responsibilities more in line with the tacit understanding that makes up the industry. And as Langlois notes in the next quotations, this is consistent throughout industries.
"Ultimately, a firm will be restricted to activities that are fundamentally similar along one or another dimension." p. 107
"What gives this observation its salience, however, is that what is similar need not be what is complementary. That is, the various activities in the chain of production may - or may not - each require skills that are quite distinct." p. 107
3. Capabilities and governance costs.

This proposed reorganization of the energy industry is controversial for many reasons. Moving to a collaborative environment from a secretive mindset as I see it, and move to the JOC which is the tacit manner the industry has developed is one rather radical change. One that accurately mirrors the changes in energy supply and demand. Other industries have faced similar challenges, what organizational and business model changes did they incorporate? If we look to Detroit and see how the competition from the global auto industry has forced a transition to new business models. I am not intimately familiar with the car industry but would ask, is Detroit now reorganized on completely different means? For example are GM and Ford essentially filling the role of product design, brand management, finance and marketing of cars? We know that most of the parts are provided by tier 1 suppliers, and assembly is done less and less by the big three. What are the "capabilities and governance costs" of Ford, and what can we learn that may be applicable to the work proposed here.
"But often - and especially when innovation is involved - the links among firms are of a more complex sort, involving everything from informal swaps of information (von Hippel, 1989) to joint ventures and other formal collaborative arrangements (Mowery, 1989). All firms must rely on the capabilities owned by others, especially to the extent those capabilities are dissimilar to those the firm possesses." p. 108
With the industry being organized around the various JOC's there is a definitive need to have the industry perceived and operational on the basis of a "cluster" or "industry" of resources. Competition is not eliminated, only enhanced levels of cooperation and collaboration are added to enhance the performance of the people, the companies, and the industry. Some might argue that we are already doing that in the industry, and to an extent we are. But I am thinking of an industry with two specific organizational groups. All things associated with operations would be handled by the JOC's that have the legal, financial, cultural and operational decision making frameworks firmly in place. The other organization is a scaled down version of the corporation. One that is focused on compliance, governance, research and strategy. Within these two distinct organizational constructs are the entire industries resources made available. If the boundaries of the firm were established in this fashion, an employee may therefore see their employer as either a corporation (the firm) or a JOC (the market). Billing their time to either. Again I would state that some would see this as already happening. I would assert that may be the case but the software that is used by companies is not recognizing the important role of the JOC in the industry. The software defines the organization, in order to move to a more natural form of organization of the industry requires that the software needs to be built first. This could be attained easily by disregarding which company is listed as the operator of the JOC, and recognizing the role of each company that is in essence pooled in the JOC. This role management being enforced through a "Military Styled Command and Control" type of governance structure, and I have renamed that in the module specification as the Governance and Compliance Module.
"In the long run, I have argued, transaction costs might be expected to approach zero. One might also argue this for governance costs generally. In the long run. activities have become increasingly routine. This reduces the cost of contracting, not in the sense that contracts have become cheaper to write but in the sense that contracts are increasingly unnecessary: everything is done tomorrow the way it was done today. In this sense, then, the long run also arguably reduces the cost of internal management by reducing decision making costs. Thus, one might argue that, in the long run as I have defined it, the boundaries of the firm are determined entirely by the capabilities of the firm relative to the capabilities of the market." (Italics mine.) p. 110
What other alternatives are there? The industry has developed the models that form the JOC and have provided it with the requisite authority. The capabilities and boundaries of the firm and market are very clear to all those that have reasonable experience in the oil and gas industry.
"If however, we follow Marshall in seeing the long run as the asymptomatic end-state of a process of learning, then we also have to consider the ways in which capabilities change over time. And here, it seems to me, there are also two opposing effects. On the one hand, the firm is likely to become more capable over time. As more and more of the firm's activities take on the nature of routines, and as the firm's routines become more finely tuned, both the firms total managerial capability and its free managerial capacity will increase. On the other hand, however, the market will also become more 'capable' as time passes. Other firms will also be increasing their capabilities and techniques pioneered by one firm may diffuse to and be imitated by other firms." pp. 110 - 111
The basic premise that I am operating at in these writings is that the innovative producer will be able to assimilate the rapid increase in the earth science and engineering disciplines, and, innovate from that base. This implies the ability to learn is inherent in the proposed reorganizations. How is answered, in my opinion, in this next quotation and also the work of Professor Giovanni Dosi in my original thesis.
"The firms learning ability will depend on its internal organization. And the learning ability of the market will depend on technical and instructional factors, as well as on the learning abilities of the firms it comprises, considered both individually and as a system. The remainder of this paper is devoted to considering these two learning systems in slightly more detail. More specifically, it will set out some preliminary generalization about how the level of capabilities in the firm and the market - and the nature of change in those capabilities - effects the boundaries of the firm." pp. 111 - 112
It was also in my thesis that based on my opinion, for the industry to continue on in the fashion that it is currently operated, there would be a failure in the response to the energy marketplace. Drawing a parallel to the failure of the French deployment of the Maginot Line as a defence in WWII. Dr. Daniel Yergin may be correct in his assertions that their are large volumes of production available for the future, however, if he is wrong, this failure could be seen as catastrophic for the way that Western civilizations operate. Clearly the capabilities of the industry as a whole have to be built to higher level within the firms and marketplaces, and a reorganization based on using the JOC appears to me to be the manner in which this is done. Again I ask, is the hierarchy up to the challenge?
"I propose to call these dynamic transaction costs. They are a kind of cost that has been largely neglected in the explanation of the boundaries of the firm. As I will explain more fully below, I will mean by dynamic transaction costs the costs of persuading, negotiating, coordinating and teaching outside suppliers. Another - if perhaps fast and loose - way to look at these transaction costs is as the costs of not having the capabilities you need when you need them." p. 113
4. Capabilities, learning, and vertical integration.

Internal capabilities.

In Canada at least, the oil and gas industry has been well established for at least 60 out of the 140 years of the energy age. Few places in the world operate in an undeveloped area where the needs of the industry have to be imported. Much of the understanding and infrastructure of the industry can be applied to any country or region in the world. Some of the most innovative developments could conceivably come from anyone of these areas and provide real value to the industry throughout the globe. It's not that the industry is "mature" as many like to call it, but the developments of the industry demand that it respond to any and all geological anomalies mother nature can throw at it. Many of the capabilities are internally captured by the management, and some are inherent in the suppliers that provide many capabilities to the producer. It is with this in mind that I note Langlois stating.
"As we have seen, the distinction between capabilities and transaction costs suggest two (non-exclusive) possibilities. On the one hand, a firm may need to internalize a stage of production because the complementary capabilities that stage represents do not exist or are more expensive in the market. This would be a pure capabilities explanation for internalization. Perhaps the case of Henry Ford and the moving assembly line might fit this possibility. His process innovation gave him a cost advantage over outside suppliers, motivating a high degree of vertical integration. On the other hand, a firm may wish to internalize a stage of production even when the market possesses the requisite capabilities to at least the same degree as does the firm itself. If the firm does internalize, it must be because there are other costs to using the markets. An explanation along these lines would be a pure transaction-cost explanation." p. 114
Therefore in light of what Langlois states, there are transaction costs associated with this capability. And in a marketplace such as energy there does not seem to be a need to internalize many of these capabilities, but push them into the marketplace to provide. This in a nutshell are the boundaries of the firm and the market. How much of the capabilities inherent in the current "company" can be further pushed out to the marketplace? It would seem to me that the performance of a global industry that is challenged in its productivity and deliver-ability needs to augment their performance through the marketplace. The rapid pace of change of today may seem like a snail's crawl in just a few years. How will this industry, as represented by the current makeup of capabilities be able to keep up? According to Lanlgois the ability to keep up can be handled by the firm or the market. The firm will command and control the resources it has to achieve its goals, or alternatively, the firm can contract the resources necessary to achieve its goals. As I have proposed here in this blog, the move to a market for transaction costs will incur Langlois' "Dynamic Transaction Costs" associated with the move.
"Another way to say this is that unpredictable change makes it costly to specify contractual provisions, implying the need for expanded residual rights of control. Teece mentions this possibility as one of a string of possible explanations for vertical integration. My contention is that this is in fact the general explanation, and that all other transaction-cost explanations are either derivative of this argument or apply only on an ad-hoc basis to special situations. Ultimately, the costs that lead to vertical integration are the (dynamic) transaction costs of persuading, negotiating with, coordinating among, and teaching outside suppliers in the face of economic change or innovation. (Teece, 1986)." pp. 115 - 116
The stated benefit of making this software for the energy industry is to enable a higher level of innovation. As we have discussed elsewhere, innovation is not derived from some great scheme, it is the individual who determines what is a better way to do his job and become more efficient in the process. These innovations are then built upon by others and these changes are incorporated in the processes of production. This in turn generating the demand for a software vendor that can work intimately with the industry to ensure these benefits are realized on a permanent basis. The software defines the organization, the innovation is the objective, and these both imply that change will be fluid. How can the industry, or any industry, move forward without these inherent capabilities being built within the software?
"It was autonomous innovation that Adam Smith had in mind when he argued that the division of labor enhanced innovation: each operative, by seeking ways to make his or her lot easier, would discover improved methods of performing the particular operation (Smith, 1976, I.i8, p. 20). The improvement he had in mind were such that they improved the efficiency of a particular stage without any implication for the operation of other stages. Autonomous innovation of this sort may even further the division of labor to the extent that it involves the cutting up of a task into two or more separate operation. Instead of being differentiating in this way, however, an innovation may be integrating, in the sense that the new way of doing things - a new machine, say - performs in one step what had previously needed two or more steps (Robertson and Alston, 1992). More generally, a systemic innovation may require small modifications of the way work is performed at each of a number of stages, and would thus require coordination among those stages." pp. 116 - 117
Innovation in a pin factory pales in comparison to the scope of capital and operations of an oil and gas producer. Exxon Mobil alone has a greater then $250 billion in annual operating costs. This is Exxon's share of joint operations of possibly double that amount. The autonomous and particularly the systemic innovation, I would suggest, has been left dormant within the industry due to the inability to make the changes necessary within the bureaucracy. The symbiotic relationship between the software vendor and the firm's bureaucracy have achieved a total lock out of any innovations. With no ability to change what has inherently been done for decades, the industry will never be able to optimize its future opportunities and meet the consumers demands for energy. Langlois notes;
"This possibility of interconnectedness has been the basis for an argument that vertical disintegration may retard innovation. Innovation may mean replacing assets at more than one stage in the chain of production. If decision making is decentralized, the costs of coordinating the innovation may be high, and the innovation may never take place. This is particularly significant if some of the existing asset-holder, or the suppliers of factors complementary to the existing assets, have the power to block innovation (though trade unionism, for example) to protect their rent streams. If innovation does occur, it may take place elsewhere in the economy (and perhaps elsewhere in the world) under the direction of a unified asset holder and decision maker who can ignore existing task boundaries." p. 117
I wrote about the impact of what I thought the industries solution to a shortage of rigs was here. Large producers buying several rigs for their exclusive use may have provided them with some short term ability to drill more wells. I would assert that in the long run it will do the exact opposite. The drilling contractor only has to wait for his next order for rigs to come from Y producer and to drill Z wells for them. Completely eliminating the focus and demand expected of him in the marketplace. The drilling contractor can now adopt the position of a bureaucrat and mine his contract for the gold that is his claimed share. This also has the subsequent effect of eliminating any start-up drilling contractor taking any risk and reaping any opportunity.
"The empirical significance of this argument, especially as applied to the case of Britain at the turn of the twentieth century, is a subject of intense dispute. As a theoretical matter, however, this argument would seem most applicable to particular kinds of innovation, namely those that integrate operations. And what kinds of innovation do this? Surely one class of important systemic innovations comprises major organizational shift. Examples would include the factory mode of production (Leijonhufvud, 1986), the moving assembly line (Hounshell, 1984), refrigerated meat packing (Silver, 1984, pp. 28 - 29), and containerized shipping (Teese, 1986). All of these examples are ultimately process innovation. And one might argue that although process innovation may also proceed in an autonomous way, there are typically advantages to systemic process innovation. For one thing, process innovation is often integrating, requiring the consolidation of several stages of production in a single (usually mechanized) stage. More generally, process innovation is frequently a matter of fine-tuning the production process in the face of steady and predictable growth in demand: learning how to shave time off operations, to eliminate steps, to substitute stamping technology for casting, etc. This class learning - or experience curve effect arguably proceeds faster in an integrated environment in which systemic change is relatively inexpensive." pp. 117 - 118
Systemic innovations, and for that matter the autonomous ones, are very expensive to incorporate within the oil and gas industry. The industry can't change due to the high costs of implementing any innovation. The ability to support the innovations is the objective of this software development proposal. The ability to change is supported through the long term capabilities of this software vendor. The associated costs of change or the "Dynamic Transaction Costs" will be reduced, making these changes not only possible but profitable.
"The extent to which this happens will depend on the relative learning abilities of the firm. If capabilities diffuse easily to the market, we would expect more spinning off and thus less integration with time. If capabilities do not diffuse easily, disintegration will be slowed. Moreover, the firm may be more or less able to learn over time. For example, it may have an R&D lab, or possess a structure and culture conducive to learning. Cohen and Levinthal (1989, 1990a, b) argue that a firms ability to learn is governed by its 'absorptive capacity'." p. 118
External Capabilities

I have noted in my writings that I believe the industry needs to employ the market more effectively. The market for oil and gas will achieve the innovation that is necessary to meet the consumer markets demands for energy. Defining the market operations and JOC as the same thing is the optimal organizational construct for the industry. The firm's role is not diminished in this new perspective. In our module specification the Compliance and Governance Module and the Research Module are the sole domains of the Firm. It is the Governance component of the proposed Compliance and Governance Module that manages the human resources of the JOC's that the Firms have a financial interest in. Deploying these resources in the Military Styled Command and Control manner of effectively managing the capital, operational, revenue and royalty aspects of their JOC's.
"A market form of organization is capable of learning and creating new capabilities, often in a self reinforcing and synergistic way. Marshall describes just such a system when he talks about the benefits of localized industry."
"The mysteries of the trade become no mysteries; but are as it were in the air and children learn many of them unconsciously. good work is rightly appreciated, inventions and improvement in machinery, in processes and the general organization of the business have their merits promptly discussed: if one man starts a new idea, it is taken up by others and combined with suggestions of their own; and thus it becomes the source of further new ideas. And presently subsidiary trades grow up in the neighbourhood, supplying it with implements and materials, organizing its traffic, and in many ways conducing to the economy of its materials. (Marshall, 2961, IV .x.3, p. 271)" p. 120
How I see this happening is the person that is tasked with managing the JOC for company A doesn't literally leave the firm of which he is employed. However, in his / her role of participating with the other seconded designates that participate in the facility. Work to effectively manage the joint assets and optimize the reserves held within. The mechanisms for dealing with almost every situation have been developed as the Cultural Framework of the industry throughout the globe. The AFE's, Mail-Ballots, agreements, operating and accounting procedures, and others, have all been counterpart executed. These documents also provide a tacit framework of whom will be responsible for which and what methods of ensuring accountability are available. It is this organization that is the market. It is this organization that is the business of the energy producer. Yet none of the software applications that are currently operating within the industry explicitly recognize the JOC. They don't recognize its critical role in getting things done. Their perspective is one from an administrator or accounting perspective that may have provided value in the structured hierarchy, however, the only thing those applications support is the structured hierarchy. And as I have said many times before SAP is the bureaucracy.

What I propose is that we recognize the markets, the cultural, financial, legal and operational decision making of the industry and place it firmly in the market. Then with the proposed software that this blog reflects can explicitly recognize the JOC and its associated markets and support them in the mindset that the industry has developed under. This is the business. The person that was seconded to the JOC at Company A still has a role and responsibility in the company. The Compliance and Governance module will maintain the integrity of the business model for the associated stakeholders. The SEC, Tax, Royalty and other groups that the firm, as representing the ownership in many JOC's, must also report to. But there is also an enhanced role in the Firm. One that is a pursuit of the most effective and innovative means of deploying the various scientific developments that are the core of the Firms value creation.
"In this sense, the ability of a large organization to coordinate the implementation of an innovation, which is clearly an advantage in some situations, may be a disadvantage in other ways. Coordination means getting everyone on the same wavelength. But the variation that drives an evolutionary learning system depends on people being on different wavelengths - it depends, in effect, on out-breeding. This is something much more difficult to achieve in a large organization than in a disintegrated system. Indeed, as Cohen and Levinthal (1990a, p. 132) point out, an organization experiencing rapid change ought in effect to emulate a market in its ability to expose to the environment a broad range of knowledge gathering 'receptors'." p. 120
Emulation of a market is what the JOC was designed for from the outset of the development of the energy industry. The patent disregard for any and all manner of how the market has developed is the fault of the software vendors. The moves toward vertical integration and the various compliance demands on a firm has distracted the software developers, whom themselves have a fast developing science of their own, and have adopted the global concept of what a firm is and applied to the energy industry in the same manner as all their other clients.
"Vertical integration, I argued, might be most conducive to systemic, integrative innovation, especially those involving process improvements when demand is high and predictable. By contrast, vertical integration may be less desirable - and may be undesirable - in the case of differentiation or autonomous innovations. Such innovations require less coordination, and vertical integration in such cases may serve only to cut off alternative approaches. Moreover, disintegration might be most beneficial in situations of high uncertainty: situations in which the product is changing rapidly, the characteristics of demand are still unknown, and production is either unproblematical or production costs play a minor role in competition. In such cases the coordinating benefits of vertical integration are far outweighed by the evolutionary benefits of disintegration." pp. 120 - 121
As I have stated before the compliance frameworks that are currently what most people are exposed as the "business" of oil and gas. The purpose of the business is to find and produce oil, not meet the SEC's requirements of... These compliance frameworks have moved to the publication of their business rules and managing their interactions. It is these business rules that are the "things" that software developers should be using to meet the compliance obligation of the producer. The compliance being a natural part of the process of doing the business of the firm and market, as proposed here. And lets not forget the far more complex demands of how the industry moves forward with innovations on its sciences.
"How would learning proceed in a system of decentralized capabilities? As I have already suggested, progress would take place autonomously within the decentralized stages. There would be no need for integration unless a systemic innovation offering superior performance arrives on the scene. Indeed, as we have seen, fixed task boundaries and standardized connections between stages might make innovation difficult with the existing structure, requiring a kind of creative destruction. (Schumpeter, 1950)." p. 121
Markets and Hierarchies

Or what I would like to categorize the energy as "Joint Operating Committees and Producers". If a hierarchy needs to be maintained today, then so be it. There is adequate calls to action and much "noise" that says otherwise. I thankfully was the first to say this and as a result have lived with the consequences of that idea since. As I aspire to secure funding for these developments in the Fall budget cycle of the producers, I expect the hierarchy to fall on its sword and to do the right thing. As time passes, I believe fundamentally that the solutions described here will be built with or without the hierarchy. If the hierarchy expects to have an orderly transition that option is theirs.
"As G. B. Richardson (1972) pointed out some time ago, the easy partition of alternative into markets (relying on price signals) and firms (relying on authority relations or hierarchies) is not a good description of how the world works. In fact, what we see out there is a mixture of modes of ownership and contract. As Imai and Itami (1984) put it, there is typically an 'interpenetration' of organization and market, leading to organization-like markets and market-like organizations as well as the ideal types of pure market and pure hierarchy." p. 122
5. Summary and Conclusions.

The email of this post that I will send to Professor Langlois will contain one word. Wow. This has been a difficult post to write. By far the most difficult of the over 300,000 words on this topic. It is also the most valuable. The tacit understanding of the energy industries development over the past 140 years has been reflected well by Dr. Lanlgois writings. He has also framed this understanding in a usable template for the job ahead.
"I have attempted in this paper to place the theory of the boundaries of the firm within the context of the passage of time. More precisely, I have tried to resurrect and place in a modern frame some of the insights of the classical theory of organization. In the Marshallian long run (correctly understood), transaction costs approach zero, and the boundaries of the firm become irrelevant. Governance costs - the transaction costs of markets and the bureaucratic costs of organizations - are thus short run phenomena." p. 123
The clarity of the thinking of Langlois' document, and the history of the energy industry are remarkable in both of their precision. When the industry is looked through the perspective of the Joint Operating Committee the clarity of thought resonates between Langlios and the industries history.
"One might think that, as governance costs diminish in the long run, the boundaries of the firm would be determined solely by capabilities. But capabilities also change over time as firms - and markets - learn. The classical presumption was that the firms capabilities would diffuse completely to the market in the long run, leading to complete vertical disintegration. This reinforces the point that capabilities are more than a matter of production costs in the neoclassical sense and, more importantly, suggest that the notion of a firms capabilities implies a kind of information or knowledge cost - the cost of transferring the firm's capability to the market (other firms) or vice versa. these costs are a neglected kind of governance cost, which I call 'dynamic' governance costs. These are the costs of transferring capabilities: the costs of persuading, negotiating and coordinating with, and teaching others. These costs arise in the face of change, notably technological and organizational innovation. They are in effect the costs of not having the capabilities you need when you need them." pp. 123 - 124
The quotation above shows me that the transition to a "market" and "firm" structure will incur the "Dynamic Transaction Costs". However, the transition can be done in an orderly fashion. Not a chaotic process as some of my adversaries have claimed.
"In the face of uncertainty and divergent views of the future, common ownership of multiple stages of production is a superior institutional arrangement for coordinating systemic change. This observation is by no means entirely inconsistent with the existing literature. For example, Williamson (1985) stresses the firms superior capacity for adaptive, sequential decision-making in the face of both uncertainty and highly specific assets. I assert, however, that asset-specificity is neither necessary nor sufficient for these dynamic transaction costs to lead to integration. But in cases in which systemic coordination is not the issue, the market may turn out to be the superior learning engine because of its ability to generate rapid trial and error learning." p. 124
There is much to be learned from this. The first will be that I have now effectively changed the "Software Development Process" that is what I referred to as my role in this transition. It is clear to me that the "Dynamic Transaction Costs" that will be incurred in the energy industry will have the components of this software developments costs. And that to call this process anything other then the "Software Development and Learning Process" leaves the real role of this project undiscovered.

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