Everyday is Different Part 4: Onsite Project Delivery in West Africa

Welcome to Part 4 of a 5 part series of blogs by Sarah Davis - Service Delivery Manager at TouchstoneEnergy.

In this series Sarah will walk you through the journey of a new project manager at TouchstoneEnergy and their experiences onsite at their first international project: Delivering a new finance system for an Oil and Gas company based in West Africa.

A jungle ‘working' party and Just how far would you go in search of a bathroom?

I have to admit to being slightly exhausted by the hilarity of the past few days and looking forward to a ‘day off' – although those of you familiar with this type of trip will know that you don't really ever get a ‘day off'. It was not, unfortunately, to be as the Independence Day(s) have left us a bit behind schedule. The compromise is to work Saturday morning in the office in preparation for tomorrow's Jungle adventure. Slightly tired / confused, I hear ‘we have organised for you a message'. A message – in a bottle / you are going home early message / your flight has been cancelled (again) message? None of the above – the message turned out to be a full hour massage lost in translation.

No-show from the driver means that work starts late – he didn't get the message that we were working the weekend! Our multinational tour group for tomorrow now extends to French, English, Dartford(ish), Chinese & Gabonese.

The ‘message' was very welcome and for a whole hour I could have been anywhere on earth. Later on we even managed a couple of hours by the beach in the rain, surprisingly relaxing. Early dinner and early night – on our version of the itinerary for tomorrow there is a 5am pickup for a 6.15am take-off. Stylishly attired in red boiler suits, safety boots & safety helmets, we make our way to the airport ‘briefing' room. Our pilot and tour guide for the day is a retired Air Canada guy, ably assisted by a lone ‘air steward'. Both are great fun, but neither of them speaks French (or Chinese). I so wish I could publish the cast-list, sadly etiquette and a sense that no-one would believe me preclude me from doing so. If we ever meet, please feel free to ask – it is unlikely you will believe me - but it will be worth a good laugh over a G&T. So our Project Managers, Consultant, in-Country GM and various other staff board the (very tiny) plane. Our itinerary features a brief stop in Libreville to collect some visitors who arrived from Beijing overnight. Safely on the tarmac in Libreville, we easily spot our remaining passengers. There is some confusion over whether they board the plane before or after their bags have cleared security. Another valuable lesson is learned here – keep it simple. Little do we know, but we are about to learn another valuable lesson – this one being ‘make sure you version control your documentation' (in this case the passenger manifest). Somewhere along the line, we have managed to leave 2 fairly important colleagues behind in Port Gentil – they had a different version of the manifest with a completely revised departure time. Did I mention the tiny plane? That tiny plane is not equipped with ‘facilities'. Being unable / unwilling to wait any longer, I am directed out through the arrivals hall and through a very empty security zone – no burly security guard ensuring I don't smuggle anything in my boiler suit, apparently I can be trusted to make this particular journey by myself. Can't imagine that happening at Heathrow can you! M – no bottles of water were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Back on board with almost a full complement of passengers, we make the return trip to Port Gentil to make that a full complement. So now you know the answer to the question asked in the title.

Was it all worth it – in my opinion, yes it was. It was an amazing and informative day. We got to see the workings of the production facility up really close – at times a shade too close. Between the site manager and me; we managed French / English translations for the Chinese interpreter. We will never know how much was lost in translation – but we do know that several hundred photos were taken.

The building to the left of the flare is one of only a few ladies' powder rooms on site. No need for central heating.

Our day was supposed to end with a mini safari trip down the river in a ‘pirogue' but the weather is closing in making the pilots nervous that we won't make it out. Not wanting to spend the night in a portacabin in the red boiler suit, we agree to a quick drive down to the river before heading home. I think we are all surprised to see that the English Premier League is followed by the locals…. See here for evidence – although I am not completely certain that Mr Giggs would appreciate the colour of the oil drum.

The on-site team did everything they could to make us welcome, and my presentation was attended by a fairly large audience. It was encouraging to see the on-site team using the applications to raise requisitions and track deliveries. The proposed new developments will help to deliver an even greater level of control, whilst taking into account the fact these guys need maximum flexibility in order to keep the site running. We got some very useful face-to-face feedback and it was proud moment to see our systems being used live in the African Jungle over a satellite.

You will be delighted to hear that there was no unscheduled stop in Libreville on the return journey and we arrived back in POG in one piece, if a little jaded. Good night.

Next – a right royal lunch invitation and a rather bumpy landing…

Stay tuned for the final installment of Everyday is Different...

Sarah is an experienced IT professional with particular skills in the design and implementation of finance and procurement systems. As Service Delivery Manager of TouchstoneEnergy she is responsible for bringing together our specialist and highly skilled consultancy services team and project managers.

TouchstoneEnergy is a global business systems and IT consultancy specialising in the delivery of software solutions, ongoing support and managed services to the energy sector. You can find out more about them at their websites: https://www.touchstoneenergy.co.uk/ and https://www.touchstoneenergyusa.com/

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