There is a growing trend toward collaborative relationships between traditional operating companies and major service companies, either for specific projects, or in the guise of longer-term technical partnerships. Often these relationships are characterized as a vehicle for transferring technology and sharing best practices. Clearly defining expectations and success criteria for all parties is essential, but not always straightforward. Issues related to job security, competence, and internal competition often arise, which can cause such projects to fail if not recognized and managed. This paper describes a process to establish and maintain collaborative relationships, improving the prospects of success.


Collaborative relationships between operators and major service companies may be formed for a variety of reasons. The drivers common to the operating companies differ from those of the service companies as shown in the following two lists.

Operator drivers:

  • To complement the resources of national oil companies. Collaboration provides access to the diversity of experience gained by the service company in international operations.

  • To accelerate understanding of applicable technologies, as well as help with cultural and logistic factors when entering new international markets where there is an established presence of service companies.

  • To share project risk with the service company.

  • To staff projects when in-house technical personnel resources are insufficient.

Service company drivers:

  • To establish a long-term differentiated relationship, and secure a market for services.

  • To showcase the value of applied technology, and accelerate the introduction of new technology.

  • To improve return on assets through better planning and resource management.

  • To share in the value generated through the appropriate application of technology or best practices.

  • To leverage the value of a long-term presence and cultural integration in particular geographic areas.

A successful relationship is designed to create value for both parties through the alignment of project goals and their subsequent delivery.

To move from the traditional "call-off" contract relationship to a collaborative relationship requires appropriate management. Should collaborative management not be achieved, the perceptions of each party can differ, and ultimately, the same project may be deemed a success or failure depending on the individual viewpoint.

Projects and alliances can be extremely diverse in scope and objectives, and the respective role of operator and service company can be equally varied. This complexity dictates that there is no single formula for success. However, there are some basic principles that are common to the design and execution of successful projects. Through experience, certain key management tools have been found to be effective. These tools and examples of their use in projects are presented here.

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