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Shell appoints former CISO as new Group CIO

Shell is appointing Robbert Van Rutten as its new group CIO, effective July 1, 2023

The appointment comes after veteran Jay Crotts announced that he was stepping down after a 37-year career at the energy supermajor, which has involved responsibility for the IT Function globally since 2015.

New Shell Group CIO Robbert Van Rutten is currently CIO for the company’s downstream operations and has previously served as CISO and VP for information risk management, among other roles since 1998. He has been part of Shell's Information, Digital and Technology (IDT) Executive Leadership team since 2016.

Outgoing Global CIO Jay Crotts said in a LinkedIn post: “Reflecting on my journey – which started in 1986 (the same year IBM launched the first laptop computer) – I find it incredible how much things have changed. Technology has developed so quickly and the pace continues to increase; I can’t wait to see what comes next!”

“I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my journey with some amazing colleagues, many of whom have become good friends over the years, and I know we will remain in touch.  However, it’s my family I’d like to thank the most. I didn’t build my career alone and I could not have done it without their unwavering support, love and encouragement. I’m extremely proud to pass the baton on to my friend and colleague, Robbert Van Rutten.”

“I know he will do an outstanding job in his role as Shell CIO.”

Shell appoints Robert Van Rutten new Global CIO 

Shell’s group CIO oversees a corporate IT estate that includes a huge array of systems and colossal amounts of data. The company’s land seismic surveys alone are over 20PB. (To give a sense of the scale, data shared for an open source project by Norway’s Equinor – about the small and retired Volve field – consisted of 40,000 files.)

The company also has hundreds of AI applications in various stages of development and deployment across its businesses, a data lake with trillions of rows of data, and monitors thousands of pieces of equipment using machine learning across assets in upstream and downstream for manufacturing and integrated gas.

Like most organisations at this scale it has gone through a significant digital transformation in recent years, one that has come with corresponding changes in how it approaches technology leadership. As incoming Shell Group CIO Van Rutten said in a 2022 interview: "I think the role of the CIO has significantly changed.

"To give you a few examples I think five, six, seven, years ago I think we were developing IT strategies; currently we are developing business strategies that are digitally enabled. We used to be focused on cost and efficiency; currently we are focused on value creation. We used to be asking for a seat at the table...focused on automation of processes and I think currently we're focusing on reimaging the company to drive transformation."

Van Rutten added "We see [an increasing] level of maturity in the business where product owners in the business have a really good understanding in terms of what the outcomes are that we're trying to achieve; we then compare up in digital with product managers and product development... that type of delivery it's not as mature everywhere in the business and in some areas we probably still lean for a waterfall approach, but more and more we see product-type delivery where the business takes ownership of product vision and objectives."

Among Shell’s recent major IT programmes has been the migration of its Subsurface Data Universe (SDU) onto AWS, with the migration using the open standards based Open Subsurface Data Universe OSDU Data Platform.

Some of the data categories in the OSDU standards.

Shell said in 2022: “With cloud-based computing, Shell aims to accelerate our journey in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and increase cross-disciplinary collaboration to enable us to be faster in getting more value out of our data and to make correlations that could never have been dreamed of with traditional methods. This migration is designed to promote integration across all technical disciplines, help optimise business decisions and enable us to replace more than 25 legacy databases. we realised the problems we were solving were not unique to us.”

The company said that cloud-based data and workflows offer it, quote:

  1. Better and faster capital investment decisions;
  2. Asset teams can more easily optimise the operational performance of existing fields;
  3. [Help] find bypassed zones in existing reservoirs; and
  4. Interpretation teams [can be] more efficient and effective as they can concentrate on high-value activities rather than mundane aspects such as transferring and version checking of data.

Running IT at this scale is no mean feat. As Shell notes in the risk section of its annual report:Our continued focus on digitalising our business processes, and our increasing dependence on information technology (IT) systems for our core operations mean that we are heavily reliant on secure, affordable and resilient IT services.

“Externally, we observe several dynamics impacting our IT and cyber risk profile: deterioration of the cyber security threat landscape represented by increasing volumes of attacks and sophisticated cyber actors, geopolitical conflicts and increases in regulations across the markets in which Shell operates. We have observed an increase in social engineering (manipulation of individuals) as a method of financially driven cybercrime. Threat actors are targeting bank account changes, invoice settlement and identity fraud to extract money from corporations. Ransomware attacks on corporations continue to be widespread” Shell said.

Robbert Van Rutten takes over as Group CIO under a new CEO, Wael Sawan; chief executive as of January 2023.

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