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Insiders Perspective on Shell VP Arjen Dorland

Royal Dutch Shell VP Arjen Dorland

Royal Dutch Shell VP Arjen Dorland

One of few respected IT-illuminati, shortly before he retired, suggested that Dorland was a bit of an animal if not held on a tight leash…

From a Shell Source

Amusing to see Arjen Dorland extolling the virtues of technological enablement of exploration within Shell especially given his limited engagement with and knowledge of this part of the business. One suggests that there is an ulterior motive here and one worth going through in detail. It’s been noted on here previously how Arjen Dorland first rose without trace at the start of the millennium in the battered Shell IT organisation, having originally been identified as a JG 1-2 maximum level employee (the Shell system, as we all know, sets CEP levels for all its staff and this system is rigorously enforced by the myriad HR managers that Shell homes and encourages). He remains to this day intensely bitter about that initial positioning and it explains his character and motivation to a ‘T’.

Anyway, he was responsible at this time, albeit somewhat in copycat mode, for the European IT/SAP implementations in Downstream. Some of these were quite laughable: for instance the system that SDO (Shell in Germany) adopted after they acquired DEA in 2002 was actually a retrograde version of the system that DEA had been running for some years. Nonetheless, the march to paper the world with SAP outputs continued apace, driven mainly by Alan Matula, then just the IT Director for Chemicals and a bystander in the IT hierarchy. The main player in the background here was in fact Accenture, who were trying to penetrate Shell and get large scale implementation contracts going.

Of course, around this time the reserves scandal hit and we all know what that did to the C-Level suite in Shell as Watts et al. departed. In comes Jeroen van der Veer and lo and behold, Dorland is suddenly made up to a senior role as CIO for the Global Functions area: this was in effect all the bits of the business that no-one wanted to support (e.g. Finance, HR and the rest). Why…? One can only surmise the fact that Dorland was the IT manager at Pernis when van der Veer was the Refinery Manager had something to do with it, plus formation of a little Dutch mafia (never seen one of those before!) in this area as the Dutch were squeezed out of senior positions by British and Americans. There was in fact a far better and more able Dutch guy in the Gas and Power set-up at that time – in the days when Linda Cook was plausible and G&P was a separate business – but he was made to report to Dorland. That was never going to work out or add value as it just made Dorland look dumb.

Anyway, Dorland was desperate to make an impression and prove his earlier manager wrong so tried to kick off a raft of SAP-like implementations to match those that Matula, now in place as the CIO for Downstream and Dorland’s former boss, was rolling out under the GSAP master plan (and see where that ended up!). Dorland was limited – and those who know him will understand that limited applies in several senses, not least his interpersonal skills – by the mixed bag portfolio he had to hand and the only way he could get any credit was to do G-SAP copy for Finance as the HR system, bloated and wasteful though it was, was already almost done and dusted, way over budget.

This wondrous idea was called S-ERP (Services ERP) and was really again the brainchild of Accenture with Dorland being the tail that was being wagged by the Accenture dog. Several reviews suggested that this project was a nonsense and that the emerging pattern of failing large SAP implementations – HR, G-SAP and the parallel EP version – meant that doing one for the complex and disparate Finance organisation was nonsense. Doug Groves was brought in from Downstream as technical lead from the business and a Dutch HR-SAP manager was bumped to letter grade to programme manage the fiasco. No surprise again, Dorland has never worked outside of Holland in 25 plus years at Shell.

Nonetheless off this project went… and of course it rapidly crashed and burned when it became apparent that the need was not there and that certain parts of the ‘One Shell’ that van der Veer tried to create were in fact light years ahead of the rest of the organisation. For example, the US tax systems were already doing what Europe could only dream about but Dorland and his crew refused to even countenance that the system they saw as their ticket to the stars was already out there.

Probably the clearest indication of this can be seen where people ended up. Dorland never got the CIO job that Matula has nailed down for the last ten years after they booted Mike Rose out, despite the fact that the subsequent CEO, Peter Voser, had even been his primary client when he was CFO! Dorland was instead palmed off with the Downstream CIO role but with the G-SAP fiasco on his plate and less able to rely on his Accenture ‘support’ that did not end well. He’s approaching retirement now and largely out to grass: one guesses that this appearance in the press is actually his was of announcing that he is available for hire when he hits sixty next year. Given that Doug Groves has been with Accenture now for years – yes, what a surprise! – it will be interesting to see whether they are as keen to take Dorland on when his supposed access to the top floor at Shell is finally removed. One of few respected IT-illuminati, shortly before he retired, suggested that Dorland was a bit of an animal if not held on a tight leash and one doubts Accenture would risk that in the current market.


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