Despite current lower crude oil prices, most companies in the oil and gas industry plan to invest the same amount or more in digital technologies, according to a new survey by Accenture Plc (NYSE:ACN) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) released at the Microsoft Global Energy Forum 2015. Survey respondents included international oil companies (IOCs), national oil companies (NOCs), independents and oilfield services firms.

In the near term during the current low crude price cycle, approximately three out of five respondents said they plan to invest the same amount (32 percent) or more or significantly more (25 percent) in digital technologies.

Over the next three to five years, approximately 80 percent of the oil and gas industry professionals surveyed said they plan to invest the same amount (18 percent), more (44 percent) or significantly more (18 percent) in digital. Respondents from IOCs and NOCs were the most bullish in the same time period.

Mobility, infrastructure and collaboration technologies currently represent the biggest investment areas across the oil and gas industry. Over the next three to five years, investments are expected to increase in big data and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and automation.

The key for continued digital investment in the upstream sector is improving operational efficiency, rather than simply reducing cost, as faster, more informed decision making and a more efficient workforce were seen as the key areas where digital technologies are adding value and creating business efficiencies. However, to get the most value from digital technologies, oil and gas industry leaders say they need to overcome several barriers, with workflows and processes that create bottlenecks and physical and cybersecurity issues topping the list.

Approximately 89 percent noted that leveraging more analytics capabilities would add more business value, 90 percent felt more mobile technologies in the field would increase value, and 86 percent said that leveraging more IIoT and automation would boost value. Collaboration technologies were highlighted as an area that could be increasingly used in upstream to create a more efficient workforce and to make faster decisions.

“Oil and gas industry leaders continue to look to digital technologies as a way to address some of the key challenges the industry faces today in this lower crude oil price cycle,” said Rich Holsman, global head of digital in Accenture’s energy industry group. “Making the most of big data, IIoT and automation are indeed the next big opportunities for energy and oilfield services companies, and many are already starting work in these areas. They are increasing investments in enabling people and assets, with a growing emphasis on developing data supply chains to support analytics projects that can improve efficiencies, manage cost and provide a competitive edge. Our survey tells us that companies who do not continue to invest in digital technologies risk being left behind.”

“Mobility and other digital technologies are gaining traction as oil and gas players learn to use these technologies to make faster and better decisions from the field to the front office,” said Craig Hodges, general manager of the Gulf Coast District at Microsoft. “Predictive capabilities to optimize maintenance and maximize production can create value, and digital technologies also support better use of scarce resources and talent, management of more complex work, cost reduction efforts and innovation to remain competitive and continue operating safely.”

The Microsoft and Accenture “Oil and Gas Digital and Technology Trends Survey 2015,” conducted by PennEnergy Research in partnership with the Oil & Gas Journal, surveyed industry professionals worldwide, including engineers, geologists and mid-level and executive management from the upstream, midstream and downstream segments. (Original Source)

Shares of Microsoft closed yesterday at $42.635 . MSFT has a 1-year high of $50.05 and a 1-year low of $38.51. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $41.91 and its 200-day moving average is $44.61.

On the ratings front, Microsoft has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report released yesterday, Merrill Lynch analyst Kash Rangan maintained a Sell rating on MSFT, with a price target of $39, which represents a potential downside of 8.5% from where the stock is currently trading. Separately, on April 15, Wedbush’s Betsy Van Hees upgraded the stock to Buy .

According to, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Kash Rangan and Betsy Van Hees have a total average return of 6.7% and 19.3% respectively. Rangan has a success rate of 62.1% and is ranked #972 out of 3577 analysts, while Hees has a success rate of 60.3% and is ranked #221.

The street is mostly Bullish on MSFT stock. Out of 22 analysts who cover the stock, 11 suggest a Buy rating , 8 suggest a Hold and 3 recommend to Sell the stock. The 12-month average price target assigned to the stock is $47.21, which implies an upside of 10.7% from current levels.