Data Management: the key to the future of Digitalisation in Oil and Gas – Part 1

The last 12 months have seen accelerating change in the oil and gas industry; some of it very positive, some of it very challenging. In the first article of a 2-part deep-dive, Gareth Smith, Head of Consulting, and Neale Stidolph, Head of Information Management at Phusion partners Sword IT Solutions explore how to unlock digitalisation value via their top 5 data and information management themes in oil and gas, from both the engineering and subsurface perspectives.

Digitalisation needs data; needs data management

To make serious progress around strategic digitalisation initiatives, we must first sort out our data. And that requires solid data management, not just a bit of data munging to support proof of concepts and pilot projects. Data is now seen as a key business enabler (asset, even!) whereas in the past it was often seen as a by-product to be stuffed in a cupboard.

Asset transfers and the crucial role of data

Poor data reduces effectiveness and causes delays or misleads, adding cost. This is even more pressing when operators move assets through mergers and acquisitions. Businesses are importing a data-debt when it could be flipped into a vital means of creating value. Lean and smart decision-making requiring fewer people, less risk and increased safety is surely everyone’s goal. Getting a grip of the information that helps you today will also help increase the asset value in any future due diligence or transfer.

Governance is making a comeback

After a long period of relative dormancy, data governance seems to be back in the spotlight. We believe it’s at the root of many of the challenges we’ve seen in recent years in our efforts to digitally transform. There’s a growing realisation that there needs to be a solid framework around data management to make it work. It seems we can’t just dump it all in a data lake and hope for the best.

Stuck at the ‘proof of concept’ (PoC) chasm

We have seen many presentations of great looking digital PoCs but very few examples of real, high-impact operational deployments. This may have something to do with a lack of solid underlying data management: it’s relatively easy to bring together a data set to support a PoC but it’s a different matter scaling this up to support the messy reality of operational data. And this failure to translate PoCs to operational deployment might explain the next challenge we explore.

Dropping down the digitalisation hype curve

There’s a feeling that we’re starting to drop down from the peak of the digitalisation hype cycle to something approaching a more realistic view of things. The question people increasingly ask now when presented with funky new digitalisation stuff is “prove it works”. They want to see solid examples of real value, not just a PowerPoint promise. In general, the hyperbole is moderating and expectations are beginning to be dialed back a bit. This comes very much into focus when an existing way of working is not viable through new constraints, so it is not a matter of ‘should we change’ but ‘how do we get this done?’

In the context of our current lockdown situation, the digitalisation focus has honed-in more than ever towards how we keep assets up and running as remotely and efficiently as possible, however it also serves to emphasise the importantce of the quality of data and value of information.

In part 2 we will continue to explore the second half of our top 10 data management themes that we see transforming the industry to unlock the value promised via digitalisation.

Co-authored by Gareth Smith, Head of Consulting, and Neale Stidolph, Head of Information Management, Sword IT Solutions