OGUK Study of oil and gas data professionals

RGU-authored report finds that data managers are satisfied with their own competencies but that data issues challenge management. An ‘ever growing range of skills’ is required to work in data in the oil and gas industry as AI/ML and other digitalization tropes push geoscience aside.

A new 40 page report from OGUK, The impact of digitalization on data professionals, authored by a team from Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, highlights the ‘ever growing range of skills required to work in data in the oil and gas industry, and the challenge of finding all these skills in one individual’. The report is described as a ‘first step towards a digital skills agenda for data professionals’.

RGU makes the unsurprising observation that ‘data and digital skills are critical to the oil and gas industry’. It has a little more trouble with a definition of ‘digitalization’ itself although this, even though it, and the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ are ‘redefining the data profession’. Digitalization comes in two flavors, as a) ‘the revision of existing workflows to utilize emerging tools that enable faster, more comprehensive and higher quality outputs, often using automation’, and/or b) the ‘complete transformation of old workflows where the emerging tools offer such a different way of reaching goals that the new workflows are fundamentally different’. The latter overlaps with the ‘cyber-physical systems of Industry 4.0’ and is where most ‘high-profile digital business efforts are located’.

The study embodies the findings of a survey of 76 individuals and nine interviewees. The ‘self-reported’ results tend to show that the data managers mark their own homework highly. 50% or more claim ‘good to excellent’ competency in the understanding of data-related issues and in understanding the data lifecycle. So what is wrong with the status quo?

Seemingly ‘increasing data fluency and data dependency within organizations are challenging established organization and leadership models’ and data professionals are unsure that their data and digital skills will be adequate to address these new challenges. ‘Half of those surveyed did not anticipate support from their employer to keep their skills up to date’. The report suggests that ‘digitalization [ should be ] a fundamental element of training and skills development for all staff, rather than something that is delivered by a project team, or encountered on a piecemeal basis’.

The study concludes with a succinct graphical digital skills roadmap, illustrated with a neat ternary diagram with ‘data scientists’, ‘data managers’ and ‘data users’ at its apexes. While the roadmap claims to ‘signpost the way forward’, finding ones way around the triangle could prove hard.

Comment: This conclusion, based on a rather nebulous definition of ‘digitalization’ stems from perhaps a too literal reading of the output of the IT consultants. Oil country data managers do need to be jacks of all trades. Education in subjects on the periphery of data management is important, but this needs to include the business of geoscience and engineering as much as, if not more than, the latest IT trends. RGU’s researchers cite Deloitte, the World Economic Forum, the International Energy Agency, OPITO and many SPE authors but seem oblivious to the body of knowledge that has emanated over the past decades from the PESGB’s data management SIG, and from conferences on oil and gas data management organized by PNEC, ECIM, SMi and others. All the stuff in fact that Oil IT Journal (formerly Petroleum Data Manager) has reported on for the last 25 years. And, no, Oil IT Journal did not get any citations either!

This article originally appeared in Oil IT Journal 2021 Issue # 4.

For more information or to comment on this topic email here.