Editorial - Why data management is the key to industry future (July 1996)

PDM’s editor Neil McNaughton analyses the state-of -the art in E&P computing and data management and explains why a newsletter is a necessity.

The field of data management has sprung from nowhere to become the most talked about topic in the E&P computing field. Two phenomena have thrust this topic into the limelight. On the one hand, accumulating legacy data has reached the state where something just has to be done: old tapes need remastering, interpretations are rarely correctly archived and paper data, which may still contain mission critical information is often effectively lost to posterity. On the other hand, new data is arriving at an ever increasing rate and personnel levels are down following industry wide restructuring.

 

Standards

The resulting squeeze on geoscientists and IT professionals has led to a profusion of offerings from the standards organizations and the vendor community. This is particularly true in the "dash for standards", which are often announced way before they have been effectively established, and may be utilized by vendors as a marketing tool rather than a real attempt for collaborative data exchange.

It is quite legitimate to doubt the extent to which some vendors are really trying to improve inter-operability in that cross platform or cross vendor data exchange may have unpredictable side effects on market share elsewhere on the product line.

An example of this is the difficulty in swapping seismic data between the two market leading interpretation platforms, and this despite some five years of effort from standards organizations set up to solve exactly this sort of problem.

The PDM will cover the fields of geology, geophysics, reservoir engineering and IT in general and standards organizations both within the E&P community and outside. We take a very broad view of what "data" means; from bits and bytes through the whole gamut of definitions to include knowledge and even, as some would have it, "wisdom".

New technologies are arriving at an alarming rate and must be analyzed from more than just the technical aspect. Currently the Internet is touted as a major revolution in IT and, while this is undoubtedly so, its take-up by E&P companies has been slow, not least because of human resources implications.

In our information and security conscious business, many are reticent to provide enterprise-wide worldwide web access to their staff even when the basic anti-intrusion firewall technology has been put into place. Inevitably some new technologies will look like old technologies rather quickly, with sometimes unfortunate consequences.

 

Scope

The seismic business is currently suffering from this phenomenon as it attempts to come to terms with decades of legacy data recorded on different physical media, with a plethora of formats ("standard" and otherwise) and with a highly variable degree of consistency of reporting and quality control.

We will look outside of the Petroleum business to see what is happening in other industries, to analyze the importance of such developments and to try to help our readers "bet" on winners, or at least to hedge their bets intelligently.

Currently most of the 'high value" information in an oil company is not in the corporate data base. The decision maker is more likely to need to retrieve a Word for Windows document than a seismic trace. Technology for managing this type of information is developing outside of the E&P community. Products such as Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes and a variety of document management tools are available now, and we will be analyzing their suitability for use in our industry.

 

Interpretation systems

We will therefore be following developments in workstation applications particularly as interpretation systems evolve to cater for more and more esoteric functionality. Much of which may be at odds with mundane considerations of the management of data.

Finally, technical choices cannot be divorced from business considerations both of vendors and companies. In this high-tech field, commercial stability is as important as technical excellence.

We will therefore be looking behind the scenes, at vendors' commercial successes and failures, and at the people working in this dynamic and complex field. As oil companies adapt to a changing world and increasingly integrate expenditure on intangibles such as data management into their business plans, we will be discussing current thinking in business process re-engineering and the attempts to analyze the true costs and benefits of this activity.

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