Data Managers polled in S&A Survey (January 1999)

Helen Stephenson, Director of Stephenson and Associates (S&A) presented the results of a survey that S&A carried out recently at the SMI Data Management conference in London. Helen has kindly supplied this resume of the results of the survey, which offers some interesting metrics on the current status of data management in E&P.

My company is actively involved in upstream data management throughout the world and consequently, as with most of you, the health of the data management business is of prime concern. In January 1998 I was asked to give a paper at the SMI data management conference discussing why the then current climate favored data management and what companies could do to take advantage of the situation. When asked to give an update at the 1999 conference, we decided to take a rain check on data management activity and intentions throughout the industry and in January this year polled 19 companies in Europe, the USA and Australia. We received replies from 14 companies which was quite an honorable turnout. Replies all came from data management specialists, so they do represent the current and likely future state of play in the companies surveyed.


In the survey we asked about progress with regard to a number of specific data management activities, differences in data management resources and budgets between 1998 and 1999, and principal projects undertaken in 1998 and planned for 1999. We also looked at factors that were currently enabling or constraining data management progress. We found that a large majority of our respondents had defined their objectives in data management, although such objectives in most cases had been set out relatively recently. We then asked companies whether they had instigated any measurement of their achievement of these objectives. Approximately one third of the sample were monitoring their progress, with another third intending to do so. Standards figured high in the data managers’ priorities.


Over half enforced at least some standards, procedures and processes, with nearly all the remainder planning, or implementing these. Only 10% of the sample had no policy on standards. We also looked at who does what in the data management field, first by checking whether there was any attempt to define roles and responsibilities. 66% had defined roles, 5% had no role definition, with the rest in various stages of planning. A similar picture emerges for the actual assignation of responsibility; two thirds have formally assigned data management responsibilities. Looking further into who was actually doing the data management we found the roles distributed as follows;

Finally we looked into resource allocation forecasts for 1999 and found that over half of the sample will be devoting less resources to data management in 1999 over the previous year.

The reasons for the changes were cited as follows:

The bottom five categories were cited as reasons for decline and the top four as positive factors where resources would stay the same or increase. A similar picture emerged for data management budgets, which are generally forecast as down on 1999. I’d like to summarize the results of our findings. There’s good news and bad news.

Bad news

Lack of interest at the middle management level.

Shortage of qualified/experienced people.

Regional budget cuts and limited resources.

Low oil price affecting data management benefits and disrupting current projects.

Rate of technology change.

Awareness of the importance of data management at ground level, not matched by management willingness to supply resources to tackle the problem.

Good news

Top level management convinced of requirement for data management effort and expenditure.

Data being treated as an asset.

Operating companies have separate budgets.

Objective is to integrate all data types.

Web and GIS access to data stores.

CD, and soon DVD, technology at the desktop.

Enhanced inventories of on-line and archived data have reduced the time required to find data.

In the survey, we also asked for a time line as to when each stage of planning or implementing data management activity had been initiated. A small but significant trend was observable in so far as most of the work started in 1992, the heyday of data management was 1997, with a small decline in the numbers for 1998. We suspect that this reflects renewed short-termism in the industry rather than a job completed! The full results of our survey are available on the Stephenson and Associates website at

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