PDM Interview - Satish Pai

Satish Pai, president of both GeoQuest and the embryonic Schlumberger Information Systems unit (SIS) tells PDM about IndigoPool, a new product “I-GeoFrame” due out next year, BP outsourcing and the OFS Portal initiative.

PDM - Tell us something about your own career with Schlumberger.

Pai – I started with 16 years in the field in Thailand, Brunei and India. In 1992, after four years as a petrophysicst in Abu Dhabi, I became head of personnel with the newly acquired GeoQuest. After couple of years in the CIS I moved to Aberdeen where my involvement in e-business began with the successful bid for the LIFT contract. This Acquisitions and Disposals (A&D) website for the UK was a forerunner of Schlumberger’s world-wide A&D portal, IndigoPool which I presided over until my latest move.

PDM - IndigoPool must have been quite a hard sell within the group?

Pai – Actually Thierry Pilenko (GeoQuest president at the time) was convinced from the outset of the potential. The original LIFT tender was regarded with a bit more suspicion, especially as there was only one other bidder – a small web company. The transition to IndigoPool took place at the height of the e-business boom – there was tremendous enthusiasm.

PDM – Is IndigoPool a kind of dot com within the Schlumberger group? Are you into profit yet?

Pai – We are not yet into profit, we are part of the Schlumberger hierarchy, but we have a lot of freedom. Other more traditional parts of the group generally allow a two to three year period for a new venture to become profitable. We are not trying to ramp up to an IPO! We are building our business steadily. We are especially pleased with the BP-initiated Virtual Prospect. Another significant success was the recent sale by Goldman Sachs of a $750 million company online to Pogo.

PDM – While the top level marketing message speaks of the new tools for enhanced business process and

e-commerce, many users still complain about bugs and inconsistencies in the traditional interpretation software. What are you doing about improving your existing tools?

Pai – We need to do a better job of fixing bugs and are revamping our software engineering process. We are moving from a serial model of development to “extreme” programming where specification, development and testing are all done concurrently.

PDM – We hear (mostly from the new kids on the software block!) that the major vendors’ code is hopelessly out-dated and that it is becoming increasingly hard to enhance and maintain. Do you have plans to re-write your legacy code?

Pai – We will be addressing a lot of such issues in the forthcoming version of GeoFrame – I-GeoFrame and also in new products like SeisClass III. But legacy code remains a huge part of the market.

PDM Tell us more about I-GeoFrame.

Pai – I-GeoFrame is a code name for our next generation products. These will start being released in 2002 and will be Java and C++ developments that leverage the GeoFrame data model.

PDM – You mentioned the BP Aberdeen outsourcing model in your address*. To what extent is this customized to BP’s requirements? Can such an outsourced model be successfully ‘productized’ and marketed to other companies?

Pai – BP is a large company which likes to try out new technologies. We are taking aspects of the BP outsourcing model and building a commercial service. We have a core of standard products that can be customized – unlike the consulting companies that offer different processes to each client! We focus on core competencies as a lever for productivity – the PowerHouse is a good example of this.

PDM – When will we see an integrated software and vendor data offering? When will clients be able to buy a Finder pre-populated with data?

Pai – We are not there yet. We can offer this for a company’s in-house data, but at the present, no one can offer this with any significant degree of drill-down. The relationship with the data vendors – who also market their own data models – obviously comes into this.

PDM – Do you ever regret not buying PetroConsultants when it was up for sale?

Pai – Not really, Schlumberger doesn’t need to buy every company! We prefer to build partnerships with companies like IHS Energy (the company that acquired PetroConsultants) – we are talking to a number of interested players in this field. One issue is that while everyone talked about collaboration during the downturn, now that things are getting better, everybody is too busy. But we have signed significant collaboration initiatives with Veritas and with the partners of the OFS Portal.

PDM – Where is the OFS initiative** now?

Pai – We are putting together a management team and working on standards and catalogues for the procurement of complex services over the internet.

PDM – You mentioned Open Systems in you address* – what is your position with respect to Open Spirit these days?

Pai – We were a founder of Open Spirit and are still extremely aggressive. We are releasing new Open Spirit functionality. GeoFrame can now run OpenWorks applications via the Open Spirit layer. We will be following Open Spirit developments with great attention and will be evaluating usage and performance to see if the technology could be used internally within GeoFrame. Open Spirit remains a seductive concept. Shell and Chevron are still very keen supporters.

*To the GeoQuest Forum - full report in next month’s PDM.

** See PDM Vol. 6 N° 1.

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