PDM Interview, John Wilson Landmark Graphics Corp.

John Wilson, Landmark group VP for marketing tells PDM how the Technical to Business (T2B) initiative is progressing, and how application and data service provision are to integrate Landmark’s information management offering.

John Wilson began his career with Schlumberger – as a wireline engineer in SE Asia. Subsequent work with reservoir engineering consultants SSI and Sierra Geophysical preceded his joining Landmark in 1994. He was appointed group VP marketing last year.

PDM Landmark’s software has grown by acquisition of Geographix, Teras and many others, yet the integration of all these is still very partial. Will you ever get there?

Wilson – Integration is a journey not a destination. I remember the enthusiasm that greeted our first demonstration of G&G integration in 1994 – we showed a geological cross section on a seismic backdrop. It was mind-blowing! Of course, today, end users complain because ‘complete’ integration is still not there. But we feel our Technical to Business (T2B) initiative goes a long way to offering a new level of integration.

PDM – But isn’t T2B another example of an unrealizable goal?

Wilson – not at all. Take our work with Burlington for example. We have customized our software to take data from 23,000 wells into a production allocation system built from TOW components, and from there into SAP. This system allows for monthly reporting, cuts checks, bills partners. Currently this is achieved by a file transfer from TOW into SAP, but it will evolve into a real time system, with integrated databases. This workflow encompasses Aries, Teras, Tow and DSS. Marathon’s Renaissance project is also a move away from ASCII file transfer, to an integration of Tow and SAP through master file synchronization. This ensures single, one-time data entry. Marathon has bought into this ‘bigger vision’ - to the tune of $1 million – incorporating TOW, DIMS etc. Our Development Scenario Analysis, currently in beta test with Statoil and BP is also relevant in this context. DSA evaluates options for oilfield development, performs project economics with Aries, Tow and our G&G software. We look at customers’ projects and identify ‘go - no go’ decision points. Teras contributes stochastic economics, notably from the Teras ‘cockpit’ - supported by the ‘uncertainty collator’ which collects statistical data from applications. This is web-based so that applications can reside in different locations. Landmark has also just acquired the software assets of Exprodat for $ 1.66 million and here again there will be more activity around data management and other facets of T2B.

PDM – Although the top brass pitch is full of T2B, on the shop floor, we still hear complains of poor ergonomics and buggy software. Bob Peebler referred to fixing these as ‘gardening’ in a previous interview. How is the gardening going today?

Wilson – We have very significant expenditure on supporting existing products, but it is surprising how little functionality of some applications is really used. We are in touch with the market, we continually strive to innovate – it can be a trap to put too much effort into maintenance. We have spent a lot of time looking into customer needs and have built our business on being visionaries. Landmark leads where others follow! The end users are our constituency, we have to keep them happy! In fact we spend what I think is a disproportionate amount of our effort tracing Operating System versions, Oracle releases and other embedded software changes.

PDM What of ASP?

Wilson – ASP and DSP* is a complex problem which necessitates clients reengineering their business. Our current software release is ASP-ready (except for EarthCube) and this should reduce infrastructure costs. We plan to leverage such technology to move our software from ‘just in case’ functionality to ‘just in time.’ We are re-inventing Landmark’s IM systems and ASP and DSP will be components of the new offering.

PDM But if ASP is to lower the cost of software to end users, this will make for less money for innovation and development.

Wilson – We see two ASP value propositions – it offers timely delivery of applications and data, and supports virtual teamwork. This could all be deployed internally. Take BP for example – where virtual teams link operations in Brazil to experts in Sunbury.

PDM So this is a different ASP from the GeoNet model?

Wilson – We could go through an external provider but at the present time we do not, because our customers have not asked for it. Our ASP provision exists within our clients companies.

PDM How do you sell your software – as supporting cost savings or as leveraging business processes?

Wilson – There are indeed two marketing paradigms – cost avoidance and value creation. We are successful in selling value creation to the top brass in an oil company, but at the operational level – the people with the checkbooks, we still have to demonstrate savings.

PDM What of the new kids on the block who claim that the incumbents’ code is hopelessly outdated?

Wilson – We are reacting to this and moving our code to platform independent Java and web-based middleware. Our Decision Space product will benefit from a more modern infrastructure. We are also working on a re-write of our legacy code. Our Release 2003 (which will be released to manufacturing Q2/Q3 2001) is planned with a long shelf life – to give our customers time to adapt. The migration process has been likened to open heart surgery – we are working on tools to make it simpler.

*ASP - Application Service Provision, DSP - Data Service Provision

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