Shell’s ‘Downstream One’ reference data architecture

Paper by Matthew West outlines data infrastructure for Shell’s globalization initiative.

Speaking at the Vega Group’s Integrated Enterprise Architecture Conference in London earlier this year, Shell International’s reference data architecture and standards manager, Matthew West presented a seminal paper on Shell’s downstream information management. The context of West’s presentation is Shell’s ‘Downstream One’ initiative to globalize Shell’s downstream business around a single set of processes and systems. Downstream One aims for more accurate and responsive customer interactions, eliminating errors and rework, reducing costs by eliminating ‘noise’ in business processes and generally to provide ‘proven and simpler’ ways of doing things. Downstream One aims to reduce the number of operational systems by over 90% and to leverage consistent reference data—a critical element of business integration according to West.


Citing a Daratech survey, West broke out the relative cost components of an information system. Software, Hardware and systems integration weigh in at around 10% of overall project cost. Training amounts for another 20%. But the lion’s share—the remaining 50% is accounted for by, you’ve probably guessed, data costs. West then discussed the key contributions to quality data and how companies could self-evaluate their information management in terms of an IM maturity model.

Staged improvement

IM maturity is a measure of the quality of information management in the enterprise. West stressed that ‘you cannot leap from having poor information management to having great information management in one go.’ A staged approach is required with consolidation at each level before moving on. Fortunately, each stage can deliver incremental business benefits. Shell is working towards information nirvana by first putting the IM Landscape infrastructure in place and using it. The next step is to change ‘practices and attitudes’ to enterprise information to assure take-up.


West, using an approach developed by Data Warehouse guru Larry English, outlined the different stages of IM maturity. Nirvana, the level at which Shell is or will be a world leader, supposes that management regards IM as an essential part of the enterprise. Change management processes would be in place and the enterprise architecture routinely used to address information quality issues as they arise. West outlines Shell’s roadmap to IM nirvana through ‘recognizing, specifying, managing and on to optimizing.’ Key enablers in the process are reference data, the corporate data model, data quality and standards. For West, IM maturity is a powerful tool to assess where you are and what you need to do next in building your information management landscape. Enterprise Architecture is a key part of the information management landscape required to improve information quality.

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