Standards leadership?

The great and good of the oil and gas standards world gathered in Houston recently. But what are they actually going to do to square the IT circle of competing, overlapping data protocols?

Chevron’s Jim Crompton likened the inaugural meeting of the Standards leadership council (SLC) to the handshake between Queen Elizabeth II and former IRA chief Martin McGuinness! For Crompton, the meeting of the nine constituent bodies potentially heralds twenty years of standards peace.

BP’s Rusty Foreman thinks that standards are increasingly important in today’s digital business. But while standards development is a high priority, the landscape is hard to understand and there is a risk of duplication.

Halliburton’s Dave Savelle offered a nuanced view of past efforts. Standards succeed when they help automate or augment an existing business process, when their business value is clear and when they are perceived as open and neutral. For Savelle, SCADA/OPC and WITS are successful standards. Both evolved from proprietary technologies and are easy to deploy. The PIDX eInvoice was also successful and timely, with the advent of ‘game-changing’ B2B technology and ERP systems.

Savelle cited Epicentre, Wime and the Global unique well identifier as having failed because no clear business problem was being solved. Vendors saw these as an attempt to commoditize what were really differentiating technologies. Their scope crept and technology came to dominate business requirements. They were also wrongly perceived by sponsors as ‘too big to fail!’ Savelle asked, ‘Is Witsml a successful standard?’ Witsml ticks most of the boxes above but so far has failed to meet the acid test of a good standard—adoption.

Comment—With due respect to this illustrious assembly, a little humility may be needed as it confronts the herculean task of tying together so many radically different standards. Realism suggests that the likelihood of the upstream impacting say the OGC or OPC specs—which both serve much larger communities—is minimal. Another issue is that standards rely on such diverse technologies—XML, database, ‘semantics,’ not to mention Word documents and CSV/ascii files. Industry would benefit from clarification here. It might also be a good idea to re-visit what problem the SLC is trying to solve. Is the quickest route from well to ERP really a ‘standard of standards?’ One outcome from a future SLC meeting might be a clear statement that such and such a standard or whole technology was to be deprecated and eventually abandoned.

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