Letters to the editor—re data management ‘professionalization’

In response to last month’s editorial, Gareth Smith (Exprodat) argues the special cases of GIS and legacy data and Gary Arthur Lundeen (Westheimer) is sympathetic to the professionalization cause.

From Gareth Smith, MD Exprodat Consulting

A great article, and it was interesting to go back to your original 1996 piece and think how little has changed. One key issue is that E&P companies are still battling with legacy data and this is awfully hard to automate. It requires painstaking analysis and a level of domain skills that are largely lacking in the E&P DM field. One of our associates has been doing some work for a mid-size E&P company on seismic survey metadata and entitlements. This requires an eye for detail and good domain knowledge and it has proved a struggle for the company to absorb this data and manage it point-forward.

I think you’re absolutely right—people need to be taken out of the equation as much as possible. I can never see E&P DM being the career of choice for bright young graduates. Maybe the focus should be less on legacy, more on point forward. Legacy seems to drive many E&P DM strategies and this perhaps leads to the people focus.

In our world (spatial), the limited number of formats, de facto Esri standards and stronger open standards efforts make automation easier. There is a move towards web services as the integration method of choice. Both within GIS and between GIS and E&P applications. Spatial certainly appears to be ahead of mainline E&P data.


From Gary Arthur Lundeen, president Westheimer Energy Consultants

Regarding your May editorial, the lack of data management recognition by business leaders and decision-makers is not new or unique to data management. Another area that has struggled for recognition is operations research (OR). The problem is that OR permeates organizations—with practitioners in finance, operations and marketing. But neither OR nor data management need separate departments devoted to their respective disciplines. Putting it another way, everyone does math, but that doesn’t mean organizations should have math departments.

While I believe that creating another department ‘silo’ is a hollow goal, I am sympathetic toward professional certification. In OR, the Informs organization delivers a certified analytics professional rather like the accountants CPA or the Project management institute’s PMP. As university costs skyrocket making the value proposition of a college degree questionable, ‘apprenticeships’ and certification may be a better option for bright young adults to pursue instead of college. Data management could be such a profession, or perhaps a better word is skill. This would provide companies with a pool of certified people available for hire as data managers to work in any department where data management is key. And, indeed, one role for data managers is in developing automation for their profession and skills!

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