February 23, 2017

Operational Technology (OT) vs. Information Technology (IT)

One of the many themes coming out of new digital technologies is the concept of operations technology or OT. This theme is more than just a new suite of technologies, sensors and smart equipment, but a different paradigm coming more from the world of control systems and field automation rather than from corporate IT. How will these new developments and the new data coming from field instrumentation fit into the world of digital data defined by IT and structured data management practices?

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February 1, 2017

In Defense of Silos

The Oil and Gas industry is frequently criticized as being a slow adopter of new technology and of innovations proven in related industries. We are also criticized as an industry that works in our functional and geographic silos and are reluctant to share data. This laggard behavior (we don't like that term and suggest we are "fast-followers") and our parochial behavior (we don't like this term either and would replace it with the term "functional excellence") around data and technology often creates barriers to information sharing. Data integration and even information protection are often late add-ons creating a complex architecture behind our firewalls.

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January 12, 2017

The Digital Disruption of Corporate IT

Is corporate IT in jeopardy of digital disruption? What does that even mean? If you read the latest doomsday warnings in articles by management consultants and technology vendors, there are constant references to the impact of emerging digital technologies on mainstream business models. They coined the term "digital disruption" and use the case histories of Amazon®, Uber®, Airbnb®, Travelocity® and others to warn executives of traditional brick and mortar firms to watch their digital backs for unconventional competitors.

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December 15, 2016

All I want for Christmas is a Data Driven Application

I have been a very good boy this year and hope you can give me a very special present - a Data Driven Application. Now, I know that most of the other geeks are asking for Apple watches, FitBits or self-driving cars, but for me it's a DDA all the way!

With all kidding aside, DDA appears to provide everything I've ever wanted an application to provide from: automating processes from multichannel data sources that combines operational and analytical capabilities, to an app that produces business value with unquestionable ROI, by continuously measuring outcomes and producing metrics including cost savings, which customers are the most profitable and how your business decisions are yielding results. And as the late night commercials say, "but wait, that's not all!" 

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November 17, 2016

Interesting Things Happen at Intersections

The challenging part of driving doesn't happen on the long stretches of straight road you encounter on a highway or a country road. Of course you have to watch your speed, avoid distractions, slow moving trucks and passing vehicles, but the more interesting aspect of driving happens at intersections. There are traffic signals, stop signs, traffic, pedestrians... well, you get the point. Your attention must be at a higher level in order to proceed safely on your journey.

I want to expand on this driving metaphor for data management challenges for oil and gas. In my metaphor, the long straight road is our functionally driven work processes. For a drilling engineer, there are a number of potential tasks that range from designing a well, overseeing the construction of the well bore to evaluating previous well programs to learn and capture best practices. But all these tasks are still in the world of the drilling discipline - on the straight road - and all of the individuals, companies and data sources are speaking the same language and traveling in the same direction.

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October 25, 2016

Why Hire a Consultant?

Like many people, I have a suspicious nature about consultants. Unlike many people, I have these feelings even though I am one. To be clear however, I have only worked for a consultancy for a little over four years; the rest of my career was spent on the other side of the desk. So, even though I work as a consultant, why do I remain suspicious of them? Probably because of some encounters earlier in my career. There was the newly minted MBA from a major consulting firm with no previous work experience, not even a summer job, who came into my office (at the direction of corporate headquarters) and told me she would exponentially improve my department's efficiency. She only needed us to give her access to everyone for two weeks because she had a foolproof methodology. Or the consultancy who lands two people to provide executive advisory services and six months later you have an infestation. There's a reason for the saying that a consultant is someone who borrows your watch and then charges you to tell you the time.

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October 18, 2016

Re-Imagining Data Management in Oil and Gas

Technology advances enable oil and gas companies the ability to unlock reserves at lower costs, at greater depths and in more remote locations, but currently the oil and natural gas industry is in one of the deepest downturns since the 1980's. Prices have dropped over 70% since mid-2014, resulting in the expected decline in investment and drilling activity. The industry has reached the bottom of the cycle with slowly increasing oil prices and a few more rigs going back to work, but this downturn has the characteristics for a "lower for much longer" scenario. With prices this low, the industry is taking a hard look at every aspect of their business including how they can use their collected data to improve operational efficiency and increase profitability.

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October 4, 2016

Oil and Gas Meets Big Data

Oil and gas companies are familiar with the concept of Big Data but have not adequately addressed the volume, variety and velocity being generated nor capitalized value it could add to their organizations. Significant competitive advantage will be found by companies who learn to efficiently use their daily petabytes of data to identify trends and anomalies for timely, accurate and enterprise-wide decision making. Companies that harnesses the power of their data will discover a level of efficiency previously unobtainable. The key is to manage Big Data to interpret, react and predict the best course of action. It is not the company with the most data that wins, it is the company that uses their data on which to base their decisions.

The oil and gas industry has been severely challenged by the prolonged steep drop in market prices which led to streamlining of most operational processes.  How quickly and accurately an enterprise made course corrections is a large determining factor in its overall viability and long term value. The perception is that the next level of profitability, without additional large expenditures and headcount, will be obtained by optimizing incoming data. 

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September 27, 2016

Is Traditional Data Management Still Relevant?

Noah Consulting blog series: When Oil & Gas Prices Recover storyline

Is Traditional Data Management Still Relevant?

Data management plays a key role in helping organizations create value from their data assets by enabling advanced analytics, reporting and traditional transactions. With lower oil and gas prices putting significant pressure on operators and oilfield service companies, gaining new insight from data to improve efficiency is no longer a luxury.  But this comes at a cost - as the "information intensity" of oil and gas operation increases, new challenges are placed on the data management infrastructure creating a data dilemma.

Historically, the oil & gas exploration and production companies are organized in disciplinary and operational silos aligned with the asset life-cycle. As the project "moves" through its life-cycle, it is transferred from department to department and it is often assumed that the associated data moves also - seems logical. These departments (exploration & appraisal, drilling & completions, production, etc.), their associated sub-groups, (geophysics, reservoir management, facilities, production engineering, operations and maintenance) and the corporate departmental silos (finance, procurement, land/lease, etc.) result in a virtual duck soup!

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September 20, 2016

Suffering in Silence

As a consultant, it isn't very often I get to spend much time with end-users - the ultimate audience for most digital solutions projects. They are busy, often distracted and usually suspicious of why a third-party is poking around their work processes. I might get a few time-limited interviews on specific questions and requirements gathering, but it doesn't often get beyond that.

Usually, the sponsors are in the IT department and give a good picture of what is going on technically, with the computing infrastructure, with the applications and the support perspective. But that is only one side of the story.

One of the subjects I am always interested in is the adoption of technology. The long-term success rate in many industries is not very high, but the problem is rarely due to technical issues. New technologies work, so why don't we want to use them?

While there are well-documented challenges in introduction and adoption methods for new technologies, one silent-but-deadly killer is the lack of trusted data. One of the biggest and most obvious symptoms is to find that critical data is missing or incorrect. Like a slow-moving cancer, the insidious data quality issues don't take long to surface leading to users "self-treating" with spreadsheets. 

But if data quality is that poor, why aren't the business users speaking up and demanding better support? From my experience, there are a few reasons companies are content to allow serious data quality problems to persist and why there isn't a user revolt.

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