If like many oil and gas companies, your technical documents are scattered, or buried in folders and nested folders, you have an opportunity to increase the efficiency of your petro-professionals by organizing their technical documents, speed up how they locate these documents, or better yet, do both. If you do it right, you can architect a solution that is sustainable.
Organizing electronic files for an oil and gas company is not as complex as it first may seem. It is very similar to the way you organize files and documents on your PC. The fundamental question you must ask yourself is “ How do I sustainably tag or organize my files so that I can find what I need in 5 seconds or less?”. This question guides my efforts for all designs and solutions that I help my client’s engineers and geoscientists build. The topic is big and long, but here I would like to share my thoughts on architecture.
This topic is big with many angles, for this blog I would like to share my thoughts on architecting the technical documents healthy environment.
This Valentine’s month: Separate for Sustainability
Many oil and gas companies do not distinguish between the active work area and a long-term final-version area for their electronic files. What we find instead is one environment with ALL technical files in one place. This repository often contains both active and long-gone projects, including files for divested wells. Attempts to organize this chaotic mess happen every other year. This kind of architecture requires organizing these files every few years, with a hefty price tag!
In my opinion, for an oil and gas company to have a sustainable documents management practice, there should be at least 4 working areas within your environment (see diagram below).
An Amicable Separation
Area #1 Team work area
By establishing a day-to-day work area that can by definition be an organic mess coordinated by those who know exactly what everything is, your team can collaborate in whatever method works best for them. This area is usually cluttered with analyses files, multiple versions of a document, manuals, research material, cost proposals from vendors, and more.
This flexibility is key to a productive, happy work environment. It only becomes a problem when others are exposed to a ‘mess’ that is not of their own making. For this reason, each team should have their own defined work area.
(Yes, I hear some of you say today’s technology are designed curtail this mess and no need to have a separate work environment. I think that may be possible if the technology is used by a homogenous skilled staff. Oil and gas staff are of all ages and at different levels of software savviness)
Area #2 Final versions area
Separating your final-versions area from the working area has two immediate benefits
1) Efficiently and effectively declare and distribute the final version to the enterprise
2) Allows the removal of inactive files from work area (declutter).
Your final versions area should provide access to (and the easy identification of) the latest version of a report in a timely manner and without delays. Unfortunately, this area is often not formalized (it is not separated from area #1), causing delays for other teams who need access to a given file – they need to notify your team, have a member of your team identify the correct file, and then possibly to send them the file.
Often, distribution of final versions is a complex dance of requests and delivery between multiple teams or individuals. By separating the archival/final versions area, and providing access to authorized resources, this jitterbug contest can become a synchronized line dance. If all parties that need a file can identify the right file on their own, and retrieve it themselves, significant delays can be avoided.
Furthermore, by separating the final-version area from a work area, you have a chance to sustain the serenity and completeness of technical well files and specifically well files and records (most important assets you can have). Allowing any company to easily open a data room when and if needed.
Areas # 3 and 4: External Collaboration and Access
When considering work areas and final versions, it is important to consider accessibility, external as well as internal. Providing data to JV partners bases on their WI and JOV data requirements and collaborating with vendors during well directional design or completion treatment is essential to keeping the technical documents preserved and not lost in a web of email attachments.
To me, this architecture is non-invasive or intrusive to engineers and geoscientists workflow.
Summary: Separate, but don’t go far
Separating final-version area from work area can have an immediate and strong benefit to productivity, balancing team flexibility with the requirements of other teams in the organization. While the day-to-day work area should be organic and flexible, it is important that the Archival/Final Version repository is defined. This is because it is not serving just one team, but the needs of an organization as a whole. This separation of working area and final versions/archival area provides a sustainable solution that meets the 5-second accessibility requirement outlined above.
Having outlined the benefits of this simple change in a complex working environment, we’d love to hear from the community. Do you have a better approach? Questions regarding implementation? Have you implemented something like this, and if so, what was your experience? Whatever the input, we would love to hear from you.