Non-Disruptive, Non-Invasive Data Governance for Oil & Gas

Trading post

Establishing data governance is not a new activity. It is, at its heart, an extension of man’s desire to define the world, and to communicate these discoveries in a more efficient manner. A good data standard can be linked to the use of Latin as a lingua franca by merchants in medieval Europe. Few English merchants could speak Dutch, but most were taught Latin (and vice versa). Latin provided a set of definitions and rules understood by all, promoted by rote memorization of grammar and a large number of books, policed by data stewards in the form of tutors who rapped children’s knuckles when they got it wrong.  (ok, maybe this is a stretch a bit, but I like the story :-))

Not a Blank Slate

In Oil and Gas, I see data governance programs in many forms, from centralized formats to a completely distributed approach, and everything in between. These implementations come with varying degrees of success.

So when I came across Robert Seiner’s book “Non-Invasive Data Governance” I asked myself could this work for oil and gas? In my judgment, a distributed, organic, and non-invasive approach could be an option to deploy a data governance program in a faster, more uniform and comprehensive manner, which in turn would yield better success.

Non-invasive data governance is built around identifying already in place, de facto standards, and processes to capture and manipulate data. If there isn’t one standard, then “converging” and “formalizing” to one standard that suits is put in place. In the new world, data stewards will be recognized “formally” and will maintain “universal” standards for work they have been doing all along…

To me, this approach has far-reaching implications to raise the bar on data quality standards. This approach weaves the quality standards in the DNA and the culture of an organization.

Business Specific Pidgin

Let’s continue the historical analogy a little. Trade was still conducted without the advantage of a lingua franca, albeit with greater difficulty. Typically, this was accomplished by the evolution of pidgin languages. The first encounters, however, were most likely exercises in frustration, as both parties attempted to learn one another’s needs, defined goods and services, and the perceived value of these. In speaking a pidgin language with another merchant, if either party used a differing definition, or even presented his offer in an unfamiliar sentence structure, the business venture could go south very quickly. Similarly, within a single oil and gas organization. For each data group, there needs to be one standard for all.

The oil and gas industry would not be where it is today without some established data standards and data processes already in place. Data governance will never be a blank slate. The problem is that while standards exist that are recognized across the industry, there are many terms that differ from one team to another and are not quite formalized or fully recognized.

The non-invasive DG approach is to formalize what is currently not formal and monitor it for continuous improvement over time. For example, wellbore survey data can be captured in different ways, none of which are wrong, just different. One team would store latitude, longitude, geodetic system, Easting, Northing, and distance. Another team might use Negative and Positive to indicate directions instead of Easting and Northing. These are very subtle differences, however, when flowing data from one system to another (and data flow we do a lot) a level of accuracy is lost in the translation.

Let me know your thoughts…


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