Barry Irani
President and CEO
View from the Top

Data Management to Bridge the Generation Gap

Tue, 01/22/2013 - 15:05

Q: Which role does information play in improving asset performance and maximizing profits for oil companies?

A: Information is critical to the e†ective functioning of an operation and is the lifeblood of any organization. Examining existing workflows and streamlining the relevant information leads to better, timely decisions that ultimately impact the bottom line. For example, consider a company bidding for an integrated service contract (ISC), where the participating organizations are provided the same basic data on each block available in the bidding round. Each participant has developed its own methodology to review and analyze the data, building on its knowledge and experience in di†erent fields and reservoirs, in order to make a better-informed bid. The combination of data with the company’s knowledge is very powerful, and companies rely on this combination to give themselves a competitive edge since two companies might look at the same data but come to di†erent conclusions.

Q: What are the main challenges for oil and gas companies to gather data and develop it into information, and how have these challenges evolved over time?

A: Data collection is a continuous activity in the oil and gas industry: a 70-year-old field should have 70 years of data. Information begins with data, which resides within companies in many forms. One of the problems globally, not just in the energy industry, is the evolution of the way data is collected, stored, and applied over time. Following various waves of technological change, we are left with data in di†erent locations and applications. The ability to collect and organize data for use in decision-making processes has become an enormous challenge.

In the oil industry, you have a wide range of basic operational data. Contextualizing this data by assembling and presenting related data sets together in meaningful ways leads to information, which when combined with people’s knowledge, or know-how as they interpret, analyze and apply reasoning, leads to better informed decisions. The focus of modern information technology companies must be to bring disparate and dispersed data together from wherever it resides and convert it into information, so people can work with it using their knowledge. All of iStore’s e†ort, technology, software, and processes are concentrated on streamlining this task.

Q: How can the evolution of technology help in solving these challenges?

A: There are two key factors in the evolution of data. The first is the development of new technologies, such as the Internet, that enable connectivity and encourage information sharing. The second is that newer generations are more open to sharing information since they are raised in a connected world where immediacy and sharing is becoming more common. For example, continuously updated online publications and newsfeeds are supplementing or even replacing traditional daily newspapers and weekly magazines. Forums, blogs and instant messaging are providing means to have two-way communications. News and events are increasingly being reported by normal people carrying smartphones. We are witnessing the power of harnessing collective thinking. What we need to do is pick out the best practices from this rapid evolution and apply them in our industry, with appropriate information governance, to help us become more e·cient and e†ective. The combination of technology and connectivity is therefore creating tremendous opportunities for progress in information sharing.

Q: While newer generations might be open to using new technologies, how do you convince the older generations to accept these technological changes?

A: Having worked in the oil industry for 40 years, I am seeing how this generation gap is being closed. Company executives and management realize and understand that they need a blend between older generations that are more cautious and analytical using their knowledge and experience, and newer generations that want to respond faster and build up knowledge heuristically.

The executives that form part of the older generation are the ones promoting the use of new technologies, as they see the value it provides. Technology is forming the bridge by which older and newer generations can communicate. Talking face-to-face does not always work, because new generations think old generations are old-fashioned and outdated, while old generations think new generations are impulsive and reactive. Technology can connect them, bringing youth and enthusiasm together with experience and knowledge. Our software’s goal is to bring information together through a shared context, and when both generations look at the same data, input their thoughts by making decisions and interacting through the system; it is serving as a bridge to harness the power that resides in people within the company.

Q: With the ‘digital oilfield’ already in place, what are the main challenges that iStore faces to advance this integration?

Each passing day, more data is being accumulated. As oil wells continue to produce, they create more data. The complexity arises from the amount of information and the di†erent formats and systems in which it naturally resides. Trying to connect to that information and bring it to the users in the form they need it, is the objective. With technologies evolving so quickly, we constantly refresh our software to make it faster, cheaper, more e†ective, and more e·cient. Our challenge is to keep the software in line with the evolving technologies, so that our clients can harness its benefits. When major technology providers such as Oracle, Microsoft, or Google come up with newer versions of their technologies, or a new o†ering such as cloud computing comes along, we update our software to work with those new platforms.

The wonderful thing is that people are accepting these updates, as they see improvements in tasks they normally do, and become faster and easier. Tablets, for example, are introducing new levels of portability and instant-on convenience to oilfield workers. Knowledge workers, young and old, are welcoming and embracing these new changes.