Attenuation refers to the degradation of signal strength as it decays over time, across distance, or through interference. Working out what causes attenuation takes lots of time and patience. But it’s worth the effort to solve the problem, because doing so strengthens customer trust and loyalty.
Oil and gas data suffers from the same problem. Fully formed, complete and robust data is “assumed to exist” at the point when it’s first being created. That’s an over statement, of course. Actually, lots of attenuation can and does happen while – and even before – physical data is created! Sadly, without intentional intervention, data decays a little bit every time data is moved from stakeholder to stakeholder, or from process to process. This is data attenuation, and it’s preventable.
Business runs at the speed of data. Getting useful data into your analytics and decision software faster can improve your competitive edge. Is it true that whoever has the most data wins? That’s only part of the formula – we should rewrite this as “whoever has the most trusted data wins.” Data volume, variety and velocity will continue to grow, and leveraging all of that data effectively must be based on data transparency and trust.
Today’s petroleum data managers spend about half of their time receiving, validating and preparing data that has come to them in digital form, often from trusted vendors and suppliers. Users who require data run into critical delays or even show stoppers because data requires intervention before it’s suitable for what they need to do. Problems arise when frustrated and impatient business units circumvent data control systems in order to use analytics tools.
Delays caused by reworking digital data to make it “fit for purpose” slow business down, and can cost your company competitive advantage. On the flip side, the risk introduced by bad data can be incalculable.
Data managers are tasked with figuring out where and how data attenuation occurs and then prevent it from happening, repair the damage, or mitigate the impact of data attenuation to our many stakeholders and users.
Data attenuation that happens before you receive data can be difficult to prevent, particularly when the attenuation results from proprietary systems, vocabularies and processes applied to the data by another stakeholder, such as a field service company. Often, the data receiver has limited or no control over systems and processes applied before the data arrives.
Ultimately, this means that data managers are cast in the role of fixing data problems upon receipt, rather than solving them at the source. Consequently, data managers at operating companies, vendor companies, regulators and service companies are locked into an endless cycle of “fixing” data over and over again.
While it’s intuitively obvious that solving problems at the source in order to break the cycle is ideal, it’s difficult to accomplish.
Prevention requires industry to collectively identify the sources of data attenuation and develop processes to prevent it where appropriate. That means we need to work together, because attenuation that’s not a problem for one group of users may be catastrophic for others, or may delay the adoption of new systems and technologies in the future.
The prize we seek is worth it. Oil and gas prices are always going to be volatile. A strong foundation will help us position industry for efficiency, safety, and effectiveness. Having good, trusted data helps industry make good decisions that balance the needs of all stakeholders.
Data attenuation has deep roots in the social, cultural and technological history of the oil and gas industry. Increasingly, the negative consequences to industry stakeholders is resulting in unacceptable levels of inefficiency and redundancy. Professional data managers help resolve these problems at various stages of E&P workflows and processes, and strive to resolve root causes in the future.
Solving the problems inadvertently created over decades of legacy practice is difficult, but a necessary step in making industry more competitive, safer and more compliant.
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About the Author(s)
Trudy Curtis is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Petroleum Data Management (PPDM) Association, the global Not-For-Profit society focused on best practices and standards for data, and on professional data disciplines. Based in Calgary, Canada, Curtis has nearly four decades of years of experience in the industry and is known around the world for her outspoken advocacy of data as a strategic asset, and its management as a core business function. After receiving a BSc. from the University of Calgary in 1978, Curtis went to work in the Oil and Gas industry. In 1996, she joined the PPDM Association as architect, CIO and ultimately CEO of the PPDM Association. Curtis is leading the way to the emergence of data management as a global discipline, the creation and industry adoption of data management standards and best practices, the development of professional development and certification programs for data managers, and the professionalism of data disciplines in the petroleum industry.