Why Oil and Gas Companies Must Put Data First

Why Oil and Gas Companies Must Put Data First


Whether it’s migrating enterprise resource planning (ERP) data to a new system or looking to combine data due to a merger or acquisition, getting a data migration right without interruption to the business is a significant (and common) need within the oil and gas industry. Missteps can lead to anything from data loss to unwanted technical debt and even system downtime.

A transparent, successful data migration that doesn’t impact the business requires careful planning – and core to this plan is taking a data-first approach.

What a Data-first Approach Means

It might seem a little redundant to say that a data migration requires a data-first approach, but the reality is that many organizations don’t start the process with that very foundation: data. A look back at the last 20 years reveals that many large enterprises have made significant investments in different types of system transformation initiatives – whether it’s ERP, CRM or something else – and most of those are predicated on a business case that gets evangelized to the board and the executive leadership.

The value that organizations will derive from these systems is dependent upon a successful implementation, but more fundamentally, it’s dependent upon the quality and accuracy of the data in those systems. These are good systems for enterprises to implement, but the initiatives will fail if they don’t have the right data in the systems upon completion of the initiatives.

A data-first approach is about looking at the business case and the transformation (migration) you’re about to embark on and being clear on the criteria by which success is measured. What are the foundational conditions under which that investment’s going to pay returns to the organization?

This must start with the data first. You need to think about the data that’s going to be in that system and that’s going to allow users to derive the business benefits that justify the investment in the first place. It comes down to the “garbage in, garbage out” concept; if you don’t have quality data – clean, relevant, complete – at the start of your project, you’re not going to achieve the results you want. Poor-quality data will create more complexity, spend more time and resources, and ultimately require a lot more retrofitting than taking the time to get the data right first.

Barriers to the Data-first Mindset

If it seems so obvious to put data first in a data migration project, why isn’t it more common? Why aren’t more companies already functioning this way? The short answer is that it’s hard. Getting data right isn’t necessarily an easy process. Data is intrinsically cross-functional: you have to get accurate information from multiple areas and functions across an organization.

And if you’re in the midst of a merger, acquisition or divestiture, as is very common in the oil and gas industry, that adds an extra layer of complication and more sources of data. Yet today, getting it right is more important than ever before; there is even less of an option for failure. Poor-quality data, suboptimal systems, excess inventory and poor planning parameters have become much more painful for companies, given the current competitive environment.

Getting Data Right 

The most important element of getting data right is to start early. There’s sometimes a tendency or temptation to push data off and focus on other things first, like what the system’s going to do, how it’s going to be configured and who will be the partner to help you implement it. The idea is that you’ll figure out the data strategy after sorting out the other details.

Yet there’s never been an organization that lamented, “We started the data work too early.” You have to invest in the quality of the data from the start. From a change management perspective, you need a clear-eyed focus on the business benefits that you’re trying to achieve through your transformation initiatives and an appraisal of what’s going to be required to achieve them.

Taking a data-first approach will help oil and gas companies to:

  • Establish the foundational conditions to drive business benefits.
  • Manage implementation costs. Modern transformation efforts are expensive, and data is usually one of the major underlying causes of delays.
  • Limit risk. With many of the business decisions companies make, if they’re informed by inaccurate data, they can lead to adverse outcomes. From an operational risk perspective, you’re going to tend to see benefits if you adopt this data-first strategy.

Putting the Data First 

IT and data professionals in the oil and gas industry work in a complex environment rich with data. When initiating a data migration, a data-first strategy is essential for avoiding the cost overruns, confusion and potentially bad decisions that come with poor-quality data. This approach seems harder at first, but it’s a sounder plan to do the harder work upfront than to have to clean up a data disaster later. Oil and gas companies can use the data-first approach as a competitive advantage, arriving at sounder business decisions based on quality data and thereby reducing risk. Consider the benefits noted above and make any necessary adjustments before your next data migration project.

Author Profile
SVP, Americas Delivery - Syniti

Brian Regan is the SVP, Americas Delivery for Syniti, located in Needham, Massachusetts. He is responsible for managing customer partnership and client-facing delivery success. Brian drives key executive relationships and is responsible for growing successful partnership at Syniti’s client portfolio. 

3 Ways Technology is Going to Shape the Oil and Gas Industry Free to Download Today

Oil and gas operations are commonly found in remote locations far from company headquarters. Now, it's possible to monitor pump operations, collate and analyze seismic data, and track employees around the world from almost anywhere. Whether employees are in the office or in the field, the internet and related applications enable a greater multidirectional flow of information – and control – than ever before.

Related posts