Who Owns Your GIS?
It’s become clear to me through a number of engagements with E&P companies that ownership of GIS is falling between the cracks. GIS as a distinct ‘practice’ in the E&P business is a relatively recent development, certainly for many small to mid-size companies. What started out as a niche application championed by a few ‘techies’ in Exploration has quickly become a burgeoning domain in its own right.
GIS is different from many other technologies. It delivers a horizontal applications platform applicable across the entire lifecycle of the Petroleum sector. Unlike other generic technologies deployed by IT groups, there is also a distinct science (Geomatics) that needs to be understood to properly exploit the potential of the technology.
The ‘spatial data wave’ is hitting E&P companies now in the same way that well and seismic did a decade or more ago, but the data is not as easy to classify as those data types: it spans the business. Spatial data is more than files on disk managed by IT groups, and requires an understanding of Geomatics and GIS technology to manage it effectively.
So who owns and manages GIS in your company? Is it the E&P data management group? The IT group? Or the Geomatics group (if there is one)? And just as importantly who owns the strategy for developing GIS going forward? One of the support groups, or perhaps even someone in the business? Who is responsible for making sure that the user of GIS systems has an appropriate understanding of the underlying science? In my experience, its rare that someone sticks their hand up and says ‘that’s mine’, although many groups tinker around the edges, assuming someone else has control of the ‘big picture’. Quite often no-one actually does!
I would say that without clear ownership and a coherent strategy, companies do not realise the full value of GIS. In a recent report by IHS CERA, presented recently at the 2009 ESRI European PUG conference in Norway, they observed that ‘unexpectedly high deployment costs combined with the difficulty in quantifying GIS value have reduced enthusiasm and sponsorship on the part of senior management.’ Perhaps the issue of ownership is the key to addressing this problem. Without ownership and strong governance, costs will escalate and potential benefits will not be realised, measured and communicated.
Posted by Gareth Smith, Managing Director, Exprodat Consulting Ltd.
Comment from LinkedIn
Posted By: ThierryG - 22/12/2009 20:06:56
Petroleum Industry Manager
Gareth - its a great question - and an equally good response by John. I tend to agree with Johns matrix ownership scheme - it reminds me of those early days when we all learned to leave the data management/ownership with those folks who value it (but make sure that they have the knowledge and tools to retain its integrity/security/etc.) On the main LinkedIn blog post Tor reminds us that a GIS is just that a system comprising (hw/sw/people/process) - I dont think GIS is unique in becoming more integrated and holistic as a business tool - its challenge it seems is some core specialist complexities (geodetics, data-types, models, processing steps, applications intergation, etc) - we are working toward the easy button but arent there yet - and until we are the ownership I think is best distributed as John suggests to those best trained and equipped to provide for those specialties. I think we need to move past ownership egos toward integrated system management. Just a side note - I think some companies and Federal Agencies in the US and Europe are realizing this, assigning the right specialists to a team-approach and even appointing a strategic discipline owner, practise manager, or GIO... but as they say - Rome wasnt built in a day - its a process... Which brings me back to agreeing with Gareths closing remark - I do think that the complexities of perceived ownership of an integrated system have slowed the progression of GIS within many companies - but I see a new realisation in many organisations now, especially in the production space - and light at the end of this long tunnel.
Posted By: ESRI - 22/12/2009 05:08:43
GIS Ownership or Financial Support?
Gareth Smith asked the question of who owns your GIS. I would paraphrase that question into "Who Pays for your GIS?" The GIS handles massive amounts of data that take up hardware owned by IT and are comprised of proprietary information created by the users. IT complains that the servers contain hundreds of copies of the same data or that the GIS is clogging the network pipes. The users complain that their data is unique (to them) and cant be combined into a single source. The lines are drawn and the trust factor goes down and the GIS gets the black eye. Who would want to own such a mess? The GIS is a set of tools used to create reports. With that said, the question is really who should own/support the data that the GIS manipulates? I believe that the business units should own the data which also requires a responsibility for the data. The GIS is then relegated as a service group in a SOA environment. IT could own the licenses and manage access to the GIS software that the members of the business units utilize, or an independent GIS service group could be formed to respond to service requests from all users. Bottom line is the data should belong to the business units who know and understand its importance, IT owns the hardware, and finally the GIS tools should be owned and utilized by a service group with its own budget reporting to a coprorate officer.
Posted By: John Linehan GISP - 22/10/2009 12:39:10