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.