The search for oil and gas has become a precise science with millions of dollars ploughed into technologies to discover, develop and recover oil and gas. How important is it to have the right IT components in place?
JHS. The current challenges are unlike any faced by the industry so far. The associated issues are very costly, extremely complex and diverse. They cannot be resolved by technology alone, and will require substantial change in enterprise management, culture and information processing. No doubt, having the right IT components is one important factor, but what exactly does right IT components mean? Do only the big names or the so-called market leaders deliver the right components? Do we always need over engineered components that produce results to five decimal places at the expense of time, labor and effort? For me the right IT components are pragmatic, and work together in a distributed service oriented architecture, not forgetting the original problem they set out to resolve.
O&G. In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing the IT sector in the oil and gas industry in the current environment? How are you tackling these challenges at m:pro?
JHS. The current environment requires good decisions and the collaboration to reach, communicate and implement them. This involves that the key stakeholders and experts view, exchange and react on consistent and reliable information to known quality. IT should help to overcome these challenges. We at m:pro are tackling this by concentrating on three important areas:
Smarter data management and integration: Here we collect, distribute, abstract, aggregate, correlate and translate data from all sources into information. The objectives to have the information ready in any dimension if and when required.
Easy to use but powerful user interfaces: It is impossible to foresee all information requirements of all persons in all situations. The objective is to access and present the information in a highly interactive, intuitive and common user interface. Fast navigation, drill down and analysis tools also put the surrounding information at your fingertips.
Effective collaboration and workflow: With workflow as a building block, this level puts the areas above to work in a collaborative and documented fashion. The objective is to provide synchronous and asynchronous communication, conferencing and co-ordination activity through a variety of devices and channels. A common factor in underachieving value from any technology is not having access to the skills and experience needed to fully leverage the technology. What are you doing at m:pro to address this issue?
JHS. Capturing and distributing know-how are fundamental. One example from our graphical user interface is that we visualize information in context and not just in rows and columns. This goes as far as visualizing how the information is processed to avoid any black-box syndrome. The consistent look and feel, together with the standardization of key functionalities, makes the usage intuitive and minimizes training. You have to be able to connect people with different expertise and provide effective collaboration between them. Workflow creates not just documented and reproducible procedures but also provides guidance and the right level of automation for routine tasks even for the inexperienced user.
Can you give an example of a recent project in which you have been involved - what were the challenges and how did your solution address these?
JHS. One of our recent projects integrates 11 refineries and their key data sources around the globe. To meet the required performance criteria, we decided for a distributed deployment and delivered our integration platform at each site. Providing global aggregations, cross site lookups and keeping the overall system up-to-date were some of the many challenges. We introduced the concept of central integration, which synchronizes the local integration trees with the central instance using advanced message queuing. The standardization of presentation libraries together with the common functionality of the solution has further helped to overcome the language and other cultural issues. Now everybody can consistently and seamlessly work with the available information from anywhere in the world.
Jens H. Schroeder is President/CEO of m:pro IT Consult, a project services and software products company that enables petroleum refining, petrochemical and other industries to achieve total integration of information sources and applications. Schroeder has over 20 years of experience in the execution of international projects, IT consulting and software development.