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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Who am I?

The name is Bond, James Bond.  All one need is hear is the name.  Everything about this person (entity) is evident.  What he does, how he dresses, what he drinks, how he reacts and what he likes the most (i don't have to explain this).  Such is the power of the right identifier.

This is every Data Manager's dream.  Ability to drive the history of the entity by its identifier.  In reality, this is a huge challenge.  For the sake of this discussion, let us assume there is a fair and consistent understanding of "What is a Well".  For decades, the industry has not been successful to create a true identifier for the Well and associate data to the identifier.  The challenge is that over the course of the life of the well, it gets identified differently.  In my humble opinion there is no better person to explain this than me for having lived with a similar challenge throughout my life.

My full name is Meenakshisundaram Thandavarayan.  My dad did not trust me to learn english so made sure my name had most of the alphabets.  He did not want to trouble the rest of the family so shortened it to Sundar just for them. Then came my school and college friends, they address me as Meenakshi.  If you have slightest knowledge about Indian names, Meenakshi is actually a name of a goddess.  Every year this confused the heck out of new students and teachers who came across this name.  Then came my office friends, who found Meenakshi difficult and shortened it further to Meena, another famous woman name in India.  I am not sure how many countless times i have disappointed fellow employees on the phone, when they expect to hear a female voice. :)  

My name went further modifications.  Meena Sunderam (see the spelling change from Sundaram to Sunderam), Meenakshi S,  Thandavarayan (see the picture for more variations).  Few of the occasions due to system limitations - name too long to handle, unable to fit it in a card....  This is the MDM, Meena's Data Management problem that i am dealing with.  Imagine if one of my office colleague meets my school friend, they both might be talking about me but probably could not connect the dots due to the man made identity crisis.  So how do I fix this.  Is it logical for me to go back to everyone i know and reset expectations.  Not practical isn't it.  

This is very similar to the scenario within the Upstream industry where the Well identifier goes through multiple transformations and lose its meaning and history.  As with the above scenario, it is not practical to identify and change every reference of the identifier.  As we go through attempting to fix this identity crisis within the industry, there needs to be well thought through and calculated approach.  Follow these 3 principles
Do not lose the Big Picture - what is the end goal 
Follow an Opportunity based approach - Address the high business value ones

Make it Agile - be methodical but be agile to deliver value quickly

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Respect the Holy Grail

Remember the final act from the Indiana Jones and the last Crusade.  With handful of options on the table, the words of the Grail knight goes like this -"But choose wisely, for while the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you".  I feel this is the message to all upstream Data Managers.  It is up to us to choose wisely or poorly.  

So what is the Holy Grail?  Growing up, i was always told by my teachers, parents and mentors - There is no one size fits all.  i.e. There is no one answer for all problems.  The upstream business proved this theory wrong.  They have the answer and the tool for solving every problem within the industry.  The holy grail is not pretty, not expensive just as in the movie.  Their Holy Grail - Microsoft Excel & Access.  

Downloading data, yes there is Excel. Data Integration moving data across for different business process, oh yes Excel can do it.  Calculation, Analysis, Charting and Visualization, Excel can do it all.  Data Size increases are handled with either multiple Excels or fit for purpose Microsoft Access.   Thank you Microsoft !!

As Data Managers, this is a consistent challenge practically hindering implementation of any kind of data management practice.  No wonder all the MDM, Data Governance and Data Quality implementation are thrown out of the widow and still debating every year at the conferences on the same topics for a decade. 

It is time to decide.  Do we choose poorly or do we choose wisely.  Yes i said it, embrace the Holy Grail by choosing wisely and using it wisely.  We (Data Managers) cannot get Excel and Access from the business but can design your Enterprise architecture where data can be provided as a Service to Excel.  By using Data as a Service model, Data Managers can Govern the data and the Business users with the Holy Grail consume the data as a service.

This is not a myth.  This has been proven in my professional life.  So embrace the Holy Grail, Data Managers.  

To be continued.... 

Are Data Managers, Hypocrites!

Every other industry has now bought in to or considering Cloud, Big Data, Advanced analytics, Machine learning, Internet of things.  It is a fact that 80% of information generated is unstructured.  Extracting the information from the unstructured content is now possible with the advent of NoSQL, text parsers, context search... as long as the information is digitized.  We as Data Managers have long been preaching the importance of going digital - avoiding hard copies. Do we practice what we preach or are we hypocrites?

In one of the recent Data Manager's conference, I witnessed 80% of data managers taking notes in a notebook (not the digital one).  Most of the data management trainings conducted by vendors distribute hard copies of training material.  All notes taken in the training is also hardcopy.  We are still handing out flyer's, business cards, hard copies of presentations.  One of my fellow Data Manager maintains 3 notebooks of data for an year!  All of these contain data / information that we need referencing.  As data managers are we truly digital? Are we practicing what we preach?  

It is time we change and start leading by example.   

Thursday, 28 May 2015

PNEC 2015 - Reflections

PNEC 2015 marks the 19th year of the conference and continues to attract good attendance (~650 people) across geological boundaries.   This reflects on the quality and the value of the conference.  Kudos to its organizers for continuing to keep the momentum with the industry going through difficult times.

PNEC recognized deserved candidates in Pam Koscinski, (Consultant, PPDM); Janet Hicks (Senior Manager, Halliburton-Landmark) and Matthias Martung (Director, Vice President Technical Data, Shell) with Cornerstone awards

Yet again 75% of the talks were focussed on 3 key areas - Master Data Management, Data Quality, Data Governance, an indication that industry is still struggling in establishing the Data Management back bone.  However there were refreshing talks on Big Data, Data Analytics & Visualization, Machine learning and Data as a service.  Good that finally we are catching up with the emerging technology trends.  Better late than never.  

The exhibits / booths predominantly had the usual suspects with the addition of Big data / No SQL vendors - Cloudera, Hortonworks and MarkLogic.  The common theme was that most of the industry is running dry and window shopping this year.   In my opinion PNEC should consider workshops which is an emerging trend in other similar conferences.

Overall a good conference and trimming it down to 2 days would be apt going forward.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Information Technology and Data Management

Having worked in the Information Technology (IT) for the past 3 years have taught me many things about how IT is treated within a larger organization. IT usually gets the step child treatment. The below paper talks about how IT is perceived by the larger organization, what IT brings to the table and how to leverage IT to do Data and Information Management. IT and Data Management is a tribute to all IT folks out there

Monday, 4 May 2015

Where is your Data Management Organization

DAMA defines Data management as development, execution and supervision of plans, policies, programs and practices that control, protect, deliver and enhance the value of data and information assets.  

On a colloquial note, Right Data at the Right time to the Right person defines good Data Management practice.  But what is the Right place for the Data management organization within the Business.

From the definition, it is reasonably clear to assume that data management is a culmination of activities that run across both IT and Business.  Within the E&P upstream industry, there has always been an ambiguity around where the Data management organization be - within IT, within Business, across both IT and Business, a siloed organization on its own.  Every approach has its pros and cons.  
Business owns the data, so should the business have a team to manage their data.  The advantage of this approach is (a)  Business is a profit center.  This will help in funding and sustenance of Data management (b) Good understanding of business helps in effective and efficient Data management.  
On the other hand, this promotes technology and solution created within the business which may not be healthy on a longer run.  The emergence of Shadow IT and Siloed / pointed solutions are a result of doing DM within Business

Data Management within IT can help provide a overarching enterprise wide Data management Platform and can help in sustainable solutions.  However IT is a cost center and the IT mantra year on year is how to reduce cost.  Building and sustaining DM needs requires consistent funding and the IT mantra will degrade the value of Data management within the Organization.  Further more the translation of Business requirements to IT requirements adds to the gaps in entirety of the solution.  

Having data management organization split across IT and Business will ensure that the activities belong where they should belong.  It is however a well known secret on how Business and IT work with each other.  Processes, Documentation, Communication gap, Friction and preconceived thoughts will become the routine that will hinder the progress of Data management.  A typical light hearted example is shown.

Data management as its own organization is healthy in many ways.  It provides a clear focus on Information and Data management.  The end to end accountability is very clear and not barred by the disadvantages of Business or IT rules of engagement.  There might be occasional rifts with IT but with strong relations this can be subsided.  When the climate is good, this model provides the best of both worlds and becomes a value add to the enterprise.  However it also comes with its disadvantages.  Delivering a initial business case and make the leader of the organization buy in to this model is a uphill task.  When the chips are down and the company / industry is not doing well, this will an easy target to kill / outsource and could be demotivating factor for the employee.

In conclusion there is no one size fits all.  With the world becoming digital and everything getting driven by data, it is time for industries to consider a Chief Data office to run a Data Management Organization.