Big data and data analytics are changing the game for nearly every industry, and oil and gas is no different. Although some are resistant to change, some experts argue the only thing holding them back is they resist cultural change — in other words, an attitude of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” What this means, however, is companies whose leaders do take the leap are at a significant competitive advantage. For example, some oil and gas executives are harnessing Master Data Management (MDM) solutions to begin organizing and removing data from silos, putting them on a path to more mature data analytics. These leaders are harnessing data analytics to help boost production capacity, and, in some cases, are seeing ROI multiplied by as many as 50 times.
For oil and gas companies, big data is about more than just high data volumes. In addition to traditionally structured data, industrial operations generate unstructured data, which may be disjointed and nearly impossible to use without advanced analytical software. For instance, those inside some geophysical firms use unstructured seismic data to locate oil deposits while others use data for predictive analysis, which can help these professionals avoid or prepare for accidents or disasters.
Using these and other big data analytics applications is already proving essential for helping company leaders decrease costs, increase efficiencies, and reach maximum production potentials. Companies like BP equip their wells with cloud-connected sensors, each “dumping” roughly 500,000 data points every 15 seconds into a software program.
GE and BP leaders aren’t the only ones noticing big data’s advantages. A 2015 survey by Accenture and Microsoft Corp. reported that nearly 90% of respondents in the oil and gas industry believe they could increase their businesses’ values by improving their analytical capabilities. And that number will likely increase as AI and machine learning continue evolving and disrupting the oil and gas industry. But how can company leaders successfully employ data analytics and stay ahead of the curve? According to a McKinsey & Company article, here are five factors business leaders should consider:
- Data availability — Most leaders of major oil companies have vast amounts of unstructured and structured data already at their disposal; the question now is how they can best harness it since many are underutilizing this valuable resource. In fact, according to a Master’s in Data Science article, oil and gas information “streams in from a dizzying array of sources – exploration, production, transportation and distribution,” but industry insiders often struggle to organize and leverage it.
- Infrastructure — Many analytics tools are easy to access, and plenty of services are available to help business leaders get started on big data analytics, even in these early days of oil and gas industry implementation. According to the McKinsey & Company article, “today’s powerful tools use a combination of state-of-the-art engineering, data science, and computing power to identify superior solutions to complex production optimization problems.”
- Analytics skills — It’s essential oil and gas executives employ skilled data scientists, creating a foundation of analytics excellence for their companies. Data team members should understand the connections between business problems and analytics solutions.
- Redesigned work and governance — It’s also important for company leaders redesign their work processes to increase efficiency and optimize production. When it comes to analytics, they should consider end users to achieve the best results. According to the McKinsey & Company article, one North Sea operator employed data scientists to find major bottlenecks by analyzing data, pinpointing key areas ripe for process improvements.
- Business-driven agility — IT infrastructure designers should not do everything all at once. Instead, they should build momentum for advanced analytics programs via short, metrics-driven pilot projects. From there, designers and company leaders can develop a long-term vision for how analytics can reshape their business.
While change can be costly and the unknown met with hesitation, the potential costs of production losses and operational expenses for those without smart data is too great. Savvy industry experts who invest in modern-day technologies to make optimal decisions and streamline efficiencies are already proving big data’s worth. It’s time for oil and gas leaders to embrace this transformation to not only stay ahead of the curve but also help their companies thrive.