How custom software ages | Application Development Video Series, Episode 1

Not unlike hardware, custom-built software applications can age over time. There are a variety of ways that a business can outgrow a software application, and those aging applications can become more burdensome to maintain than to update or rewrite.

We don’t typically think of software as something that can age. The code is written and run on a computer, so it doesn’t age like hardware does or like people do. It becomes obsolete or becomes less functional, unable to keep up with the demands of the business and the business users. Software is usually written based on a snapshot of a business need for a certain period or range of time. Unfortunately, software doesn’t change dynamically the way the business does. Businesses can change, market demands can change, the number of users can change, and the software can have trouble keeping up with that.

Another aspect of aging is that the software may have been built in a technology that is no longer supported or is slowly on its way out the door; it’s being deprecated or replaced by more modern design patterns and technologies. The software was written years ago, and the technical resources are no longer available or difficult to find. When you can find them, they are expensive, which makes maintaining the software more and more costly.

Technologies, design patterns, and understanding of software as a functional piece of a business were limited 10-15 year ago, and that technology continues to evolve. When we think about legacy applications, they were monolithic in nature and written top-to-bottom; every line of code was executed in one lump sum. To change one little thing in those applications, you had to change everything.  Thankfully, now we have better paradigms alongside better technologies where we can separate the different pieces of functionality and objectives into multiple layers.

  • We can have part of the application that is written specifically to manage the database.
  • We can have another piece that manages business rules and validation.
  • We can have another piece that’s a service layer that allows you to integrate other systems and software, preserving the code that’s already in place for business logic and the database.
  • We also have the user interface and front end of the database. This part is also changing: it used to be just PC-based, but now you’re going to want to think about new devices like GPS, tablets, and cell phones so people can access your software anywhere in the world.

We begin to realize there is an aging process that happens with software — as it ages, it becomes more difficult and expensive to maintain in addition to some of the lost opportunities for growth. For instance, older software wasn’t designed to take advantage of the hardware that you’re probably already using which has multiple core processors and robust memory capabilities. Bringing the software up to date will give you the opportunity to take advantage of those hardware options for better performance.

Software Modernization: When Is It Time?

Field Data Capture and Disaster Recovery

In January, Entrance hosted a lunch and learn, “Field Data Capture for Oil and Gas Service Companies.” Entrance’s president, Nate, covered some of the key considerations that companies out in field should cover before implementation.

During the Q&A portion, one of the big topics of conversation was around toughbooks. Field work is characteristically rough, so choosing and maintaining the right devices can be difficult.

Generally, a basic laptop is not sufficient for handling fieldwork. In this situation, many organizations weigh the costs and benefits of tablet versus a Toughbook.

Both can be a good fit, but considerations like cost, computing power, and size can all make a big difference in the final evaluation. In particular, organizations should be careful not to let the popular appeal of devices like the iPad to sway their overall evaluation of available devices.

Disaster Recovery

Regardless of the device your company decides to go with, a disaster recovery plan is important for maintaining productivity in the field. No matter how well-made your Toughbook, devices go down and get lost. Particularly in the case of a tablet, damage is consideration because they are easily breakable.

Without a recovery plan, your people can end up without a device for several days or more. The cost in lost productivity alone is enough to make this an unacceptable outcome.

The solution? Simple as it may sound, have back-ups on-hand that can quickly be deployed to your team. Be sure to address how to accomplish this even when workers are in very remote areas.

Choosing the right devices and having a plan for managing them is important for companies across the value chain, from upstream all the way to service. For more, watch the field data capture presentation from SlideShare. You can also find out about upcoming lunch and learns here.

Data Management for Oil & Gas: High Performance Computing

Data Management and Technology

The oil and gas industry is dealing with data management on a scale never seen before. One approach to quickly get at relevant data is with High Performance Computing (HPC).

HPC is dedicated to the analysis and display of very large amounts of data that needs to be processed rapidly for best use.

One application is the analysis of technical plays with complex folding. In order to understand the subsurface, three dimensional high definition images are required.

The effective use of HPC in unconventional oil and gas extraction is helping drive the frenetic pace of investment, growth and development that will provide international fuel reserves for the next 50 years. Oil and gas software supported by data intelligence drives productive unconventional operations.

Evolving Data Management Needs

As far back as 2008, the Microsoft High-Performance Computing Oil and Gas Industry Survey conducted by the Oil & Gas Journal Online Research Center indicated that many industry geoscientists and engineers have access to the computing performance levels they require.

However, computing needs are growing more complex, so significant room for improvement exists. NumerousOil and Gas: High Performance Computingrespondents believe that making HPC available to more people industry wide can increase production, enhance decision-making, reduce delays in drilling, and reduce the overall risk of oil and gas projects.

Chesapeake is the largest leasehold owner of Marcellus Shale Play, which reaches from Southern NY to West Virginia. They employ HPC  in their shales and tight sands operations.

3-D imaging enables technical staff to detect fine-scale fracturing and directional dependency characteristics. Seismic data provides a structural road map that helps identify dip changes, small faults and natural fracture orientation.

High Performance Computing in the Real World

Chesapeake routinely performs inversions of pre-stack and post-stack data management. Datasets for imaging and inversion support models that represent complex earth structures and physical parameters, where true inversion results are known.

Reservoir maps require constant updating. Advanced pre-stack 3-D techniques are used to extract detailed rock properties that aid in discriminating good rock from bad rock at Marcellus.

Focusing on pre-stack data management has significantly increased computational requirements. Depending on the acquisition method, collecting multicomponent 3-D data can increase data size by orders of magnitude.

Advanced algorithms provide results in a matter of days, making it possible to realistically deal with a lease schedule.

Clustered super-computing systems are becoming well priced and scalable. HPC options are not only realistic, but a requirement for independents who want to bring advanced processing capabilities in house.

Check out this blog post on how oil and gas companies are using data management to improve processes here…

Data Management & Technology: Secret to Oil & Gas Growth

Data Management the Key for Unconventional Success

Data management  and new technology is lowering the risk level for unconventional oil and gas E&P. This has become apparent in recent years and is a radical change from former risk levels of investment.

Computational analysis is at the heart of risk reduction and the ease with which entrepreneurs in this field are now finding funds. is more important than ever before.

Technology drives analytics for better governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) applications. The amount of Oil and Gas information is rapidly increasing.

At the same time mobility, cloud, and Big Data analytics offer opportunities to effectively harness the way information is managed, used, and distributed enterprise wide.

Entrepreneurial Gains

Mitigating risk in oil and gas operations at any part of the cycle from upstream, midstream, and to downstream ultimately leads to entrepreneurial gains.

Data Management for Oil and Gas: MobileEnterprise wide management of information and intelligence drives success. Consistent, contextualized, and integrated information that is available immediately and on-the-go is required to support most operations.

Collaboration tools are also necessary for communication both within an enterprise and between enterprises, because expertise is required across the globe.

The complexity of drilling and other oil and gas operations is such that the ability for engineering, design and applications experts to work together is essential.

Teams rely on high-end 3D visualization and collaboration rooms that allow members anywhere to access the same data, models, and tools.

Aside from the need to bring in experts from many areas, including field services, seismic, drilling, exploration and production, team members can also access detailed descriptions of the events leading up the present.

Those engaged in making decisions for exploratory wells can obtain a full brief of both information and through collaboration with essential personnel. Software developments at E&P companies are at the heart of production improvements.

Technology Improvements

Research in unconventional oil and gas technology is ongoing industrywide. GTI was awarded $6.2 million by the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America to develop and design new techniques in support of environmentally safe and economically efficient hydraulic fracturing projects.

This work is derivative of an innovative technique recently completed at Marcellus Shale involving a field-based industry collaborative R&D project.

A new technology for natural gas purification uses a hollow fiber contactor design that offers significant advantages over traditional technologies, ultimately reducing gas purification costs significantly.

This technology can be applied to pre and post combustion carbon capture and is applicable for use in floating LNG platforms.

Only recently has there been a holistic strategy for managing risk and compliance across functional domains and the lines of business. Today, with heightened regulation and increasingly complex risks, technology is more important than ever before.

Conventionally, upstream operations have struggled to overcome segregation of data. Now integration and knowledge sharing are driving industry advances.

For more on how oil and gas is changing, read this article on the evolving role of IT…

Lease Compliance and Disparate Data

Lease Compliance and Resolution of Data

Lease compliance issues in domestic shale have become critical to E&P asset protection. Lease jeopardy has grown into a major component of risk management of upstream resources.

It demands a well-defined, cohesive data management strategy that creates business intelligence from disparate sources.

Land Administration Information Systems Inadequate

Land Administration is a traditional role within an E&P enterprise.  Within Royalty complianceits domain falls the safeguarding of all of a company’s land assets, among them the oil and gas leases.

Landmen are highly specialized members of an E&P exploration and production team whose duties include assisting in the analysis of deeds, leases and other contracts.  A landman’s responsibility typically includes ensuring that the company’s land assets database is maintained and key attributes of lease provisions recorded and updated.

Unfortunately, these talented and versatile members of the upstream resources team are increasingly handicapped in their lease administration duties. This is because information technology hasn’t kept pace with changing demands in the leasing arena.

The data they’re so meticulously maintaining is in a static data repository. As a result it’s unused by advanced oil and gas software with lease analysis and business intelligence capabilities.

Changing Aspects of Lease Compliance

Several factors are driving changes in shale lease compliance.  As competitors move rapidly in vying for a shrinking pool of unconventional land assets of increasingly significant value, lessors are reexamining the royalty structure of their existing leases.

This and falling natural gas prices have helped motivated lessors, newly focused on their monthly royalty payments, to analyze their lease provisions, often with professional legal advice.  This has become a highly litigious area, with more and more attorneys building a lucrative practice area in oil and gas lease compliance and its growing body of case law.

“Royalty and land and lease rights disputes were the most common types of unconventional oil and gas litigation during 2012,” reports Navigant.

“Oil and gas companies involved in unconventional exploration continue to face not only the challenge of differing state laws, but also a constantly evolving legal landscape as landmark cases make their way through state courts,” noted Navigant, referring to Butler v. Powers Estate, litigation based upon the provisions of a 19th century oil and minerals’ lease.

If an E&P company isn’t performing due diligence on lease provision compliance, it is exposing itself to the potential of costly litigation and risking the devaluation or loss of key productive assets. Overnight what was regarded as a stable corporate asset can become a legal liability if lease oversight has failed.

A company lacking a consistently reliable system for proactive lease compliance is apt to be blindsided by an eager attorney who’s found a non-complaint lease under which he can get his fingernails.

Consolidating Disparate Lease Data into Business Intelligence

Most companies already have on hand the data needed to be proactive in their unconventional E&P lease compliance.  It often exists in various forms that convey different meanings in non-integrated data stacks. Examples include the property management data base, the financials system, the reserves model, and the drilling information.

With the right analytical methodology, this disparate data can be consolidated into an information system that provides reports and alerts that help lessen lease jeopardy.

Building a Viable Lease Compliance System

A multi-part, iterative process is used to build and deploy a viable lease compliance application.

First, leases are identified and reviewed, with their critical provisions defined, e.g., key dates, key quantities.  Next, the different systems of record are identified, and the key attributes that define the leases’ critical provisions are mapped to the destination system, with inconsistencies corrected.

At this point the source data is cleansed — incorrect or inaccurate data is modified, deleted or replaced. The resulting “good” data is synchronized to the master data set, with links established to the various source systems.

Integration with the initial lease provision inventory now occurs, with processes put into place to ensure the lease provision inventory remains accurate and current.  Lastly, lease provision tracking is established, with sensitivity cases defined.

Some of the critical sensitivity issues are royalty escalation, cessation of production and continuous drilling. Business process owners are assigned to the system and critical, sensitivity-driven alerts established for key users.

For more, read our post on leveraging unconventional information assets for Upstream…

Data Management: Measuring Quality

Data Management for Upstream

In the world of data management, there are two factors that are important to account for: quality and access.

Measuring data quality was the topic of a PPDM presentation by Jeremy Eade, a Subsurface Data Lead at BP. His approach to data management specifically surrounded the consistency of data surrounding wells.

Data Rules and Business Rules

To start out the discussion, Eade covered data rules and business rules. For those Data Management and Qualitywho are unfamiliar, a data rule should only be checking one point of quality at a time. For example, whether the well rig release date must be on or off the spud date.

There should be a data rule for each piece of data that the company cares about. A quality data management program should also have business rules that dictate the governance of the database.

The Four C’s

Eade also covered some more specific data quality dimensions, called the Four C’s. Below are some examples of how they apply in an Upstream situation.

Completeness: Can well data stand on its own? Is relevant data from each system included for each well?

Consistency: Is formatting the same across records? Is the same data recorded for each well? Across databases, is data also consistent?

Correctness: This is where data rules comes in. Some thought should be given to how accuracy can be checked for each type of data.

Currency: When was the last time frac data was loaded into the database?

Quality Measurement in Action

Eade went to describe what happened when they started to examine the specifics of data quality at BP. One observation was that G&G spent far too much time on the quality control side.

In addition, after implementing data rules, the team learned that 20 of BP’s wells had null data. They also found many instances where the spud dates was listed after the rig release date.

Best in class data quality data is not useful to any company if they can’t get to it with an intuitive interface. Read this blog post on data management and presentation for more!

Bad Oil and Gas Software: Key Concerns

Optimizing Oil and Gas Software

Oil and gas software is an essential component for businesses in the energy industry. It allows them respond to problems more quickly, review historical data more easily and send reports to managers automatically.

Oil and gas software also allows enables the implementation of  a formal process for tracking production as opposed to the collection of spreadsheets that has traditionally been used in this industry.

However, poor oil and gas software can also create problems, which may be classified into the areas of assets, production and revenue.

Assets

Oil and gas software can cause a failure to pay out on a well interest. This can occur when the software Oil and Gas Software: Field Data Capturecalculates the royalty improperly, causing the balance to fall below the minimum pay requirement for that account.

Poor software can also cause a business to over bid or under bid on an asset by miscalculating the expected value of that asset. The primary factor that determines an asset’s value is the current price of crude oil or natural gas, which can fluctuate greatly over time.

Political factors can also have a significant effect on asset valuation, especially in areas characterized by civil unrest. Technological improvements can increase an asset’s value in the future by reducing the recovery costs.

Production

Software can also create problems with production such as inaccurate estimates of production and reduction in actual production. These problems include double-counting the output of one or more wells, causing your company’s total production to appear higher than it actually is.

Software can also cause your company to drill a hole in a poor location that costs more to operate than it produces. The incorrect allocation of production is another problem that can be caused by poor software.

Facilities with multiple wells must allocate resources to each well, which is generally based on each well’s production. Software that reports production incorrectly can result in a sub-optimal allocation of resources.

Revenue

The loss of a lease is one of the most significant problems for an oil and gas company that relates to revenue. This problem typically occurs when a company is unable to successfully market a lease or sustain its production for an extended period of time.

The failure to receive revenue from all well interests can also be a major problem affecting a company’s revenue. Well interests include basic royalties that are paid to the mineral rights owner and overriding royalty interests that are retained by third parties such as geologists.

Well interests include working interests that a company receives after royalties in exchange for exploring, developing and operating the property. Bad software can also reduce a company’s revenue by inaccurately estimating the reserves remaining in a particular well.

For more, read this post on how oil and gas software can improve decision making and forecasting.

Oil and Gas Software: IT is Adapting in a Brave New World

Oil and gas software helps support IT transformation into valued business partner

It’s no secret that the exploration, drilling and production industry is not the same industry it once was, and oil and gas software can provide companies with the new Oil & Gas Software: The role of ITcapabilities they need to respond to the increasingly competitive environment around them. In a recent article from The American Oil & Gas Reporter, titled “IT Leaders Embrace Challenging Transformation In Upstream Operations”, Johnathan Zanger and Gerry Swift discuss how change in the oil and gas industry has created both challenge and opportunity for IT.

Zanger and Swift argue that oil and gas companies have a choice: they can either look at IT as a necessary but inconvenient utility—that is, they could continue to look at IT the same way they always have—or, they can start looking at IT as a valued partner that can help meet desired business outcomes.

Decision Making and IT

Zanger and Swift analyzed data provided by seven different exploration, drilling and production IT groups to gain a better understanding of how decisions are being made in these organizations, and how these decisions affect the business. The results of the analysis show a number of ways that growing the partnership between IT and line of business can benefit oil and gas companies:

  • Improved data management
  • Greater customer satisfaction
  • More opportunities to innovate
  • More well-defined corporate structure

Improved data management

As oil and gas companies change the way they operate, they must also change the way they capture, analyze and apply data. It’s no longer sufficient to gather data just for the sake of gathering data. Successful companies must be able to capture pertinent data that can be directly applied to business operations. Oil and gas software can provide the data management capabilities needed to make this happen.

Greater customer satisfaction

Ensuring customer satisfaction has long been one of the most important objectives of oil and gas IT organizations. However, changes in the oil and gas industry have also altered the meaning of the term “customer satisfaction.” It’s no longer just a matter of meeting business objectives and focusing on customer needs. IT organizations now need to make themselves truly customer-centric, aligning themselves to provide business value, before the customer even has to ask.

More opportunities to innovate

The importance of innovation in the oil and gas industry is well established. What seems to be less clear is the difference between change and innovation. Innovation constitutes a change for the better, that opens a new and more effective way of doing things. Many oil and gas companies have difficulty identifying innovation opportunities, but Zanger and Swift predict that a greater partnership between business and IT would make these opportunities easier to find.

More well-defined corporate structure

In order for IT to support the business effectively, there must be established processes in place to show the alignments and accountabilities of everyone involved with the IT organization. IT organizations can no longer continue to exist in their own little world. In order for IT organization to provide true business value, they must understand their relationship with the business, and be able to collaborate consistently.

One of the key misconceptions that Zanger and Swift try to do away with in their article is that changing IT requires bleeding-edge technological solutions. In reality, the solutions needed to drive greater IT involvement with business processes already exist, and they’re already proven. IT just needs to find new ways to apply these tools, such as oil and gas software, to support their mission.

For more on this topic, read this article on how the IT service model is changing…

SharePoint Consulting: Gamification and ROI

The Return on Investment for SharePoint Consulting

In our SharePoint consulting engagements, we often come across interesting problems that can be solved by some amount of customization. This was exactly the case when a change manager from one Upstream client came to Entrance with concerns over educating employees on a new system transition.

Pipeline controllers at this company needed to understand the changes and how they affected their jobs. After some consideration of the business problem, Entrance recommended that our client try SharePoint gamification.

We shared some of the steps we went through for this SharePoint consulting engagement when we first started the project a few months ago. Now that the gamification customizations are live on the customer’s SharePoint site, it has been exciting to see how they are using it and what employees think.

Incentivizing SharePoint Participation

SharePoint Consulting: GamificationA common problem in the SharePoint consulting world is when sites are developed and implemented, but afterwards stakeholders have no idea who is using it or if it is serving the purpose for which it was developed. As a result, calculating ROI or any sort of value for the project is not possible.

In the case of this implementation, the site was launched with incentives (like gift cards and t-shirts) for people to participate and build up points. The addition of fun and competition immediately encouraged employees to use the site and become engaged.

Similar to a computer game, each user starts out at a basic level and moves up as they score points. Each level is named after something relevant to the oil and gas industry.

There is also a leaderboard where employees can see monthly and lifetime high scores. This helps the change management team to check in on who has been staying up-to-date on system migration changes, and who has not.

Another major benefit of our SharePoint consulting work is that the gaming system has been set up so it can be managed internally. After the customization was complete, Entrance trained the team on how to administer it, thus empowering the team to use the system as necessary.

Since the launch of gaming system, reports back from the client are all positive. Employees report that they love playing, and the client is thrilled that so many people are engaging with the content they need.

For more on how the oil and gas industry can use SharePoint to improve collaboration and engagement, check out this post…

Oil and Gas Software: Decision Making and Forecasting

Oil and Gas Software and the Accuracy of Decisions

Oil and gas software can be one key to integrated, well structured, well defined IT systems. Data support utilizing an oil and gas specific framework leads to intelligent decision making and a reduction in overhead.

Case study: Oil and Gas Business Intelligence Framework

Data access, forecasting and analysis, reporting and decision making software for dedicated professionals, from the field to the boardroom, are available with solutions developed by Halliburton, Dell, Qualcomm and Microsoft.

Oil and Gas Software: iLink Business IntelligenceThe Oil & Gas Business Intelligence framework, iLink, offers a comprehensive real-time overview of your business. You can track performance metrics that will provide you with the necessary information to make informed business decisions. Dashboards offer an easy to access overview. The process of resource optimization will help to make reliable forecasts based on the most current data. Managers and technicians in the field can communicate data, while tickets and alerts can be created for field personnel.

iLinks key features are:

·         Identifying Key Performance Metrics

·         Monitoring Well Performance

·         Creating and assigning well issue ticketing and alerts

·         Global well map

Microsoft’s partnering with Halliburton has developed the architecture for their oil and gas upstream framework, MURA.  This architecture supports business with the goals of gaining maximum insight from business data and maximizing worker productivity. The framework supports real time analytics, including robust statistical and analysis packages for data mining, research and consumer reporting.

It also supports stream-processing engines capable of detecting and filtering real-time events, on site or in the cloud.

Information integration enables diverse data and software to seamlessly function without being trapped in a pipeline to nowhere. Workers need tools that help them gain deeper insights into ever growing quantities of relevant data.

Simplifying the process of finding, selecting, and exploring their data in flexible ways is essential. This process needs to be intuitive for them, and they should not have to rely on IT to fetch data or write custom reports.

You can deliver cost effective solutions with MURA that are highly mobile because of interoperability in the cloud and on-site. MURA supports industry standards. An industry wide interface makes new, competent implementation such as PPDM understandable and manageable.

MURA interfaces are published for open industry use. All the elements of an interface are well defined so that applications can be independently developed once per function. Wasteful duplication of effort can be avoided.

Information models employ a consistent naming system for referring to assets. This makes information sharing, exchange and comprehension an understandable process.

Security implementation is robust and well defined, including authentication, identity lifecycle management, authorization, certificates, claims and threat models. This facilitates secure interoperable design and deployment.  Solutions that integrate business processes, workers, workflow and IT processes with essential and immediate data support intelligent workflow.

Business Intelligence in Action

K2 uses MURA to manage declining well process. The MURA framework provides guidance for oil and gas companies for creating a dashboard of applications that are integrated at the user interface layer.

This kind of oversight capability gives well operators the data and context they require be alerted to issues that need timely corrective action. K2 optimizes information provided to decision makers, while minimizing data that is superfluous or in an obscure format.  IT departments appreciate MURA and K2 because costs are restrained while business demands are effectively met.

Demand forecasting simplifies and automates enterprise-wide forecasting, and improves the quality and measurability of marketing planning. When you improve accuracy significantly, it is likely to result in improved capital decisions and effective communication that will ultimately bring a reduction in overhead and operating costs.

For more on how oil and gas software can help your business, read this post on the benefits of analytics.