See things clearly

In the LinkedIn ‘Data Governance and Data Quality’ group, Gary W. Griffin asks for opinions on this,

Data Governance could be enhanced by clearly specifying data value chains and explaining how the Information Supply Chain connects the data value chains.

The concept of governance is one which is long established within the Oil and Gas industry.


Disasters like the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill demonstrate that Oil & Gas is an industry where a lapse in governance can result in catastrophic environmental problems.  And should hydrocarbons escape, as happened in the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster, many lives can be lost in an instant.


Rigorous engineering and strict regulation aim to ensure that such events are extremely rare occurrences.


Within the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) ensures that all of the assets and flows that make up an Oil & Gas plant are fully documented before the owner is granted a license to operate that plant. 


Process Flow Diagrams (PFDs) document how the various hydrocarbons and chemicals flow through the plant.  Piping and Instrument Diagrams (P&IDs) document how every pipe, vessel, pump, transmitter and sensor are connected to build the working plant. 


The PFDs and P&IDs are standard drawings, printouts from computer models, and the notation used on them is an international standard.  This means that the various professions that manage and operate the plant use a common language that everyone can understand. 


Business managers, engineers, technicians and operators moving between Oil & Gas companies can read and understand the documentation, regardless of the company they worked for previously.  They have a clear view of how the plants operate in a standard way.  Any changes to the plants, or to the assets on the plants, undergo a rigorous process of change control, to ensure the integrity of the information and documentation.


The information in the PFDs and P&IDs typically links to other systems which hold more information on the assets, such as technical specifications and configuration details. 


Commonly, they will also be linked to real-time information showing how the plant is currently operating, and historical trend information allowing engineers to analyse how the operations change over time and in different conditions.  This, in turn, allows for optimisation and development of the process in line with business drivers for plant operations.


The data stored within these documents and their governing systems is of huge strategic importance to the business, and almost all business decisions will be dependent upon it.


So how does all of this relate to Information Supply Chains, Data Governance and Data Value Chains?


Information Supply Chains are the full set of elements used to collect data, transform the data into information, and distribute it in a timely manner to the consumers of that information, so that informed decisions can be made.  This full set of elements covers the people, process and technology that make up the Information Supply Chain.  We can see that this is analogous to the P&IDs.


Data Value Chains address how data flows through assets to gain added business value as the data is aggregated, analysed, transformed and refined to provide useful information.  We can see the analogy to PFDs and their underlying data in that respect.


Fundamentally, good governance in Oil & Gas relies on managing the underlying policies controlling risk.  Understanding what assets are used for, what value they add to the business, and how the process reacts to change, is critical for assessing such risk.  Maintaining accurate, and current, documentation and data is crucial.


The same is true of data governance.  Understanding where data comes from, which assets it passes through, and the business processes it feeds, are critical to understanding the required level of data quality, how data should be managed, and the risk of data “errors” to the business.


It was our work within the Oil & Gas industry which provided the catalyst for us creating the OBASHI methodology.  We believe that, just as the components of a plant exist to support the flow of products between business assets, IT exists to support the flow of data between business assets.


Within the OBASHI methodology, Business and IT diagrams (B&ITs) document the people, process and technology within an organisation.  B&ITs show how these assets are connected, and they hold information about each individual asset, in a similar way to the P&IDs of the Oil & Gas world.  The OBASHI Dataflow Analysis Views (DAVs) show how data is passed through these assets, and describe the data value chain, in a similar way to Oil & Gas PFDs.


Applying the principles of P&IDs and PFDs to OBASHI B&ITs and DAVs, enables the same principles of common language, risk management, strategic business advantage and good governance, to be applied to all businesses which use IT to support their business activities.


As organisations become more data centric and more data dependant, adoption of the data governance concepts inherent within OBASHI will become imperative across both the public and private sectors.


Trusted, timely and accurate business decisions are more likely when a business is built upon a foundation of strong data governance.



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