A holistic approach to data health helps inoculate PETRONAS against business risk

By Laura Ventura
Headshot of Datin Habsah Nordin, Head of Enterprise Data at PETRONAS and the PETRONAS company logoHeadshot of Datin Habsah Nordin, Head of Enterprise Data at PETRONAS and the PETRONAS company logo

Data health is not so different from our own health; it’s an ongoing discipline requiring preventative measures, effective treatments, and a supportive culture. Inaccurate or incomplete data can attack organizations like a disease, leading to ineffective execution of business strategies, poor ROI due to data integrity issues, penalties for regulatory non-compliance, even potential jail time or revocation of licenses due to mismanagement of data.

Medical scientists develop vaccines to protect our health against the risk of illness. Can data scientists create a vaccine that protects healthy businesses against the risks of managing data? 

Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS), a progressive global energy company based in Malaysia, is taking steps to inoculate its business against these and other risks while dramatically improving its operations and unleashing new business opportunities.

By partnering with Talend and harnessing cloud solutions, PETRONAS has embarked on a journey to transform data into a strategic, secure and trusted asset. With Talend, PETRONAS has also accelerated its journey to become a data-driven organization.

Unifying data governance

PETRONAS has a complex and growing data landscape, with more than 400 subsidiaries operating in more than 50 countries around the globe. Businesses span from upstream exploration and production to downstream operations including refineries, petrochemical plants, natural gas distribution, and retail.

This complexity means there are multiple data sources to integrate, multiple constituencies that need accurate data, and multiple regulatory compliance requirements. “It was imperative for us to take a holistic approach to data management so we could manage all forms of risks,” said Datin Habsah Nordin, Head of Enterprise Data at PETRONAS. The risk categories include business and reputational risk, financial risk, and legal and regulatory risk due to poor data quality, security, and integrity.

Central to mitigating these risks was the creation of a structured data governance operating model to safeguard all data assets and drive better business outcomes for PETRONAS, said Datin Habsah. “We took a centralized governance and decentralized assurance approach, which ensures standardized implementation of data governance but also empowers accountabilities among business units or functions so they can adopt and adapt to continuous assurance.”

Liberating data via the Enterprise Data Hub (EDH)

Having defined its data governance model, PETRONAS began implementing data governance programs in three thematic pillars. The first was data liberalization(1), which provided default access rights to minimize the time users must spend looking for the data they needed.

The key step in this process was implementing the new data hub to provide a single source of truth and central platform for accessing data. Talend Data Catalog inventories over 200 data types from multiple data sources that are connected to EDH.

"The EDH allows multiple business segments within PETRONAS to easily gather data from the enterprise in a company-wide data lake,” said Datin Habsah. “This is a new and pioneering area where we are pushing the boundaries.” PETRONAS expects the EDH to be fully functional by the end of 2022.  

“Talend, with its end-to-end big data suite of technology capabilities, has addressed our needs in many ways,” said Datin Habsah. These include: 

  • Building and  monitoring data pipelines for data ingestion and processing, measuring data health, and remediating data issues according to defined standards  
  • Capturing information on data flows and transformation over time, including both business and technical metadata, to ensure consistent understanding of the data 
  • Designating data classification  

To ensure the integrity and accessibility of liberalized data, PETRONAS follows legal and regulatory requirements set forth for seven special categories of data. These include personal data, competition data, public listed data, regulated business data, sovereign data, intellectual property (IP) data, and procurement data. At the same time, PETRONAS provides data entitlement, or rights access with data security, for data classified as “secret” and “confidential.” Data classifies as “internal” and “open” is given by default for users across functions and business units.

Scaling governance for enhanced data security

The second pillar is data security, which requires effective data governance at scale. PETRONAS determines that moving data processes to the cloud would add a layer of data protection while also ensuring compliance with all regulatory mandates. The company also collaborates with key industry players to provide scalable, secure cloud services. 

Data classification also plays an important role in determining the right access entitlement in the EDH, said Datin Habsah. “It is the first step in ensuring that data is properly tagged and categorized according to its sensitivity,” she added. “From these security classifications, we are able to define the access to be given to each group of users via the activity of data entitlement mapping.” 

“Talend has accelerated our transformational journey and enabled us to make data available, accessible, and actionable in support of our vision to become a data-driven organization.”

— Datin Habsah Nordin, Head of Enterprise Data, PETRONAS

This process is made possible with technology capabilities in the EDH to ensure all access is in line with the Role-based Access Control Principle (RBAC), and that data protection capabilities are applied such as encryption, masking, and tokenization of sensitive, confidential, secret, and personal data. 

Ensuring trusted data through higher data quality

The third data governance pillar is ensuring data quality so that analytics performs on PETRONAS’ data conforms with four As of data quality: Available, Accessible, Applied, and Actionable.

“We are driving a two-year program on data quality, giving business units the right tools, guiding them on the right processes, and providing rigorous monitoring so they can have confidence in the results of data analytics and data-driven decisions,” said Datin Habsah. “The emphasis on data quality at the source is key to building trust in the data — this needs to be fundamentally institutionalized to draw upon the enormous potential of new capabilities such as AI and machine learning.”

Impressive results already, with more to come

The three guiding pillars of data governance steering the PETRONAS Enterprise Data Hub project — data liberalization, scalable data security, and measurable data trust — will ensure that data is healthy and ready to use enterprise-wide.  

PETRONAS has quickly achieved results on several fronts since the data governance initiative was launched in 2020, including around 30 digital use cases enabled by the EDH. “The principle of building our unified data platform anchors upon where data matters to our business and where it will bring future value,” said Datin Habsah. “We have already seen improvements in productivity, production optimization, better management of the environment and carbon emissions, and the ability to forecast with an accurate understanding of trends. 

“And we are not stopping there,” said Datin Habsah. “Talend is enabling our data journey and has enabled us to make data available, accessible, and actionable in support of our vision to become a data-driven organization.” 

(1) Note: The data liberalization program is applicable on all data owned by PETRONAS Group — domestic and international — that is, entities owned by PETRONAS directly or indirectly with more than fifty percent (50%) of the voting rights in that respective entity.