Caroline Fowler has worked at maxgeo for over 10 years and is a Senior Database Manager. Working across all products, she is responsible for analysing client data and migrating it into a customised maxgeo Database Schema (MDS).
Sounds straightforward, right?
If you’re dealing with one field at a time, sure, but the majority of maxgeo clients rely on having a comprehensive system that records and categorises in a considered, concise format.
Such considerations take place early on, in what maxgeo calls the ‘DataFIRST’ process.
“We have to make strategic choices and decisions about how to integrate all the client’s data into a custom database. We need to identify everything upfront to save time and reduce risks,” says Caroline.
This DataFIRST process, essentially scoping, is a crucial means of defining boundaries around supplied client data and how it fits into the MDS. After all, good quality data is imperative to making better business decisions.
“We take an Access, Excel or SQL file and assess how ‘clean’ the data is, whether there are duplicate points or gaps in the data and what the dependencies are.”
Following this assessment, the database administration team ends up with a data map, which outlines the required tables and fields and how they map into the maxgeo system.
Data gathering and research in the mapping stage may include having a conversation with the client’s IT department or the geology crew. It is important all stakeholders are involved. Such information is compiled into the Compilation Master Document (CMD).
“Mapping new fields is a big concept to understand, and can be daunting,” says Caroline.
“We hold several meetings, use colour coding and other techniques to engage clients and help them understand.”
The DataFIRST map can be likened to the blueprint of a house. Carefully thought-out and specific to each client’s requirements, an accurate plan is critical to ensure the stages that follow are efficient and error-free.
As Caroline puts it: “Pouring concrete to make a foundation is pretty simple, but once you have a house on top, foundation repair is fiddly and expensive.”
Basically, by putting in the work of scoping and mapping, Caroline and the team can rest assured they have done all they can to lay a solid foundation – one that won’t require ripping up and redoing later down the line.
“Having a clear blueprint centres on getting clarity, locking in schedules for the client and getting estimates around how long we think it will take to fully modify and migrate. We want clients to know where they stand going forward and minimise downtime during the transition.”
Caroline notes that the client’s situation also plays a part in the extent of the scoping exercise.
“Some clients are just starting, some are transitioning from other systems, and some are upgrading from older versions of maxgeo. The challenge is getting them to think the way we do – they might be more familiar with Excel or have a mess of data. Clients often don’t understand all our offerings and abilities. We have a standard MDS build (we call it the ‘Base’), but we make custom alterations and map against that.”
Migration from a previous system is a demanding task, similar in scope to building a house from start to finish.
In a modification project, there may already be a house (structure) in existence, hosted by maxgeo, but updates (or renovations) are required to accommodate new fields and tables to suit the client’s dataset.
Having an understanding of data constraints and types, database rules, relationships etc. is key to getting the template functioning correctly.
“When the house (personalised client database) is built and approved by the client, we move the furniture in – that’s the data,” says Caroline.
For hosted clients, maxgeo run the servers and the client uses DataShed5 to log in and look at their data. On-premised clients have their own staff managing their servers, which Caroline and the team build and deliver for use with DataShed4 and DataShed5.
At the end of the day, just as no two houses are built in the same way, each client is different. The ability to customise inputs, fields and hosting options is one of the reasons that maxgeo software and solutions are so popular on sites around the world. Helping geologists and database administrators feel at home.