Land Management Insights 2019

Ditch the spreadsheets and use advanced technologies to derive value from your data

What does good land management look like?

Exploration and production (E&P) companies are faced with a new reality—that development must increasingly be funded with free cash flow. As companies strive to live within their means, their land organizations are stymied by the fact that land systems don’t integrate seamlessly with adjacent operational and functional systems (e.g., subsurface, marketing and accounting). They’re also experiencing lingering issues of poor data quality and are unable to use existing data to drive decisions and solve important business problems.

As part of its land benchmarking study, PwC recently surveyed more than 20 upstream operators and conducted interviews with more than 40 land professionals and executives to determine what good looks like for modern land organizations. Our findings show that organizations with superior data and technology integration capabilities have lower land headcount—and generally lower cost structures—than their peers.

Land data is critical to the functioning of the entire upstream asset lifecycle. E&Ps must be able to track lease provisions, obligations and expirations. In addition, E&Ps must maintain visibility into ownership and rights at different depths or in the places where leases may overlap. Data may be used to track broker performance, rights of way and other agreements, as an input into acreage reporting (including GIS mapping) and to make timely payments.

What are the top challenges faced by land?

Systems aren’t fully integrated

While a majority of participants indicated their land system is integrated with owner or partner information, well status and accounts payable, most say their system is not at all integrated with production volume information, procurement systems, capital projects, AFE, marketing and reserves. Consequences of poor system integration include inefficiency (e.g., manual, copy-paste creation of management reports) and risk, as functions within the organization maintain their own disparate (and perhaps contradictory) data lenses into performance.

Poor data quality and accuracy

Once they arise, data quality issues in land can be particularly destructive, as they can cause distrust between the various functions involved in data entry, maintenance and usage (e.g., between land operations and land administration). This can cause greater use of offline databases and spreadsheets, which together can further feed the quality problem and the likelihood of certain risks (e.g., unintended lease expiration). Because the correction of data quality issues requires time and focus, land organizations pressured by the burden of regular business may allow them to fester.

Spreadsheets galore

Exacerbating (or perhaps caused by) the issue of poor system integration is the widespread use of spreadsheets or offline databases for land operations processes (e.g., title, well readiness). Many participants also said those particular processes generally are not standardized across assets—a fact that makes it more difficult to realize the full power of their systems. Even for some traditional land administration processes such as owner relations and division of interest, spreadsheet use is more common than not. A majority of companies also report that their internal reporting processes for land information are quite manual and involve downloading data from systems into spreadsheets for manipulation.

Increased risk due to immature data and technology

Poor system integration, poor data quality and reliance on offline databases can add to workload in a host of ways, including duplicate entry of information, manual reporting or compilation of information, corrections or reconciliations, and more. Most land organizations close their data and technology gaps by throwing additional people at the problem, which leads to a higher cost structure and inefficiencies.

Immature data and technology can also add substantially to data-related risks, including compliance issues, lost leases, impairments and reputational risks. Although data on the relationship between these risks and data and system maturity is more anecdotal, our study suggests a relationship between data maturity level and headcount efficiency.

Those with immature data capabilities often have double the land headcount than their more data-mature counterparts, on the basis of leases, agreements and owners (both royalty interest and JV). This suggests that when proper steps are taken to improve data capabilities, workload impact can translate into significant efficiency gains.

The Haves and Have-nots

The oil and gas downturn illustrated a clear distinction between the E&P segment’s “Haves” and “Have-nots”—those with the wherewithal to weather the downturn and those who were forced to go through restructuring, bankruptcy and significant reductions in force. While the latter made drastic cuts in investment, the former were able to continue investing—not only in development, but in technology. For land technology and data specifically, the Have-nots struggle to stay compliant and maintain current, institutional knowledge of what is in their leases and agreements, while the Haves are beginning to apply advanced technology to automate tasks, enable data-based decision making, focus land resources on value-added work and promote operational excellence in land.

How can Haves make the most of their land technology investments?

Push the envelope—continue to invest and enhance use of technology.


Develop a strategy and vision for land technology

  • Outline goals for how technology will improve performance and how it will be used (e.g., improving A&D processes)
  • Determine the value proposition for technology investments
  • Build a governance structure to use data as the basis for decision making

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Data and emerging technology

Invest in technology to continue differentiating from peers

  • Automate all required tasks that are repetitive and manual
  • Develop a master data structure to align data requirements to strategic goals
  • Combine data and analytics from multiple sources and functions to create operational insight (e.g., where to lease, how much to pay per acre)

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Stand-up a land Center of Excellence (COE) to complete strategic initiative

  • Integrate and enhance technology in land, and include IT personnel on the team
  • Enhance standards in processes and procedures
  • Manage talent: improve data and analytical skills of staff through recruitment and training

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Performance management

Set KPIs to measure performance and continuously improve land group

  • Determine standard metrics to track
  • Use technology, such as dashboards, to automate monitoring and reporting
  • Conduct frequent lookbacks on performance; initiate opportunities through land COE and monitor progress in technology systems

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Whether you’re a Have or a Have-not, getting the most out of technology investments requires emphasis on other key parts of the operating model.

How can Have-nots make the most of their land technology investments?

Get the basics right, then make the leap in technological maturity.


Evaluate current land maturity with emphasis on technology and data

  • Assess current land and technology capabilities
  • Determine desired target state capability maturity
  • Assess gaps to target state and develop action plan

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Get the activities and processes right

  • Focus on activities that add value to the business, and eliminate those that don't
  • Assign accountabilities so that the right work is performed by the right people
  • Determine how and where technology can enable increased efficiency and effectiveness

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Land system

Realize full potential of land system

  • Document end-to-end processes for land and adjacent functions (e.g., finance)
  • Implement enterprise land system (e.g., Quorum, P2)
  • Formalize links between land and adjacent systems through middleware and data visualization tools

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Set a long-term vision of continuous improvement through technology and data

  • Determine future strategic focus areas
  • Explore opportunities to use emerging technology as an enabler for improved performance
  • Develop investment cases for additional technology-related opportunities

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About the PwC Land Benchmarking Study

Since 2013, the PwC Land Benchmarking Study has provided both a means for determining where US onshore land organizations stand relative to peers in headcount (based on key scale and activity drivers) and decision-making support through a deeper understanding of how work drivers and service delivery model choices affect performance. Data on headcount and key activity drivers are collected at a region or basin level. The PwC study was developed with input from land professionals at select E&Ps and IOCs. In addition to the collection of data on headcount, cost and various activity and work drivers (e.g., owner counts, well counts, leases, rigs), the study also includes qualitative questions addressing how land work gets done. In-depth interviews are conducted with participants to gather additional color on service delivery choices, challenges and best practices.

Contact us

Steve Wright

Steve Wright

Oil and Gas Benchmarking Leader, PwC US

Blake Baptist

Blake Baptist

Senior Manager, Strategy&, PwC US

Richard Rose

Richard Rose

Energy Director, PwC US

Manas Pattanaik

Manas Pattanaik

Managing Director, PwC US

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