Digital Transformation Terminology

This list was updated on the 3rd February 2019. New additions: Artificial Neural Network, Cybernetics, Data Lake, Drone, Integrated Operations, Proof of Concept and Smart Grid.

Digitalization is gathering pace within the Oil & Gas industry. The emphasis on breeding a digital culture and mindset among the workforce to meet business challenges has been clearly conveyed by leaders within organizations of all sizes. This calls for structural change within a department (or departments) to improve value delivery for the company and its customers with help from digital technologies. This is commonly called Digital Transformation.

This involves taking existing systems within an organization and replacing them with more modern ones, with the aid of modern technology adoption. All of this adds value to the business and the end customer or user.

This transformation can be overwhelming to some people, with many new buzzwords being introduced to the organization quickly.

I've gathered a non-exhaustive list of common terms that I've heard about. The descriptions below are limited and meant to act as an introduction to technical terms as they become more common within our jobs.



A practice within software project management where tasks are divided into short, fast scopes with a review at the end of task completion and rapid adaptation toward reaching a final satisfactory solution.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A term that describes "intelligence" within machines demonstrated by the imitation of human behavior or the ability to perform human tasks.

Artificial Neural Network (ANN)

A type of Machine Learning algorithm that is inspired by the makeup of the human brain. An input layer passes the input data to at least one hidden layer. The hidden layer(s) transforms the data into a form that the output layer can use for pattern recognition, for example.

Augmented Reality (AR)

AR overlays computer-generated visuals to what the user sees on a phone or tablet. The user can interact with the visuals to help uncover additional information.

Back-End Developer

A software professional who codes the Back-End of a web application (like a car engine and transmission) in a language like Python or Java. They work with a server, application(s) and a database. This role helps form the foundation of an application that Front-End developers (see below) build upon.

Big Data

Very large volumes of data, collected and transmitted across networks at high speeds (e.g. telecommunications, financial trading) for analysis by engineers or scientists to uncover hidden trends or insights.


A group of connected digital records generated with cryptography technology held in a decentralized, public database.

Business Intelligence Tools

Software tools used to gather and process large amounts of unstructured data from books, scanned records, documents, journals and other traditional communication mediums. Insights can be discovered by queries input by the user or algorithm.


A software application that mimics human conversation (text or voice). Nowadays, applications can continually learn and improve its behavior due to its Artificial Intelligence back-end or engine.

Cloud Computing (Public)

A server operated and managed by an external party (e.g. AWS, Google, Microsoft) held off-site to store & process data, perform computations and hosting & running applications.

Cognitive Computing

Based on principals taken from Computer Science and Cognitive Science, Cognitive Computing is hardware and/or software that mimics the human brain in terms of behavior and decision-making. It can take it learnings and optimize processes at great scale compared to humans.

Computer Vision

This technology allows computers to "see" and interpret images just like how a human can.


Cybersecurity is an ongoing practice to protect an organization's ever-increasing digital assets and IT assets from the threat of unauthorized access/control by external persons or software.


"Science concerned with the study of systems of any nature which are capable of receiving, storing and processing information so as to use it for control."— A. N. Kolmogorov

Data Lake

A repository of all data in its raw form available within an organization. It acts as a source for analytics teams and software.

Data Mining

A process of analyzing data sets to find patterns and generate new information to be used for predictions/trend forecasts.

Data Science

The practice of combining data, algorithms and scientific methods to uncover hidden relationships in unstructured or structured data to extract value for the organization. (Note: see below for unstructured and structured data definitions)

Deep Learning

A subset of Machine Learning - Deep Learning algorithms are artificial neural networks that automatically learn representations from patterns held with numbers, images, documents etc. Their accuracy increases as data volumes increase.

Design Thinking

Discovery of an enhanced solution that may not be apparent, by examination of an existing process or customer behavior.

Digital Oilfield

The use of advanced software and data analysis to maximize production and reduce maintenance and downtime throughout infrastructure in oilfields. See also: Integrated Operations

Digital Twin

A computer model used for visualizing, predicting and managing the performance of an asset, process or system based on data, analytics, and in-house knowledge.


A computer controlled flying vehicle of a small size fitted with sensors and/or cameras that have two-way communication with a control center. Typical uses are the monitoring and inspection of rigs in harsh environments and places inaccessible to people.

Front-End Developer

A software professional that builds a functional interface within a browser or application (like a car's interior - steering wheel, speed control etc.) using a combination of computer languages and libraries under the guidance of a programming framework.

Full Stack Developer

A developer who can work in the Front-end and Back-end (see above) of a web application. A jack of all trades.


A version control system that manages a codebase for developers enabling seamless collaboration.


This is a short event to develop new digital products or services in the shape of web apps or websites. They are usually held within organizations amongst employees or held publicly where teams are pre-chosen or chosen on the day and last for a short period of time.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT)

IIOT - where machinery is fitted with sensors and data acquisition units. The machines and sensors are connected to the internet and communicate to a centralized control center allowing continuous analysis to be performed, uncovering invaluable insights that were hidden, thus adding value to an organization.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 - known as the fourth industrial revolution. Digital technologies and automation are deployed across machines to gather data for analyzing performance, which adjustments to be made to drive efficiencies for business.

Infrastructure-as-a-Serice (IaaS)

IaaS is IT infrastructure/hardware maintained by a service provider (e.g. Digital Ocean or Amazon Web Services (AWS)) and made available for you and delivered over the internet allowing you to host and run software applications with a lower cost base.

Integrated Operations (IO)

Integrated Operations or IO, is described by coordinating all aspects of data communications, people (onshore and offshore), video recordings and operation systems to make smarter decisions to increase output from a Petroleum facility. See also: Digital Oilfield

Lean Startup

"The Lean Startup provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and get a desired product to customers' hands faster." This framework is increasingly being used in large oil & gas corporations.

Machine Learning

A set of algorithms and statistical theories that gradually learn from data and identifies patterns with minimal human intervention and oversight.


Associated with Lean Startup, a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is, ideally a minimum set of features to solve a business problem. The solution is built quickly, learnings are noted and implemented in a short, fast cycle. It is a stepping stone to potentially building a more polished, functional product. See also: Proof-of-Concept.


Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the ability of an algorithm to read a text and ascertain the sentiment of the phrase analyzed. Used in Chatbot technologies.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

PaaS is a layer of Cloud Computing where hardware and a platform are provided and managed by a vendor allowing you to create, maintain and run applications online.

Predictive Analytics

Identification of potential future outcomes based on data, statistics and machine learning techniques.

Proof-of-Concept (PoC)

Similar to MVP. A business case is defined for a small scale project. The goal is to test a hypothesis to identify benefits, learnings and viability for an organization.

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)

RFID is an identification and tracking technology. Typically, a chip containing a transmitter and receiver is fitted to an object. When the chip is scanned, several scenarios are possible. For example, information about the object can be retrieved on the scanner or a physical action could occur (e.g. a valve could be instructed to close itself).

Smart Grid

A term originating from the Electric power distribution sector. It describes transmission line monitoring and management of energy distribution between customers and the supply source with digital technologies. This concept is used in Oil & Gas. See also: Digital Oilfield & Integrated Operations.


SaaS is a centrally hosted online software delivered by a subscription-based delivery model. It's usually built upon IaaS (see above).


Used in software development, a set of tasks are defined and described to be completed in a short amount of time.

Structured Data

This is data stored and accessed by traditional means e.g. data stored in spreadsheets or tables within databases (e.g. PostgreSQL). Basically, it is "structured" nicely to allow parsing.


A combination of software in the form of libraries, frameworks and databases to build a functional application that runs on a server or servers.

User Interface

An interface such as a dashboard displayed on a computer screen or tablet that offers high-value functionality. This is usually called UI and commonly designed with a specific user experience (UX) in mind (see below).

Unstructured Data

Data stored and accessed within documents, emails, videos and photographs which, cannot be stored in conventional databases for analysis.

User Experience (UX)

UX - the experience a user feels when using a website, app or system.

Virtual Reality (VR)

VR replaces the real-world surroundings of the user with a simulated environment. Different scenarios can be displayed to the user, which can help in training programs.


Thanks to Frederic Charveys, Anjana Sankara Narayanan and Bart Stafford for their suggestions.

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What is your favorite term that you've heard? What terms are missing?

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