IQPC Knowledge and Information Management for Oil and Gas, Aberdeen

Production Services Network on Machiavelli and SharePoint/MySite-based KM. Logica and the art of KM. Shell’s ROCK/Wiki. Adept on 3D and plant IM. Petrobras’ lessons learned program. Schlumberger’s decade of KM. Talengi on document control and risk management.

Alan Thompson (Production Services Network) uses Microsoft SharePoint/My Site1 to transform the way PSN conducts its oil and gas consulting business. In the past, the company recruited to fulfill most of its new contracts, using the manager’s ‘little book of highly reliable people!’ Now that the company has built a knowledge base of good practice and ideas through its network of consultants, it is in a position to ‘in-source’ work instead. Client requests are now addressed by the whole organization. Thompson warned however of the dangers of resistance to change, quoting Machiavelli, ‘There is nothing more difficult to take in hand than to take the lead in a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.’ Another perennial problem for the KM advocate is the fact that knowledge workers may be unwilling to share their ‘prime asset.’ The answer is to develop a culture conducive to collaboration and to use champions. These are not necessarily SMEs themselves, but they will need some chutzpah to ‘approach and engage’ the experts.

Alf Michaelsen (Logica) described KM as the ‘art of transforming intellectual assets into business value.’ Despite much talk of the talent shortage and the case for KM, 80% of KM initiatives fail to deliver all their business objectives. This is because of a lack of visible leadership, a lack of the desire or ability to change, lack of resources, IT limitations and budget. Michaelsen recommends a KM assessment and warns against implementing a technology-led KM strategy. Enter Logica’s KM framework and methodology, an eight stage process of creating change. The framework includes creating a ‘guiding coalition,’ developing a strategy and communicating and generating quick wins. Finally the new approach needs to be anchored in the company culture.

Shell ‘s Andy Boyd, also visiting professor at the London School of Economics, described the ‘great crew change’ as a huge problem for oil and gas and other mature industries where the boomer generation is retiring. Shell is addressing the problem with a ‘retention of critical knowledge (ROCK) program of interviews with knowledge workers that capture and record their skills in the Shell Wiki (the largest corporate Wiki according to Accenture) and ‘Mind Maps2’ to visualize knowledge. Shell has over 70 ‘very active’ KM communities that have been running for the last 15 years. These are generating ‘audited savings of $300-400 million dollars per year.’

Colin Balchin and Nigel Barnes (Adept KM) recommend using 3D visualization to accelerate the transformation of data into information and knowledge for asset management. They distinguish between ‘entropic’ and ‘strategic’ asset management processes. The former are concerned with the disorder inherent in any system and affect safety, integrity and performance. Problems can occur at any stage of the design and build process. Adept recommends a ‘stage gate’ process to manage uncertainty of outcomes and the increasing volume of information. The use of risk and contingency analysis was shown for a project involving adding gas compression to an FPSO. This showed for instance that while non-critical stuff was running two weeks ahead of schedule, critical work was two weeks late. It was time to re-allocate resources! Such information management needs to be done closer to real time with more qualitative analysis. Planners need to see trends for reliable forecasting. Current systems are not always up to the job because of high data volumes and poor systems integration. This is where 3D comes in, repurposing CAD models, which already contain a lot of technical information, to extend their use across the asset lifecycle. The use of 3D is already a given in reservoir management. Here, CAD models can be the basis for engineering information, equipment codes—the master tag register for the asset that ensures information is highly visible in one system.

Flavio Bretanha outlined Petrobras’ lessons learned programs. These were designed to address KM challenges in operations and to develop a collaborative approach to the management of complex projects. The KM unit is involved in Petrobras’ standardization effort and is publishing an engineering management manual. Other activities span communities of practice (CoP) and a lessons learned program. The standardization program includes participation in international and national standards bodies to evaluate and align Petrobras’ standards and specifications. CoPs are built around groups of experts in specific areas are responsible for the incorporation of technical advances and new methodologies. Current focus areas include a revamp of Petrobras’ inspection routines and procedures for dealing with construction contractors. The lessons learned initiative includes knowledge taxonomy development. A single corporate taxonomy improves document coherence and clarity. This in turn will ensure adherence to the project and help define responsibilities. Petrobras is collaborating with the Brazilian engineering trade organization, Abemi3, on the development of best practices and construction checklists for employees. Approved technical routines and executive procedures are being developed—again leveraging the standard taxonomy. Bretanha concluded that, ‘If your company is in an initial level of maturity in KM, strengthen the organization of the technical documentation and information management before implementing a lessons learned program.’ Once that is in place, it should be extended with a unified taxonomy which will form the basis of a solid lessons learned program.

Susan Rosenbaum offered some interesting ‘musings’ on a decade of KM at Schlumberger. KM got off to a flying start in 1997 with strong endorsement from the then chairman and CEO Euan Baird who told analysts ‘Knowledge is an asset that can be reused rather than something that has to be reinvented over and over again. We need to create companies that learn quickly and do not forget.’ A position that was subsequently endorsed by the current president and CEO Andrew Gould. As Rosenbaum remarks, ‘KM starts with management commitment.’ At the top level, KM in Schlumberger connects people to information, communities and business solutions. Initiatives include the Career Network Profile, an internal, self-authored résumé that is linked to the corporate LDAP directory and the internal competency management system. A key finding was that people will keep their own information up-to-date.

Next up was InTouch, a 24/7 knowledge and operational support portal for accessing expertise, best practices, ticket and document management. InTouch is now embedded in all of Schlumberger’s work processes. There are some 150 full time InTouch Engineers and another 250 part-time contributors. Around 4,000 experts assist the InTouch project with specialist input and QC. InTouch Engineers answer questions from the field, capture solutions to the support portal and conduct root cause analysis of why assistance was needed. The latter is used to drive improvement in hardware, software, documentation and training updates. InTouch has over a million attached files, 56,000 users and 2.8 million logins per year.

Another initiative is the ‘Speedia’ community glossary and encyclopedia. This is modeled after Wikipedia and is an internal source of definitions for acronyms and ‘Schlumberger speak.’ Speedia also contains articles on Schlumberger’s technologies and services. The Wiki is proving popular, people like to share, especially when a contest is being held.

Schlumbeger has around 160 ‘Eureka’ communities of practice with over 300 leaders and 25,000 plus members. These center on discussion forums (bulletin boards or ‘BBs’ in Schlumberger parlance). These allow for in depth discussion of a problem by experts from around the world. The BBs have proved their worth in sharing technical knowledge and are used to produce technology roadmaps, white papers and innovation ideas. Results are discussed in over 250 technical webinars annually. People link to and learn from others in their field. Communities have a life cycle—they emerge, they live, and they can eventually die.

Rosenbaum concluded noting that while people are the key to all KM initiatives, KM systems are now an essential part of the way Schlumberger works. Notwithstanding this, KM needs a constant push and encouragement. ‘You can never declare victory and feel that the KM problem is solved.’

Matthieu Lamy (Talengi Document Control) enumerated the risks implicit in information management. These are broken down as follows. Operational risks—e.g. a wrong document is used in design. Financial risks—e.g. a poor supplier relationship means that penalties are incurred. Information security risks—e.g. losses during document exchange. Legal risks—e.g. non availability of key documents in the event of litigation or for regulatory compliance.

Typical problem situations are encountered when there is doubt as to which is the current version of a document, or whether it is complete with the latest annotations. Such worries create issues for personal productivity, operations and knowledge management. Enter Document Control which Lamy defines as ‘the methods and tools used to manage and secure document exchange between an operator and a contractor.’

Talengi’s mission is to assist managers monitoring projects and organize information. This includes recommendations on storage, document identification and QC, compliance and tracking. Document management is essential to keep projects on schedule and to ensure a proper hand over to operations. Document control can also be viewed as a vector for knowledge management, providing much of the taxonomy and metadata that helps circulate and contextualize information. Lamy believes that there is considerable unrealized potential for its use.




This article originally appeared in Oil IT Journal 2011 Issue # 4.

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