Oil ITJ Interview Michael Behouneck

Oil IT Journal spoke to Halliburton’s director of knowledge management, Michael Behouneck. Behouneck manages Halliburton’s internal KM programs—building communities of practice for field engineers. Halliburton’s secret to KM success is the knowledge broker—a facilitator who acts as a buffer between users and the subject matter experts.

Oil ITJ - How did knowledge management (KM) begin in Halliburton?

Behouneck—We began with a scoping team, tried to find out what KM is about, checked with lots of companies to evaluate their projects and produced a road map.

Oil ITJ—So what is KM?

Behouneck—KM is about getting the right information to the right people at the right time in a systematic fashion, with minimum input from end users.

Oil ITJ—What did your peers teach you?

Behouneck—Our evaluation showed that many companies saw KM projects such as expert locators and Communities of Practice (COP) as ‘silver bullets’—kind of putting the cart before the horse! Why should a highly qualified drilling engineer take part in a COP? Expert locators don't work—experts don’t want to be located!

Oil ITJ—So how did you start out?

Behouneck—We already had a best practices/lessons learned database which helped early system design. The real trick was to remove the need for an expert. An intermediary—the knowledge broker—collects and validates information, checking with the expert as necessary. Today most regular issues have solutions in the system.

Oil ITJ—How do you evaluate success?

Behouneck—Halliburton used to do a poor job of transferring knowledge. We now monitor project value as objectively as we can. The businesses do the evaluation. Our E-Tech electronic technician KM program shared over 100 lessons learned, speeded problem resolution and identified training needs. This saved around $1 million in 2002—of an overall $5 million attributed directly to our KM initiatives.

Oil ITJ—Does KM require high-end tools or is email and USENET enough?

Behouneck— A good question! The problem with email is that it is hard to branch and thread discussions. Mailboxes are already overloaded and you need to open mail. Message boards are powerful—but the issue here is not the technology but quality assurance of the answers. You might get five answers posted—but which one is right? This is where the knowledge broker comes in.

Oil ITJ—What tools do you use?

Behouneck—We couldn’t find what we needed on the market. We started with Plumtree as a guide but ended up doing our own development based on a threaded discussion tool. Topics are numbered and tracked as open, resolved or closed. A solid search engine is important, we deploy Autonomy. This is a robust tool—but integration with other applications is problematical. The Portal provides a user-friendly front end that lets us push information based on roles and responsibilities. The Portal recognizes you upon sign-on and offers a discipline-based interface depending on either job and role or blended across different job/role combinations cutting across electricians, manufacturing and maintenance. We now have 12 communities up and running.

Oil ITJ—How important is the ‘broker’?

Behouneck—COPS evolve and will die out as subject matter declines. The key to sustainability is the broker—definitely not a part time job. A COP needs a critical mass—one broker for every 350 members or so. We have communities of 1000 members with 3 brokers. This is incidentally an excellent training position—we rotate engineers through the position. The broker is not an expert—he/she will likely be a couple of years out of school.

Oil ITJ - These numbers suggest that KM is not for smaller companies.

Behouneck—A ‘people network’ is probably enough for a smaller company. But they can connect with others through myHalliburton.com.

Oil ITJ—Do you use content management?

Behouneck—We looked at this. It’s not easy. Down the road we think that some kind of XML data could be stored. We have already rebuilt our corporate taxonomy and hope to leverage this. We are working on a content management system from Interwoven. This will be used for critical information that needs to be retained. We participate in the POSC taxonomy and showed what we have to the group. Halliburton taxonomy started out with in-house work then rolled-in the Tulsa Abstract which we streamlined and pared down. Our customers like it. But if there are over 7 layers it gets hard to sort for documents. 5 layers should be considered a maximum. This has worked for standardizing well names and numbers. But the complexity of worldwide geo-locations is a harder task.

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