Shell proselytizes on enterprise social networking for upstream

Shell sees promise in social networking. Microsoft/Accenture poll suggests potential time savings.

Speaking at the 2009 Microsoft Global Energy Forum (GEF) in Houston this month (more in next month’s Oil IT Journal), Mike Hinkle described Shell’s early trials of social networking. The idea is ‘do more with less,’ to reduce travel and connect with the ‘deep expertise’ of an ageing workforce. There is also pull from young ‘digital’ hires and the need to support pockets of useful activity spread throughout the company. Enterprise social networking (ESN) is a ‘new and different way’ of digitizing informal information flows that may already exist. ESN establishes connections quickly and effectively, links to the right people, sharing ideas and solutions broadly. Tools include team and project websites and document repositories, portal personalization, wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, discussion groups and forums (the last two are the most successful). ESN is also about a richer way of connecting through instant messaging, presence management and ‘perhaps even Twitter-like services.’ Content is the fuel of ESN, enabling an ‘attention economy.’ Companies need to make it easy and rewarding to publish content which should be easy and interesting to find. You shouldn’t assume that all information flows will come from inside the enterprise. Competent staff and strict policies are required. Regarding tools, SharePoint and Office Communications Server offer a good set of core features to which Shell has added NewsGator, MediaWiki and Fast for search. Currently Shell has around 50,000 content publishers and expects SharePoint use to grow as Office 2007 and Vista are deployed.

At the GEF, Microsoft and Accenture unveiled the results of a survey they jointly commissioned from PennEnergy and the Oil & Gas Journal Research Center into oil and gas collaboration. The survey found unsurprisingly that over 70% of respondents believed that collaboration and knowledge sharing are important. ‘In spite of this,’ the survey found that organizations are still using ‘older means of collaboration’ like face-to-face meetings, e-mails and conference calls.’

Around 40% believed that they could save at least an hour every day by using social networking tools. Accenture’s Claire Markwardt said, ‘Companies have an opportunity to supplement their existing capabilities with tools such as podcasts and social networks to accelerate the sharing of knowledge, increase teaming and augmenting communication between their workforces in different regions.’ More on the Microsoft survey at

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