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Knowledge management in Schlumberger


Monday, April 03, 2006

How does Schlumberger, possibly the world's most respected knowledge company, manage its knowledge internally? We had a look at its system The ?Smart field? requires that all of the people in the company, including geologists, geophysicists, reservoir engineers, drilling engineers and management, always have the best information they can possibly have at their fingertips. The reality is that most working environments are a long way away from that. Most of us have had experiences of having to search far and wide for the information we need, including internet bulletin boards, trying to track down colleagues, and trawling data archives for non-indexed documents and emails. Most of us have been very frustrated by unstructured internet bulletin boards, developed by software companies as a perfect [in their view] means of encouraging customers to support each other so the software company doesn?t have to provide support itself, but in reality just frustrating the user who spends hours in fruitless searches. Most of us have been in the situation of needing knowledge possessed by one single work colleague, who was impossible to reach, or carefully metered his knowledge as a way of maintaining his status in the company. Many of us have been the person in the company with knowledge, but while wanting to be helpful to colleagues continuously asking for information, found that our boss did not factor in the time spent helping colleagues in the workload he expects us to achieve by the end of the week. And many of us have been in the situation of discovering a special technique, wanting to share it with the whole company, but lacking the system to do it.

So how does Schlumberger, which claims to be the ?world's leading supplier of technology, project management and information solutions to the oil and gas industry? tackle all of these problems? The answer is very sophisticated online knowledge management systems, company activities divided into ?communities of interest? for employees doing specific tasks or using specific software irrespective of geographical location. Senior employees given a specific role of helping other Schlumberger employees around the world in specific areas, putting them in touch with someone who can help, and ?validating? any content posted on line as to whether or not they think it is valid and relevant. ?Customers expect the entire organisational know-how of Schlumberger to be behind every service and product delivered to them, says David Lecore, leader of Eureka knowledge interchange community. ?They want high and uniform quality of software support globally, rapid inclusion of ideas and new technology into products and services, rapid replication of best practice, lessons learned and solutions.? History The company first developed an in-house knowledge management strategy, in 1997; aiming to develop a ?new work environment where knowledge and experience can be easily shared,? in the words of the company chairman at that time, Euan Baird. ?We must become experts in capturing knowledge, integrating and preserving it and then making what has been learned quickly and easily available to anyone who will be involved in the next business decision,? he said in a 1997 speech. ?We believe this new culture will be defined by information management and its supporting technology, and that building these new systems is essential for our own internal efficiency and that of our clients.? At the time the company had developed hundreds of separate intranet sites, and over a thousand bulletin boards and e-mail forums, with no standard management.

It needed to find a way to link them all together, so all of the information could be easily made available to the whole company. The first step was to launch a way for field operations to get in touch with experts in engineering centres and to give field staff a one-stop-shop to technical information. The InTouch service was set up to enable this direct access to experts and validated information. The InTouch service now has 150 dedicated experts covering 80 technology and service domains. Knowledge systems The company has five different knowledge management systems, addressing different knowledge areas. There is a Corporate Directory for personnel and company information, which also includes Career Networking Profiles which are like on-line resums; Eureka, the internal Communities of Practice program which has 24 different Communities, supporting 127 Special Interest Groups, each with a leader(s) who is democratically elected; The Hub, the company Intranet system including standard content management and search tools; QUEST, A Quality Health Safety and Environmental, incident reporting and investigation system and InTouch, which connects people to dedicated experts and to validated technical information. InTouch InTouch was started in 1996, as the technical support service to field operations. Dedicated experts support field operations on a 24-by-7 basis, and cover a technology and service domain. These InTouch Engineers also manage the validation of new shared knowledge and are responsible for keeping the knowledge base for each domain clean and up-to-date. Note: Schlumberger pays specific employees (InTouch Engineers) to help other employees, this role is very highly considered, and so it is one that people aspire to. How many other companies do you know which pay its own staff to help each other? InTouch includes a designated network of experts, supporting the InTouch Engineers, who can be called upon to provide expert assistance, on a parttime basis, as required, ACEs - Applied Community Experts are field based experts and SMEs - Subject Matter Experts, are based in the technology centres.

In the first instance, someone with a problem will first of all, search the existing knowledge base, if the answer is not found or further assistance is required a ?ticket is raised, using a The InTouchSupport.com website, or via telephone or email. The ticket is managed by an InTouch Engineer, who can also ask the designated network of experts. The information the experts provide is then put into the knowledge base as well as provided to the person who needs help. InTouch contains many knowledge ?types? including ?best practice?, ?training?, ?internet link,? ?reference page,? ?documentation?, 'solution?, ?lesson learned / case history,? ?technical alert?, ?announcement? all in a single knowledge based and classified using a multifaceted classification, which is constantly maintained to represent the ever changing work environment. The InTouch Engineer can flag particularly useful information to be ?pushed? out to field operations, so they read it straight away, rather than waiting until they find it on the system. The biggest level of filtering is performed by the InTouch engineers, who go through everything which is posted and validates it, prior to publication, and label information as particularly useful by publishing it to key ?Reference Pages? covering various products and services. There are plenty of other benefits to the system. It makes it easier to assess new technology, and roll it out quickly to the entire company if it proves to be working. Customers can be served much more quickly. Example In one example, a Schlumberger engineer in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, required a ?new script? to transfer data in one format, into a software application. He first looked on the InTouch knowledge base and could not find what he required. His next step was to ?raise an InTouch ticket,? contacting, via InTouchSupport.com to an InTouch engineer in the Calgary Technology Centre, who replied the same day saying he had raised a ?bug report.? Two days later, the engineer in Calgary reported back that the script had been created and tested. The script was successfully deployed.

A few months later, another engineer in Europe encountered a similar problem and worked out how to fix it using the information in InTouch. Two months after that, the same UK based engineer made further improvements, publishing these to the InTouch Engineer for validation. Statistics The company reports that usage of the system gradually increased, as employees were encouraged to use it. However the number of tickets created has recently gone down, as employees were encouraged to ?Search Smart ? Search First? and discovered that more of the answers they were looking for were already in InTouch. To find out how well the system is working, Schlumberger measures how well the system is implemented, how many people use it, whether they are satisfied and what impact it has on the business. It monitors many trends and metrics such as the number of tickets submitted per month; how many unique users; how many items are added, behaviour of users for searching before submitting, top search terms for the month etc. The software also has tools to measure the usefulness of information, from what people say about it / how often it is viewed, so the most useful information is always at the top of the pile. During 2005, a total of 81,000 tickets were created on the system, 14,000 new items were validated on the knowledge base, including 3,182 best practices, 2317 solutions, 1929 lessons learned and 648 technical alerts Darwinian An interesting aspect the Schlumberger knowledge management story is the ?Darwinian? way in which systems that are now enterprise-wide and part of the fabric of the company started out as good ideas in a small part of the company, but those strong enough (read valuable and effective) received the support and resources they need to prosper and expand.

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