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The need to preserve and give broad access to important institutional knowledge can be achieved by creating role-based information portals accessible by a wide base of asset team members.
|With the integration of real-time production data, logs, surveys, and work orders, role-based portals support highly efficient collaborative environments through capabilities such as social computing, business intelligence, and enterprise search.|
It is often said that a wise person learns from the experiences of others. The idea is a valid one in business because it saves time and resources. Within oil and gas corporations, though, a scalable and widely accepted system of communication and knowledge sharing is necessary for this principle to work. The need to preserve and give broad access to important institutional knowledge can be achieved by creating role-based information portals accessible by a wide base of asset team members.
Like countless other industry players, ConocoPhillips has three generations of employees working together side-by-side or dispersed around the world, and a significant number of the experienced workers are preparing to retire soon. That, plus regular attrition, creates the need for effective knowledge sharing.
“With our Intranet-based discussion forums, state-of-the-art browse-and-search tools, and content management processes, our portal structure goes a long way in addressing the looming generational gap and maintaining our intellectual capital. This is a key part of our strategy to retain critical knowledge,” said Dan Ranta, director of upstream knowledge sharing at ConocoPhillips.
Due to the global nature of the oil and gas industry, workers must additionally work with internal and external contacts that are located halfway around the world and may never meet face to face.
|Four of 10 oil and gas industry professionals view new social media tools as useful to boost collaboration and productivity on the job.|
“Portal sites make it possible for a diverse, global work force to connect with each other easily, aided by a business-focused network structure that encourages people to form trusted relationships regardless of their location,” Ranta adds.
Think of the information portal as a central meeting place for employees to share ideas and raise questions for community attention. From a single location, teams and individuals within the organization can coordinate schedules, organize documents and participate in discussions. Information portals also provide a forum for connecting expertise to problems. This quick access to critical information and expertise means better decisions and more rigorous execution.
Through the integration of business intelligence tools, these portals serve as a common interface into line-of-business applications. Users can view near-real-time information as key performance indicators that may include revenue and profit per barrel, lifting costs, and other business-health indicators.
Additionally, portals that are aligned with a role-based function enable a variety of workers to view selected information that is pertinent to their job title or responsibility. For example, a petroleum engineer might only want to see the production charts and subsurface logs for a particular well, while a facilities engineer will need to locate the well’s maintenance history and work orders. This technology gives managers, engineers, and operations personnel a quick look into potential problem areas in a highly capable 24/7 collaborative environment.
Solve problem before it starts
Several oil and gas companies are using portals to help users understand the larger picture of what’s going on in the organization, enabling them to share best practices, detect problems, and locate the necessary information to take corrective actions.
ConocoPhillips’ network-based portal sites enable people to find better solutions quickly. Take the example of how an employee in Indonesia posted a question to the network’s online portal inquiring whether it was safe to extend the run time of a power turbine beyond its scheduled maintenance overhaul. The timing of the overhaul would have resulted in a significant impact to production while the turbine, and the gas compressor it drove, were temporarily shut down. Expert engineers in Alaska, Australia and the corporate engineering group all responded, indicating it was both safe and permissible to continue running the equipment as long as the power it produced was acceptable and vibration levels were below alarm limits. By temporarily extending the turbine’s run time and deferring the overhaul to a more opportune time, the Indonesian unit avoided millions of dollars in additional lost production without compromising safety.
Today’s next-gen portal
In many instances, traditional portals have become a repository for information and a search tool for locating buried data. The next-generation portal is more dynamic and fluid, enabling real-time collaboration of ideas and problem solving. Social media tools like blogs, wikis, and social networking sites can be leveraged for business purposes and integrated into the portal so that a diverse and wide-spread set of users have a direct and timely connection with one another and the organization.
Practical uses of these social media tools within portals are numerous and may include the following:
• Blogs provide a place for engineers to capture the communication with other users while troubleshooting a problem, thus creating a best practices scenario.
• Wikis with a business-domain focus such as “drilling,” “production” or “facilities,” provide senior engineers an easy method for documenting how they do their jobs.
• Instant messaging provides a real-time awareness of presence within the business. Online presence allows users to see when their peers are available online and can interact with one other.
• Micro-blogging methods similar to the 140-character messages on Twitter can extend past the user to other entities within the business, such as the fields, wells and equipment, when combined with business intelligence data. This allows users to see the events happening in the field that require attention and are specific to that person’s role.
Oil and gas industry professionals are quickly realizing that Facebook and Twitter are not just for millennials or the consumer market. Respondents to a recent Microsoft and Accenture survey of oil and gas professionals stated that these social media tools can play a vital role in enhancing collaboration within critical oilfield initiatives, including project management, sourcing scarce resources and sharing health and safety advisories. These professionals also believe that new social media technologies can help stem the flow of intellectual knowledge from workers who are quickly hitting retirement age.
A collaborative environment
The portal of tomorrow also acts as a hub for a user’s daily work activities. A petroleum engineer, for example, may start his or her day by opening a personal site on the portal. This page is similar in look and feel to a Facebook profile, allowing the engineer to post relevant information such as personal details, documents, contacts and knowledge areas. The user can also subscribe to news feeds containing events and alerts associated with entities they manage such as wells, fields or equipment.
In one scenario, the engineer notices that an alert in her news feed shows that the field production is below forecast for the past few days. The alert links the engineer to an internal profile of the field on the portal page that shows the field’s scorecard and a newsfeed discussing relevant events and alerts. Here the engineer sees several other entries showing that multiple wells in the field are below forecast. Because these alerts are related to a greater field-wide production issue, the engineer decides to focus in on each individual well-level alert on a given well’s page in the portal. The information on this page contains production history, real-time data, work order history, logs, and well tests. By reviewing this information, the engineer sees that the problem is not at the well level.
|In the example, detailed pages for each well maintain up-to-the-minute well production statistics, a satellite image highlighting required attention areas and other key performance indicators. The user can also communicate through instant message with other team members regarding problem areas.|
At this point, the engineer requires further insight from someone else on her team. She starts a conversation with a senior engineer who she notices is available through the portal’s instant messenger service. The senior engineer recommends that the problem could be with the separator in this portion of the field and recommends doing an inspection of the separator. The engineer creates a work order and notes the corrective action in the comments section of the alert that started the investigation originally. By logging these actions, engineers who later work on this field can more quickly locate solutions to other problems that might arise based on past work history.
Business case for portal problem solving
As the oil and gas industry becomes increasingly savvy in its use of information portals, new communities of internal and external users will emerge that share insight into resolving difficult industry challenges — from health, safety and environmental concerns to avoiding revenue loss.
“The business impact of collaboration has made ConocoPhillips’ people and operations safer, lessened environmental impacts and helped our operations reduce or avoid lost production,” Ranta said. “Our operations have become more efficient, as in the case of our North Sea Business Unit that created and implemented a new Production Optimization Center. Along with reducing production losses, the POC has improved production coordination, planning and communication.”
Perhaps the true value in portals lies in the ability to bridge valuable information from knowledge-holders to the professionals who need it the most — all in real time.