IM Experts in E&P

The People Issue in IM – Learning from Knowledge Managers

Date: 13/5/2010

Views from IQPC’s Knowledge and Information Management for Oil and Gas – Aberdeen, April 2010

One of the things notable at an earlier conference this year - SMi’s doughty E&P Data and Information Management conference - was number of speakers explicitly talking about user behaviour as an issue in information management (IM). For some years now information managers have recognised the trinity of ‘people, process and technology’ as fundamental to the discipline but nevertheless we have still seen too many implementations pay only lip service to the people element; after all, technology is (reasonably) predictable and does (sort of) what we ask of it. At SMi there was heartening evidence, in the form of references to such topics as behavioural economics and the impact of culture on IM implementations, that information managers are finally beginning to truly grapple with the (sometimes unpredictable and often troublesome) people side of things.

Elsewhere along the spectrum of data, information and knowledge when we work as knowledge managers our currency is what’s in people’s heads. So knowledge managers have been dealing with ‘the people issue’ from the outset and this year’s recent IQPC Aberdeen conference Knowledge and Information Management in Oil and Gas highlighted some differences between the knowledge management community and those immersed in IM in our industry. Apart from Reid Smith’s (Marathon) talk on Information Management governance frameworks, and Troika’s seismic data standards discussion, the content was overwhelmingly knowledge management (KM) focussed. Many of the speakers talked about their implementations of knowledge sharing and network support platforms but, tellingly, significant time was given over to discussions of why people behave the way they do when we try and encourage and embed knowledge capture and sharing in organisations and – crucially – thinking and experience in how to deal with it. Even the case histories approached their systems from a people perspective (so much so in fact that the prevailing mantra was ‘technology is easy; people are the hard part’ which belies the truth in this author’s opinion. I’m with the brave souls who in the stood up in the Q&A sessions to say technology isn’t necessarily easy at all. Easier perhaps...) but even more notable were the talks given over purely to themes of behaviour, culture and attitudes. These included Chris Collison’s (co-author of Learning to Fly and now MD of Knowledgeable Ltd) talk positing ‘syndromes’ of user behaviours and their possible causes and ideas to overcome them; Luigi Salvador’s (ENI) talk discussing the ingrained cultural attitudes of Western businesses and calling for a radical change in how companies respond to change; Fillippo Capriotti’s (ENI) update of last year’s talk on social network analysis and its uses; and Andy Boyd’s (Shell) report of attitudes to social computing in the digital native generation and its ramifications for the business.

Today the uptake of information access and sharing technologies, collaboration platforms, people directories and so-called ‘Enterprise 2.0’ technologies in general is accelerating. The distinction (if ever there was any) between IM and KM becomes increasingly meaningless as knowledge managers seize on the new technologies to help realise their visions of seamless knowledge access and information managers recognise the chance to make their information assets almost effortlessly accessible. What this conference underlined is that we now have a great opportunity for the two communities to learn from each other and finally approach that ideal balance between people, process and technology which will hopefully realise the full value of both the new and the established technologies an, indeed, the disciplines themselves.

 

Simon Cushing

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