posted 1 Apr 2000 in Volume 3 Issue 7
Faros, going live
In the third part of this series, Ove Rustung Hjelmervik focuses on the final stages in the development of Statoil’s knowledge management system, Faros. After the technological issues were resolved, it was time for Faros to finally be implemented in a live environment.
The Faros Feedback Function
In June 1999, after a successful testing period, the project introduced the Faros Feedback Function. This is a system for ensuring that an operator’s experience of working the process reaches the responsible process owner. It has a monitoring function to make sure that the operator has reached the right address, which saves him from wondering if his comments have arrived safely. Furthermore, before the operator can send his comment, he will have to pass through the list of existing comments on the same subject. Here, he will see if a similar experience to his has already has been reported. This new comment, together with other experiences, form the basis for developing new good practices, and leading to increased competitive advantage.
As part of introducing Faros Feedback to the Business Units, we are accentuating the need for each process owner to take responsibility for his or her value creation process. The process owner is responsible for updating the relevant process, as required by the members of the community using it.
From this arena it should be possible to transfer all relevant experience obtained from a work process to the process owner(s) responsible for maintaining it. Once such experience is transmitted, the owner(s) will consider developing a new good practice document. The content of Faros is made instantly available to all employees and contract personnel at any time in all areas of the world, inside or outside the company, provided they have access to Statoil’s intranet/extranet.
Use of information technology
Having created concepts such as the ‘Knowledge Room’, ‘Work Process Navigator’, ‘Faros Feedback’, and ‘JIT-JE’ (‘Just-in-Time, Just-Enough’), the team had to find a technology capable of co-ordinating these tools. In the autumn of 1996, Statoil was fully committed to Lotus Notes technology. The project team realised, however, that building a KMS on the LN platform would neither give us the flexibility we were seeking on behalf of the user, nor sufficiently support our continuous, life-long learning concept.
Instead, we decided on web technology in order to secure JIT-JE relevant information for each user. Our aim was to link into any database or data-warehouse internally in the organisation, or externally to suppliers, authorities, customers and so on, from a work process description. By having the process owners identify what information a certain process required, we were able to secure, through these links, valuable information for the users of the process.
In the autumn of 1996, the decision was made to use intranet and web technology as the medium for communication. As you will probably recall, the World Wide Web was a very vague concept, just in its embryonic stage, as late as 1996, and we were warned against using this technology, particularly as it was not standard within the company. Before we could apply the web technology, we had to make sure that it could handle the enormous amount of links, documents, drawings and multi-media systems required.
In order to meet the functional requirements of the user, we had to secure an easy and effective method of finding, handling and dissipating relevant information. We decided that the navigational flexibility the web offered was more important for the long-term effectiveness of the system than the short-term obstacle of not being able to reach some files stored in databases not yet communicating with the web. Furthermore, should we be able to realise the vision of life-long learning, we had to also reach external sources of competencies, such as universities, suppliers, experts and other sources, which Statoil’s employees could tap into. This, we believed, would be possible through the web. Fortunately, Statoil eventually implemented web technology during the autumn of 1997.
One of the key ambitions of Faros was to create and connect multi-media systems to the work process. The intention was to ensure easy navigation, as well as life-long learning, in order that employees would be able to do a job right first time. And by doing so, we hoped the learning aspect would reduce operating failures and unwanted incidents, and also enhance the safety of operations through strengthening Health, Environment and Safety standards as the company’s primary goal.
Learning for the purpose of solving a problem is of great significance to any organisation. If you can utilise virtual reality (VR) technology in such a process, which is the closest you can get to the real problem without actually experiencing it, I maintain that you get both a more intelligently run operation and more astute employees. Learning by connecting multi-media systems with work will enhance an employee’s ability to develop their skills, regardless of the discipline, in a more effective, satisfactory and pleasant manner (as opposed to spending days on end in a classroom listening to an instructor). This is the virtual answer to ‘seeing is believing’.
We tested out the ability of both VR and Quicktime VR (QVR) to illustrate the operation of a piece of equipment, such as a sub-surface production unit. Once we had a test version ready, we then tried it on the net. However, this was easier said than done. We then decided to use CD ROMs, and had a few CDs made up for distribution among users. Again we ran into operational bugs, making us confront reality. The barriers in terms of VR and its relation to IT technology, Statoil’s intranet and the licence fees were, in the end, insurmountable. While VR gave us more control, and options for activities such as stripping and re-building a piece of equipment sitting on the seabed, other challenges were impossible for us to overcome at the time. QVR turned out to be a safer and more straightforward technology to use – so far.
Other technical supports
We had to secure a method of linking documents to each other. Both object oriented systems, and simpler systems with drawing applications were evaluated. One important criterion was the user’s own ability to operate, change and install new information into the drawings of the work processes. Although the process owners were to be so-called ‘super-users’, trained to a certain level of proficiency, we still had to keep it simple. Therefore, we opted for a less complex software tool rather than a more robust object oriented documentation software, which only IT experts could apply.
Operating and servicing a KMS requires two types of activities: The IT side and the author/web role. The IT component includes service maintenance of the system, linkage support, server support and so on, and is performed by the company’s central IT unit. The author/web role is conducted by the process owners (super-users), or by the owners of information. It entails adjustments, changes, and additions to the products stored in the system, as well as linkage to both internal and external information. For the knowledge management system to function as intended, each Business Unit must be self-supporting in terms of the author/web work. The IT element is only a small part of a KMS. Therefore, the system must not be made so complex that each unit needs to hire experts to operate it. Anyone attempting to build a system designed to be maintained by IT experts at user level is shooting themselves in the foot. Knowledge is a live commodity, not to be caged in by the dogma. The issue of KM is too important to be left in the hands of the IT experts!
Faros has been developed in-house, using a Lotus Notes and Domino platform. However, the Faros concept can be applied to any web-facilitated technology.
Faros goes live
“Start! Only that way can the impossible be possible.” Thomas Carlyle
While building Faros, we created the following applications/products:
The first Business Unit to implement Faros was Troll, with its Troll A gas production platform and a land-based operating unit. With its gas-in-place of 1.2 trillion cubic metres, Troll is the world’s largest offshore gas field in operation. On 1st January 1998, Troll’s employees were informed through a Lotus Notes mail that they were to use Faros as the navigator for the retrieval of operating policies and best practice documents. This message was finally issued after a 14-month development period. Troll was the acid test of whether or not the concept was actually user-friendly. After a few introductory snags, the system turned out to be a favoured spot for finding information; it was well received and required a low user threshold.
In the summer of 1997, we started to develop the Åsgard Faros, two years before it came on stream in June 1999. The Åsgard field would be operated through a structure of self-managing teams for the operation and maintenance activities. The field development consists of one oil production ship and one gas production platform, in addition to its land based operating unit. The two offshore units operate 16 sub-sea production templates in the Norwegian Sea, making it the world’s largest sub-surface production field. During the operating group’s start-up training for running the production ship in mid-1998, the group was also trained for Faros application. After a two-day training period the group of operators became fully at ease using the Faros system.
In the early spring of 1999, we implemented Faros on Statfjord’s three operating platforms. The Statfjord field, with its oil-in-place of over 3 billion barrels, is one of the world’s largest offshore oil fields in operation. In addition it contains large gas reserves. The Faros work started in the autumn of 1998, initially organising four processes. Using the results from the previous work at Åsgard, augmented by the additional requirements at Statfjord, we launched the Statfjord Faros about six months after completing the project proposal. As with the other Business Units, the Faros team was the facilitator for the process owners and super-users. The introduction of Faros to the operating and maintenance people was done by the process owners, again through a Lotus Notes mail, on top of presentation and training on the platforms. Once the system was up and running we found it to be in regular use.
These were the first three offshore operating units using Faros, but we also developed a pilot for the onshore Mongstad refinery, developing the template with two extra work processes related to the refining of fuel. Again, the system proved flexible for yet another type of operation, and the users turned out to be very appreciative of Faros.
In parallel with the operating units, we developed Faros for a number of functional units such as Drilling and Well Maintenance Technology, Process Development Technology, Operating, Maintenance and Modification Technology, and Operating Services. Here we developed pilots for several of the units. Due to the many facets of operating the technology units, we left it up to the individual units to expand on the work done by the Faros team. As the users gained experience with Faros, we saw how they benefited from it. Of course, some used it more than others, but that will always be the case. But we also know of employees in other Business Units who use other Faros systems.
In addition to each unit installing the concept, and informing its employees accordingly, the Faros team issued a general statement to all users where to find Faros in the maze of Statoil’s many data buckets, and how to operate the system. How to use Faros has also been spreading by word of mouth among various groups.
Evaluating Faros: Customer satisfaction
In May 1999, a user analysis was completed, where users at the three operating units and some of the professional units were interviewed. The following conclusions were reached:
1. User experience
Approximately 70% of the employees in the units that had implemented Faros were using the system to a large or smaller degree.
Faros was evaluated as being both functional and user friendly. Methods of informing the user of its application procedures can, however, be improved upon. The employees should also be better informed of why Faros was built, what information had been installed in the system and where user support could be found.
2. User satisfaction
The IT solution was evaluated as good in terms of response time and on-line time. Printout and interface could be improved upon, however.
Facilitating the work processes was good, and the Faros team was given high marks for its service level. But the project could need a better structure.
3. Price, quality and service
The price was acceptable. Faros was seen as a high quality product. The service level was good.
4. Overall recommendation
Faros is a system well qualified for mapping and visualising local work processes, and is recommended as the preferred system in Statoil.
The Faros system tools
While building Faros, we also developed process support tools capable of “rolling out” a Faros system for new Business Units, thus reducing the cost of implementing the concept in a new unit. These were successfully tested when building the Statfjord Faros. In fact, we were able to reduce the system’s development and building time by a factor of four. As we were going into new units, the ‘roll out’ time was reduced, and so also the cost. We were able to standardise the system, while staying flexible with regards to the type of unit and type of information.
Due to Faros’ funding structure (it is primarily financed by the individual Business Units), we also had to build a supportive accounting system, making sure that we had the costing picture well under control.
Coming in the next issue...
In a follow up to the original Faros series, Ove Rustung Hjelmervik describes the key lessons Statoil has learned from its experience with Faros, and offers invaluable practical advice on designing and implementing a complete knowledge management system.
Ove Rustung Hjelmervik is project manager of the Faros knowledge management system. He can be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org