posted 1 Mar 2000 in Volume 3 Issue 6
Faros, the Knowledge Room
In part two of this series of three articles, Ove Rustung Hjelmervik continues his explanation of Statoil's development of the Faros Knowledge Management System. After establishing the key concepts behind Faros, the next challenge was to design a portal that made information easily accessible to all of the company's departments and employees.
"If the world is out of joint,you are the ones to put it back on its hinges and make it a better place to live in,each according to your own ability."
The Faros Knowledge Room
Our ambition was to enable each employee to instantly recognise and understand their own, and other employees', work processes, regardless of Business Unit association. Based on our vision of how we wanted information to flow to us, and the use of the Web for realising such a flow, we set out to build a Knowledge Navigator. 'What should this navigator look like?' we asked. We decided on a three-dimensional 'entrance' to the information, to give a roomier feeling at the outset of the navigational journey. The navigator became known as the Faros Knowledge Room.
In our 1st generation Knowledge Room, we chose the metaphor of a closed and darkish chamber. But feedback from users suggested a feeling of confinement. Furthermore, the very room metaphor was thought to be in conflict with the lighthouse metaphor, one which employees wanted to relate to. At a user meeting we settled on a concept where the entrance to the Knowledge Room would be at the top of the lighthouse, looking out on a section of the Norwegian coast. We decided to assimilate the Knowledge Room with the inside of a control tower on an offshore platform, and we fitted the room with windows to offer a view out to where the information is.
It was vital for us to create a feeling of control for the user; employees need to feel at ease when navigating for information. We believed that both offshore and onshore employees should be able to relate to the room design. Throughout the process of designing Faros, we have had to keep the user in focus, and the threshold of proficiency to the lowest common denominator.
We ended up designing and organising the 2nd generation Knowledge Room with instrument panels, in the form of the names of navigational aids such as 'Work Processes', 'Administrative Documents' , 'Technical Documents', 'Learning and Visualisation' , 'Knowledge Village' and 'Networks' . Using Java application for easy navigation, the Knowledge Room is designed so that we can replace or insert new subjects as required. While we decided to have some windows constant, others could vary between the different Business Units. In the Knowledge Room relating to the professional network, Operation, Maintenance and Modification (DVM), we have included windows such as 'Good Practice' (GP). One reason for this is that GP development is the domain of the professional networks. The Knowledge Room then becomes a launch pad for further exploration into the work process, and out to the reference information.
Another vital element of the navigational tool was the number of clicks needed before arriving at useful information. Faros' 'two clicks to information' was achieved by combining Java technology with the Web. The Knowledge Room is an effective way of supporting the user in reaching their world of information. Once the relevant window is chosen, the next view offers two sets of information - the Value Chain and work processes related to the chosen Value Chain activity.
The Work Process Navigator
From the windows in the Knowledge Room, the user selects the appropriate entry point for information. We consider the Work Process area (Arbeidsprosess) to be the most important portal. This area represents the employee's operating room. It is the heart of their principal functions. When entering this domain, the first picture to occur is the company's Value Chain, portraying the business process elements. Here the user can get a comprehensive picture of the company's value-creating elements. The overview helps familiarise the user with the company's many activities, and how the hydrocarbons travel from the ground, via production, refineries, petrochemical plants and out into the market.
The navigational structure
"Today's computers see the world through the tunnel of the toilet roll. The systems of the future must be able to do social computing, the ability to connect into what is happening at the fringes of the work place."
John Seely Brown, Chief Scientist, XEROX PARC.
Not only was the Faros team staffed with highly qualified multi-discipline members, but, as users ourselves, we also carried with us a sound scepticism of IT. Our first priority in designing the system was the benefit of our colleagues. Our second priority was the company itself; harvesting its investment in intellectual capital by improving the company's value creating processes. By now we had identified a set of user requirements and an IT technology for easy access to information. Our next challenge was to translate these requirements into a functional navigational structure.
The Value Chain
Our second navigational metaphor - the Value Chain - helps the user to find the activity they need to work in. From here the employee can select the work process they wish to enter.
We have two basic Value Chain portals. One serves the operating Business Units (for example, production of hydrocarbons), the other caters to the professional Business Units (technical and administrative service providers to the operating units). Of course, there may be variations on the two basic models, but these relate primarily to the structure and focus of the Business Units' range of responsibilities within the company's value creating processes. Great effort has been made to secure compatibility for easy comparison between the various Communities of Practice (COP).
The operating unit's Value Chain was developed as a result of these operating COPs' modus operandi. Their responsibility is to run the installations in the most effective way, within Statoil's Health, Environment and Safety standards. To secure both timely and correct operating data, each information link was identified relative to the various activities to be carried out on the facility.
Below the top arrow 'Rammebetingelser' (framework conditions) are found requirements for Industry's Best Operating Practice. In this section we have also created a Management Arena for coaching. Here the managers can enter an information room where they can identify what competencies are required for a given task, who has the relevant skills and who is available for work. Furthermore, you will find information on who has which role, managers' responsibilities and their relevant work processes, and team members identified for co-operative work.
One purpose of the Management Arena is to get an overview of who belongs to which activity group, and thus identify who should participate in the regular meetings relating to an operation. Another purpose is to identify effective teams; to be able to evaluate team performance, how a team functions and what it can achieve.
In the Management Arena we have also taken the opportunity to create an information room for running virtual meetings (based on a prototype product developed by Andersen Consulting). An individual member can connect up to a meeting in progress from a hotel room several time zones away. Our traveller can electronically offer their opinion on the agenda issues left by the other participants in the virtual meeting. Voting on the issues can take place the following day, but can be left open for others to vote electronically if required.
The middle arrow contains the main elements of the operational process in transferring the hydrocarbons from the ground to the refineries. Behind each of the value elements is found a set of operating work processes, as can be seen in the right hand side of the picture. By clicking on '4.2 Production', the work processes related to this value element will appear on the right.
In Statoil, the professional networks have been given certain corporate (konsern), supplier (leverandÝr) and consultative (konsulent) roles in relation to the operating units. For Faros to meet the professional COP's requirements, we had to make sure the following aspects were incorporated into the Value Chain:
Work Process Navigation the zest for IT simplicity
Our third navigational level is The Work Process. This was our starting point in developing the work process navigator. First we had to create the 'as is' work process with the users. This mapping and verification of processes was necessary both in order to understand how a given function is performed, and how it can be improved into a 'to be' process. This work can only really be described effectively by people who have the relevant experience. Our job was to facilitate this work, and supply a meta-system through which the organisation's KM needs can be formed.
Our discussion during 1996 concluded: 'Learning takes place in the work process.' We are of the opinion that working through a process activity will achieve learning while doing. Should a routine have to be changed, for example due to new insight, it can be organised so that 'as is' is exchanged with 'to be' . One consequence of a new insight can be a revision of the whole work process, removing or adding all or part of it. Through this work, the operator has learned as he has practiced. The meta-system gives him a framework in which he can record his experience.
Information elements linked to the Faros Knowledge Room
From the Knowledge Room you can, in addition to reaching the Work Process arena, also reach information relevant to Business Units, such as the Administrative or Technical Documentation, Learning, Knowledge Village and Networks. These are the core windows. The respective units may have additional windows such as Technical Measurement Tools, Good Practice Guides, or Knowledge Mapping documents, portraying the skills of individual employees.
Faros contains no additional information outside the work processes and the underlying details created by users. All other information is routed via the many links in the system from an original source with a Web interface. From the Work Process position, the various connections are identified by the users as the process is being structured. Or, as the work processes are being utilised, relevant new information will be earmarked for a given process. From time to time, the user may want to go directly to the information source without going through a work process. This flexibility - or to the IT buff, redundancy - is an important element in a knowledge system. Below, the content of some of these other windows is described.
The Administrative Document navigation
The administrative documents, operating policies and procedures, are stored in a database called 'Delta' . In order for us to access this data, we created a Web user interface. The policy documents have been organised with the requirements of the regulatory authorities at the top, followed by the corporate requirements, the Business Unit requirements and the single production unit's requirements in a Web matrix. In addition, access to various standards and codes is given, such as the Norwegian Offshore standards, Norsok.
The Technical Documentation navigation
Statoil has thousands of technical documentation records. Every platform, pipeline, refinery and petrochemical plant has a set of blueprints stored. To allow the user to access the relevant document, drawing, or two-dimensional model, we commissioned a team from the Technical Assistance unit to prepare a Web user interface between the data-buckets and Faros. This information is stored in various media forms, and as such needs to be co-ordinated in a common structure. From a given work process the user may wish to obtain the relevant drawing, specification, data sheet, or other appropriate info related to a given piece of equipment.
The Learning and Visualisation navigation
The Learning and Visualisation section was one of the first concepts thought of in Faros. Its purpose is to enable the user of a process to obtain visual or textual illustrations when carrying out difficult-to-grasp operations. For a sub-surface production unit we built three-dimensional structures and converted them to virtual reality. We then gave them functions so that users can twist, turn, strip and rebuild models while engaged in their work process. In a similar way we created animation for anti-collision drilling, safety requirement zones and so on. These are just some of the possibilities we wanted the user to have access to while preparing for a task, either via the work process window, or directly through the Learning window. It was of particular importance to be able to illustrate difficult-to-grasp operational situations in conjunction with work processes or procedures. Through such illustrations, the organisation both reduced the training time for an operation and maintained a higher level of security.
The learning product we built for the drilling unit contained four modules lasting several hours, and offered an exam and certificate at the end of the programme. We wanted to develop a learning programme that could also be used for short refresher updates to be used by the operator in the work process. This turned out to be a difficult task both administratively and technically. After some trial and error, we succeeded in developing a learning module, which the users could connect to for bits of information related to a given work process. This led us to develop the learning module with finite elements, capable of both running a full sequence, with a test and certification at the end, or a single unit for clarification while standing in the flow diagram.
The Knowledge Village navigation
Our objective in creating the Knowledge Village (in Norwegian we used the term Knowledge Pier) was to equip the user with a structure to search for unstructured information. We organised a group to identify how this could be achieved. Since starting the work on the Knowledge Village in autumn 1996, many attempts have been made to try and structure the un-structurable. We decided to try and create a concept based on two elements: a story board and a set of links to information sources, intelligent agents or other useful data related to the users' work and areas of interest.
The Knowledge Village is the purveyor of unstructured information as sought by the user. This avenue to information has been constructed by the conveyor, who can provide the user with details of what it contains. However, is not for the conveyor to second-guess the ultimate requirements of the user, nor the direction from which he will arrive. While structuring the information available can be important and useful in many contexts, traditional home pages do not provide a tenable, painless and secure avenue for the user to find more complex data. A different approach must be sought from the user's point of view when the requirement for information is more complex and unpredictable.
By way of an example: Marit, the subsurface manager of an oil field, needs to solve a standing issue problem immediately. Her case is apparently unique, and it is therefore not evident who or what can contribute to new and satisfactory solutions. But though the problem may seem unusual to the individual at the time, as she has not experienced it before, it may not be to the organisation as a whole. As a consequence, the problem can be catalogued and then be subjected to a process type structure.
Faros is the user's own window towards unstructured knowledge, adapted to the user's own requirements. These will vary according to the element of work that is undertaken. Identifying and describing these requirements for groups of users, and even for individual users, will be necessary before the operational environment can be designed. Experience shows that building a required process is in many cases the start of a creative restructuring of work flows and business processes. A strong common requirement will be the ability to search for, capture, share and distribute useful knowledge and to apply it when and where it will make a difference. Ability and agility in acquiring useful information helps, both in handling day-to-day tasks and in the case of unpredictable events.
The concept is based on the potential offered by Web technology to integrate existing technology, data sources and access mechanisms through carefully designed workflow management. The basis for our case is a day in the life of an imaginary team of people working on an oil field asset. A tool for helping the main character, sub-surface manager Marit, is a structured agenda, driving her case to a conclusion and recommended action. In addition to her agenda, she has a search engine, the Corporum, which she can activate as the need for identifying new and relevant information as it arises. When Marit arrives at work in the morning, a message from the production manager is waiting for her. During the night, one of the wells collapsed and stopped producing. Now she needs a structured work process to secure unstructured information that will, by the end of the day, provide relevant data leading to a recommended action to this urgent problem.
This is one aspect of how we may explore unstructured information in a structured manner. Another way is using the Knowledge Village to tie into the world's knowledge sites. We are talking of being able to tap into the pursuit of knowledge from any learning institution. Through a pre-planned and organised learning system, the company can identify those learning organisations relating to the company's activities that may offer the best training ground through E-learning.
The first courses for the Faros computer based distant learning concept were to be in core areas such as field operations, Health, Environment and Safety (HES), sub-sea technologies, field development, Total Quality Management (TQM) and so on. Through co-operation agreements with external units of expertise, employees could tap into course materials and lectures at will and on demand. Connecting the learning to a work activity would enhance the learning experience.
Together with Professor Rolf Lenschow, former chancellor of the Norwegian University of Technology and Science in Trondheim (NTNU) and his team, we developed the 'Virtual Learning Lab' . The first project was a TQM course. Through an external link to the university, we were able to establish an electronic learning arena for the employees to link into at will. The professors could go into the lab, leave their lectures and pick up the student reports. Unfortunately, as the programme was put into action, the participating employees dropped out because they were overwhelmed by the Web technology. The experience is important, however, and offers a valuable lesson, now that the technology has become more accessible.
Ove Rustung Hjelmervik is Project Manager of Faros Knowledge Management System. He can be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming in part three of the Faros series ...
As well as discussing the technology behind the Faros Knowledge Management System, Ove Rustung Hjelmervik describes the transition from developing Faros KMS to implementing it in the Statoil work environment. In addition, he reports on how the Statoil team evaluated the experience of Statoil employees in using the system.