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Tips for managing change with IM

Friday, February 21, 2014

Glenn Mansfield, director of IM consultancy Flare Solutions Ltd, gave some tips for change management at Digital Energy Journal's Kuala Lumpur engineering data event

The aim for information and data management is to 'embed information management practice in the organisation so it just happens,' he said. You want to institutionalise it - or in other words make it routine day-to-day business.

It is similar to how people now regard safety - it has become everyone's personal responsibility.

It all sounds obvious but people have enormous problems implementing information management programmes because they involve changing the way that people are already working and the way they handle the information that they are working with.

There is a mismatch of expectations in information management - in that every user wants the information available in a beautifully organised store - but when people create information, they either stash it in their drawer, or if we are lucky they just throw it over the fence to their information management department.

So perhaps the best solution is to develop a really well designed information management system with the right processes and governance so that people use it without even noticing.

Organisations can change

But don't forget that behaviours can and do change, he said.

There are different sorts of organisation. Some groups collaborate better than others. You can use a football analogy here - with children's soccer having very little collaboration, a Sunday football league collaborating more, and the Premier League has a team hopefully working as one. Equally, organisations vary in their level of process orientation and maturity.

Combining these aspects of collaborative culture and process strength, some organisations are more geared to individuals, some are geared more to the collective. Mr Mansfield used the analogy of a school band, where the players just do what they are told; or jazz, where people have a lot of freedom, collaborate and do interesting things together; or a rock band which might be less collaborative, more full of individuals. For oil and gas data management, 'It might be worth thinking if you are a jazz band or a school band,' he said.

A large supermajor oil company might be highly based on processes, and have processes they can roll out around the world, even if they are not able to react to changes. There are also diverse supermajors, which are involved in all kinds of different things, some with processes and some without.

A small exploration company might tend to be highly collaborative and less process driven, more like a jazz band.

All the same, when embarking on information management projects, we should focus on user communications that express what's in it for them, rather than discussing the intricacies of the IM elements of the solution, he said. You want a system which will capture knowledge and information as you go through the process.


Mr Mansfield said he had recently been involved in an information management project for a process driven oil company, which had a corporate culture he described as 'reactive'.

That is 'a difficult environment when you are trying to effect change,' he said.

In this sort of environment, you may struggle to get a clear mandate from management, and you will likely see a poor willingness to change.

To help, you need a highly visible accountability system, so everybody knows who is following the rules and who isn't, and you might have to make it absolutely mandatory, or say that the project is not going to progress beyond each stage gate unless the information is there.

A second project Flare was involved with, was to catalogue well file information from around the world, for example to comply with legislation.

In both projects, it turned out to be very important to 'manage the scope of the project so it considered the ability of the organisation to change. Change may have to be incremental if there is a significant step without sufficient willingness, ability or desire to change.'
A third Flare project was for a national oil company working out how to manage production and injection data across the field and sharing the data with the team in many different locations. The company developed a real time operations reporting system. 'They were trying to increase the collaboration that was going on between the different operations,' he said.

'Everything we read on this particular project, it was a real concern,' he said. 'You would imagine that this would be a really challenging environment to deliver a change programme.'

'We engaged with all of the user teams and as many of the operations shifts as we possibly could and tried to understand the workflow they were going through. We did a lot of work on the training and education program preparing the rollout plan.'

'There was a varied willingness to change. Some people knew they had to make the change, other people challenged that. We focused initially on those who were resistant to change, so that we could overcome resistance early.'

People always talk about the importance of change management, but Mr Mansfield said that one of the important lessons of his information management projects is still to focus more on change management, and manage change through the whole project.

'You need management support and it would be good if that was a very clear mandate. We don't always get the support that we really need.'

Another tip is to make solutions as pragmatic as possible. 'Design as simple as possible - but no simpler. I like applications to be as automated as they need to be. '

You need a system with people accountable for all parts of it, and so everybody knows who is responsible for what, and when they have to do something, or when someone else isn't doing something. 'The system is coming up with notifications to people whenever necessary,' he said.

Cost benefits

Mr Mansfield was asked if he can come up with cost benefits for an information management project.

'I think that would make the business case much easier,' he said. But giving specific numbers can make it tricky if your numbers don't stand up to in-depth analysis.

'We tend to end up with anecdotal evidence.'

If the company has 'initiative fatigue', perhaps it simply has too many initiatives and does not need another one. 'I think you have to pick your projects very carefully - ask if there is a real need for this project? Look at what else is going on - and the ability for the organisation to absorb change at that time,' he said.

'An organisation can and will change, but when it comes to IM, managing the change needs to be an integral part of the project, to ensure effective IM delivery,' he said.

You can watch Glenn's talk on video and download slides at

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» Flare Solutions Limited
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