Standardized Document Management Improves Knowledge Sharing

Document management is a fundamental asset-information-management (AIM) issue, and plays a critical role within both project management and operations.

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Companies employ a variety of different approaches to document management.

In the late 1990s, BP acquired a number of companies, including ARCO, Amoco and Castrol. Each company brought its own set of engineering technical practice standards to the BP organization. This was both a source of inconsistency and a barrier to knowledge-sharing across the company. In 2001, BP initiated a project to address this issue by merging the disparate standards from the heritage companies into one central set of engineering standards. BP created a central department, Engineering Technical Practices (ETP), to create and maintain BP engineering practices for both the exploration and production segments of the corporation.

In the context of this initiative, BP's technical documentation comprised the standard practices related to the design, purchase, commissioning, installation and inspection of equipment throughout BP. The documents would be authored and owned by designated subject matter experts (SMEs) from the various discipline categories (instrumentation, valves and the like) within the corporation. Once authored and published, more than 10,000 BP technical people, primarily engineers and field technicians, would have access to the documents.

The ETP department set out to develop a technical document management system to manage the ETP documents and enable the associated processes. Because Documentum (now part of EMC) was in place as the corporate enterprise-content-management platform, BP also chose it as the platform for the technical document-management system. However, additional functionality was required to meet the workflow needs for the initiative. Because BP could not identify an existing out-of-the-box application that provided this functionality, it decided to meet the unsatisfied requirements by building a custom solution on top of Documentum. BP would later call this custom solution the "ETP Library."

The library provided a user-friendly interface to assure widespread adoption. Metadata, such as document number, key words, title and taxonomy category, were coupled with the documents. This provided users with multiple search options and the ability to navigate via the taxonomy by which the documents had been stored.

Collaboration capabilities

BP chose to leverage the collaboration capabilities of its existing Lotus Domino application to address these document-related communication needs. Only minimal customization was required. The process involved cloning of the existing solution, minimal extension of functionality, and integration with the ETP Library. The new resulting solution, "ETP Shared Learnings," used the same taxonomy as the Library, enabling the association of shared learnings with the relevant official documentation.

When the integration was completed, users would access the technical practices document of interest. The users were able to add confidential comments in ETP Shared Learnings to open a dialog with the subject matter experts. The subject matter experts would review and validate the comments and suggestions. Once validated, these comments and suggestions would be made visible as "shared learnings" to users in a pane adjacent to the associated technical document. Periodically, the shared learnings would be added to an updated version of the official document and simultaneously removed from the shared learnings area. As this process repeated itself, the shared learnings area would once again serve as a vehicle for future document revisions. The end-to-end process and the supporting technology have provided a valuable framework for managing and continually improving technical practices and the associated documentation at BP.

Asset information management will be one of several key issues addressed at ARC's upcoming World Industry Forum in Orlando, Feb. 7-10, 2011.  For more information, readers can visit www.arcweb.com/res/forumorl.

Clint Reiser, creiser@arcweb.com, is an Analyst at ARC Advisory Group Inc., in Dedham, Mass.

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