I admire leaders who make you think, long after their presentation or keynote is over. Here are three ideas I found “most thought-provoking,” after I reflected on all the industry events I attended this past quarter. I hope you will share your own reactions and comments about my selections, but also share any great points you have gleaned from your industry interactions.
1 – “We want to make decisions within three minutes”
This is how a panelist from Chevron defined Engineering Information Management, a super-set of Enterprise Content Management, at AVEVA World this October. There was silence, and a long pause among the rapt audience as this comment sunk in.
It was not about technology. It was not about process integration. It was about how the company could increase business agility in utilities or power plants, once all the technical innovation was in place.
What I like about this comment is that it brings to life a best practice we strongly believe in at ECD – leading with your business objectives. It also expresses the business vision in a statement that is both simple and controversial.
By starting with this well-articulated goal of three minutes, the right conversations will undoubtedly start happening: “Then we would need to access approvals from our smart phones.” “We would have to add automation to the offshore piece of the process.”
You can imagine how much faster the brainstorming could occur and utilization of technology could begin, if you start with this kind of statement.
2 – “How do you shoot a cannon?”
It turns out that firing a cannon includes a process step of pausing, as I learned from the “Transforming Engineering Project Delivery” panel at AVEVA World. When cannons were used during times of war, this step prevented accidents and human injury. Modern firing equipment, however, no longer requires such efforts – yet it still took twenty years to eliminate this step.
To me, this is a relevant insight applicable to Enterprise Content Management in today’s multi-faceted enterprise. Perhaps it was multiple acquisitions, staff turnover, or fondness for tradition, but whatever the cause, many of today’s plant processes have never been revisited or improved.
As digital transformation takes hold, companies are now starting to approach their workflows with an open mind. Do we really need legal review of a document before it has been through VP approval? Why are we still storing architectural drawings on paper? What good is a photo badge ID if 90% of our workers are remote?
As this speaker emphasized, some processes are carried into modern times even though they are not needed anymore. There is no reason to let outdated issues wait years before phasing them out. By breaking habits and looking at our work anew, we may save time or better service customers.
3 – “Raise your hand if….”
This panelist at our recent Digital Transformation in the Energy Industry breakfast asked the crowd for a show of hands if anyone is able to enter an asset tag number into a system and quickly locate all the documentation about that asset – enough to get your job done. Surprisingly, NO HANDS went up.
This exemplifies how fundamental document management is so critical to basic operational efficiency. With all this talk of digital transformation, big data and predictive analytics, it seems that we have a long way to go with getting practical and down to earth with the simple stuff. This can be made easier these days, as ECM solutions are delivered in more modular ways, and the cloud allows greater elasticity.
Bonus – We Still Need Humans
I’d like to add one bonus round to this collection. It’s not exactly a number four, because it actually relates to all of the points above.
What I heard at more than one of these events is that we cannot assume technology will take the place of human determination or human judgment and setting standards. In at least two cases, presenters shared how they used to have paper document controllers and central ownership over content. In both cases, once they digitized (without staff accountability or a structured system), the organization lost its standardized approach to retaining and sharing knowledge. Either each person individually updated a document in different ways, or each thought the other would update a document — until nobody updated documents consistently at all. No process steps, standardization rules or workflows were developed together with the technology.
As the pace at which companies deliver services and interact with stakeholders only accelerates, I would argue there is an even stronger need to standardize. Using ECM together with your human experts brings efficiencies to new levels, tapping the strengths of both. This is one of many reasons why we design in features like vertical-specific standards, the ability to collaborate with multiple reviewers, and track changes to as-built documentations.
So as we look ahead to more digital transformation and continuous improvement in our industry, let’s think about the points these smart leaders have shared. What can you add to this list? Have you heard great points from other industries that still apply to the energy sector?