Social Media 'Important for Knowledge and Information Management'
Social networking is booming. Facebook now has 350 million active users and recent figures from Nielsen suggest that two-thirds of the world's Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites.
The fastest-growing social media brand is Twitter, which by May 2009 had seen a 1,448 percent year-on-year increase in unique visitors.
Social networking is facilitating business and personal relationships, with individual sectors now starting to cotton on to the potential of information sharing via these channels.
The oil and gas industry already boasts various social networking sites, such as www.energy-networks.net, www.oilandgascommunity.com, www.hsee.co.uk and www.oilpals.com, which are facilitating knowledge and information management.
Indeed, Shell even has its own Twitter page with 2,985 followers. It's most recent updates have directed fellow members of the Twitterati to chief executive officer Peter Voser's retrospective on his first six months at the company and information about the 2010 Shell Eco-Marathon Europe.
Modernising Knowledge and Information Management
Recent research by Microsoft and Accenture found that 40 percent of oil and gas professionals believe that adopting new social media tools, including social networking sites, would boost productivity on the job.
However, just one in four said that they were using these platforms for knowledge and information management and sharing expertise internally.
The research was conducted by PennEnergy in partnership with the Oil and Gas Research Center and surveyed engineers, geoscientists and business managers from around the world.
It found that 70 percent feel that collaboration and knowledge-sharing is important for improving revenues, reducing costs and boosting the health and safety of workers.
However, most respondents said that they employers were using more traditional means of collaboration and knowledge and information management, such as face-to-face meetings, e-mails and conference calls.
"During this time of economic upheaval, when every dollar counts and effective decision-making is crucial, new technologies such as social media tools can help oil and gas industry professionals find information, collaborate and generally be more productive," said Craig Hodges, US Energy and Chemicals Industry Solutions Director at Microsoft.
The research also showed that 61 percent of those questioned reported spending at least one hour in each working day searching for information and knowledge source that they required for their jobs.
It was suggested that this could be leading to a $485 million (£297 million) annual deficit for the industry, based on the fact that there are 65,000 engineering professionals in the sector around the world and therefore 10 million people-hours are being lost.
Almost half of respondents felt they could save at least an hour each day by using social media tools. Improving knowledge and information management was felt to be important not only in terms of sharing expertise, but also when competing for operational projects.
Three-quarters of those questioned said information-sharing capabilities were very important in managing capital projects to drive down costs, while half said that new technologies were extremely important for the sharing of health and safety advisories or experiences.
Furthermore, 51 percent felt that social media tools were important for sourcing scarce technical skills. The potential of these platforms in terms of recruitment should not be overlooked. Recent research by careerbuilder.com found that 47 percent of employers plan to put a greater emphasis on social media this year.
The survey found that one in five intend to give a current employee responsibilities relating to social media, while 8 percent plan to hire someone new specifically for the task.
Richard Doherty, Group Vice President of Solutions at talent management company Jobpartners, said that social media would play an increasingly important role in attracting the best employees.
"Corporate recruiters will be following what many recruitment agencies are already doing and using social networks to provide company information and set up interest groups to source candidates," he suggested.
"Key to the success of social recruiting will be to ensure that it is aligned and integrated with an organisation's existing recruitment processes and technology," Doherty added.
Energy professionals also believe that social media should be used to capture knowledge from experienced employees before they retire or leave the company, since more than half of respondents reported that aging workers were retiring in increasing numbers.
"Companies are dealing with several trends right now, not only the aging workforce walking out the door with decades of knowledge, but also experienced hires coming into their businesses who need to understand a new corporate culture," commented Claire Markwardt, senior executive at Accenture's energy practice.
"Companies have an opportunity to supplement their existing collaboration capabilities with newer tools such as podcasts and social networks to accelerate the sharing of knowledge, increase teaming and augment communication between their workforces in different regions," she concluded.