Pillars of Industry

Knowledge Management Enhances Technical Training Program

Matt Conway, David Bedford, and Matt Oehler

The oil and gas industry has benefited from select individuals who, in the course of their careers, have distinguished themselves by contributing to the industry in profound ways. Those individuals who have dedicated their lives to the advancement and improvement of the oil and gas industry are considered Pillars of the Industry and are featured in this section of TWA.—Tim Morrison, Pillars of the Industry Editor


World demand for oil is at an all-time high, and the oil industry is riding one of its busiest cycles in history. This creates a wonderful market in which current college graduates and young professionals can get involved. Positions are open across the industry for almost any type of technical degree. While this is great for the young professionals of the world, it creates many challenges for the industry. Issues arise regarding how to train and mentor these new employees as they progress into productive positions as quickly as possible.

If it isn’t enough to provide training on oilfield practices and technology; we are also facing what many in the industry are referring to as “the great crew change.” In the next 5–10 years, a large majority of employees who hired on in the boom of the 1970s and early 1980s will be retiring. These employees are commonly referred to as the “knowledge base” for the industry. This means that in addition to training young professionals on general oilfield material, we must also pass along or otherwise retain as much of this knowledge as possible.

Halliburton has taken a somewhat blended approach to this problem involving a tailored Technical Training Program (TTP) and what we refer to as Knowledge Management (KM) communities for collaborating on and cataloging solutions to issues. This article will address each one of these separately to point out their unique benefits, but also explain how they complement each other to create a complete training and development environment. First look at the TTP.

Coaching New Employees

The TTP has recently graduated its ninth class from the program. Started in 2001 to train new engineers in the U.S. for the pumping-services side of the industry, the program has expanded worldwide to include all aspects of the oil field. New hires usually start their first day of work at one of the seven training centers that house the TTP curriculum. Each center has two “coaches” who guide the new employees during the next 6 months of their career. Each coach has considerable oilfield experience and will aid in the instruction of material and mentoring of new hires as they progress toward being competent engineers.

The seven training centers are strategically placed around the world in markets where the oil industry is conducting considerable work and where technically competent employees are in high demand. Because it is impossible to staff each center with coaches who are experts in all aspects of the oil field, each location is equipped with a state-of-the-art video conference system. This allows a coach in Colorado to teach cementing classes to students all over the world in a completely interactive environment. Combine this with the reinforcement of the local coaches and the KM communities we will discuss later and you have a learning environment unparalleled even by most of today’s universities.

Curriculum for the TTP is being improved constantly. At the end of each semester, current and past students, as well as other stakeholders, are polled on the instruction given and on how useful it has been in their careers. On the basis of this information, the program is constantly tailored to meet the current demands, of the industry. A set of competencies is created using these demands, which gives the students and instructors a skill set to strive toward. Students can “check off” these competencies during the course of training and see how they are progressing. In its current state, the program is broken down into three distinct phases of training.

Solid Background for Students

The first phase of the training covers a wide range of technologies currently being used in the oil industry. Starting from the principles of basic geology used to locate productive oil and gas zones, the students are walked through all the processes used to drill, test, isolate, stimulate, and produce a well. This gives the students a general background of the industry they have entered to allow for a solid base of knowledge upon which to grow.

The second phase of the training program breaks the students up into specific fields to which they will be assigned when they complete their training. During this phase, the students experience a combination of on-the-job training, traditional classroom training, and the relatively new concept of real-time classroom training. The real-time portion of the training program allows the students to sit in a classroom with a subject matter expert and monitor an actual job that is being performed in any number of remote locations. Students learn how to analyze data in a real environment and make decisions in real time.

The third phase of the engineers’ training program is based in their actual work environment. Under the supervision and mentorship of a senior engineering professional, the trainee engineers begin to apply the skills and knowledge they have acquired during the first two stages of the training program to the job functions they soon will be performing on their own. Upon completion of this phase, the engineers have demonstrated the competencies required to break out as revenue-producing technical professionals.

It becomes apparent when dealing with a large number of participants in a global training program that several specialized tools are required. As mentioned before, we use a state-of-the-art video conferencing system to create a virtual classroom spanning the globe. This is an excellent system during classroom sessions, but as we all know, questions can arise at any time of the day or night, especially when dealing with multiple time zones. All video sessions are digitally recorded for access at any time, but frequently an additional tool is necessary to facilitate an environment of learning on demand.

Halliburton’s KM team’s mission statement is, “A systematic approach to get the Right Information, to the Right People, at the Right Time.” This core value sets up each Web-based KM community to be a central repository for solutions and learning associated with the organization. In general terms, one person originates an inquiry, one or more individuals provide a response (solution), and the entire community benefits from the knowledge transfer.

Knowledge Communities

Several KM communities exist within Halliburton’s infrastructure. Most communities are aligned with specific functional groups in the company (i.e., the TTP). Access to these communities is open to all employees, although users tend to migrate to the KM community most relevant to their specific job function. That said, many users can contribute to or gain knowledge from a wide selection of communities incorporating everything from drilling to human resources. Halliburton actively supports approximately 30 active communities.

A community generally has three different types of users. These consist of the active user, the passive user, and subject matter experts. Depending on whether users are originating, answering, or learning from a particular topic or thread, they can be considered any one of these types.

An active user will initiate and perhaps respond to an issue that is posted on the community. He/she may be trying to increase his/her knowledge related to a subject area or share his/her experiences that can help resolve another’s problem. Essentially, this type of user consists of anyone actively contributing to the information in the community.

The passive user reads issues as they are posted onto the collaboration tool without direct participation. This may be an employee who is new to Halliburton or new to a particular job function. In this scenario, he/she is using the KM community to improve his/her overall knowledge. These users may also use the search function to find information relevant to a specific topic.

The subject matter expert is traditionally an employee of 15 years or more who has key knowledge available to share as issues are presented. He/she is usually a “been there, done that” type of employee who can communicate his/her experiences to benefit others. These users may also consist of our technical personnel that reside at the various Halliburton Technology Centers. Although these are roles in which a subject matter expert has traditionally been found, any employee, regardless of time in the industry, can exhibit these attributes by sharing a recent experience that contributes to the resolution of an issue.

Discussion Road Map

Each inquiry posted within a KM community has a specific work-related purpose. Most are from people seeking information from the community (e.g., a user trying to locate equipment and parts or with a question regarding applications of technology related to a client’s wellbore). This threaded discussion becomes a road map that allows the originator to make an informed decision. Other postings are more informative or educational; that is, the user is passing on information he/she regards as valuable to the community—such as preventative steps related to potential equipment failure. Even in the informative types of posting, the threaded discussion gives the community an opportunity to seek more detail as to how the proposed resolution relates to his/her business. Again, the outcome in all three examples is that the entire community has the opportunity to learn from these discussions.

Before KM, an individual’s ability to gain knowledge was limited to the geographic area of assignment and the network he/she established through traditional means. With the evolution of KM, an individual can reach globally for ideas and solutions. The network is in place. No longer is an individual required to waste time trying to determine who can help. The community can help, and the community learns.

Since the introduction of a KM community into the TTP curriculum, there has been a sharp increase in offline discussions of class topics. At times, students find it uncomfortable to ask questions during the class setting or don’t realize they have questions until they are covering material on their own at a later time. The community gives them the ideal tool to search for information on a topic or bring the questions up to the entire group. Other communities within the company also are seeing increased traffic from the newer employees as they graduate from the program into technical roles. These individuals are already familiar with the KM culture and jump right into the more advanced communities that fit with their new positions inside Halliburton.

Today’s oil and gas market requires innovative and dynamic solutions to training and mentoring young professionals. The synergy created by combining the training program and KM communities will help to combat the effects of the impending crew change and help to supply the need for highly competent technical professionals. In addition, this approach takes great strides in tackling the traditional hurdles of distance and funding.


Matt Conway is Principal Technical Instructor in Halliburton’s Technical Training Program. He earned a BS degree in mechanical engineering and a technology degree from Oklahoma State U.
David Bedford is a former technical instructor at the Halliburton Energy Inst. and currently is Manager, Development Initiatives.
  Matt Oehler is a knowledge broker for Halliburton.