Knowledge-Intensive Work in the Oil and Gas Industry: A Case Study
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This thesis examines collaborative work practices within a large international oil and gas company (OGC). The work is founded on the introduction of a new standardised and integrated collaboration infrastructure based on Microsoft SharePoint technology, which was intended to improve knowledge sharing across both disciplinary and geographical boundaries within the company and with external partners. Using a longitudinal case study, the thesis investigates how the introduction of this new solution has been received in different organisational contexts. The work is inspired by social studies of information systems (IS) and seeks to explain the role of the new collaboration infrastructure in an enterprise context with actors and stakeholders that have different interests, experiences and expectations. The focus of the thesis was to investigate how the collaboration infrastructure has been received and has become an integral part of the users’ daily work. Previous research has shown that the introduction of different information systems does not adequately account for local, established practices and thus results in systems that are not used optimally. In many cases, users have to establish informal practices to work around the limitations of the system. In this research, we investigate this potential divergence between the intended and actual usage of these large information systems. Based on our empirical findings, we argue that in knowledge-intensive, interdisciplinary work such as oil and gas production, an integrated collaboration solution does not ensure knowledge sharing and a collaborative work environment. In fact, such a system plays a surprisingly small role in supporting the daily work. Other factors, such as a strong community, an open and inclusive atmosphere, work locations and expert tools, play significantly stronger roles. The thesis does not exclusively focus on the new collaboration solution that is based on Microsoft SharePoint. Rather, it seeks to understand how workers use available tools and systems to do their jobs. In such a setting, the solution based on Microsoft SharePoint is only one of a number of different tools and systems available to workers. In contrast to other studies that have suggested that work is mostly a local endeavour, we show that knowledge-intensive work requires workers to shift between local and global contexts and that they require systems and tools that can do the same. We identify tactics and strategies that are used by workers to navigate different contexts and systems to collaborate and do their jobs. In summary, this thesis examines socio-technical work practices within a large, heterogeneous organisation and contributes to the research on how information systemsserve as social constructs and should be understood and interpreted. It also provides practical implications for IT professionals and managers who are interested in developing and implementing information systems in complex settings.