Illustration of Tracey Kelly discussing enterprise information management

How I use systems thinking to inform enterprise information management strategies

By Tracey Kelly, Business Analyst on Nov 3, 2021

Data exchange underpins all the work that we do at Shell Catalysts & Technologies (SC&T) - and that data is growing exponentially. For Tracey Kelly, Business Analyst, her focus is on enterprise information management (IM), which is the development of systems, processes and behaviors that ensures information is secure and easily accessible to those who need it.

Based in The Hague, Netherlands, Tracey works to ensure that our data management practices are at the highest level and comply with internal and external regulations. Data protection is at the forefront of everything we do.

For this series on “How I Make Every Molecule Matter”, Tracey discusses:

  • how her background in developing education policy at Shell supports her work in information management;
  • why systems thinking is integral to her day-to-day work and
  • why successful enterprise information management relies on helping people shape their behaviours and mindsets.

1. How has your experience as an educator informed your views on best practices for enterprise information management?

Teachers must understand what information students need to learn, how each student learns and how to best package information. There are parallels in enterprise information management: what information must be retained, how best to retain it and how to make it accessible to those people who need it.

In addition to the actual structure of enterprise information management, there is the learning process: employees must understand their roles as users or suppliers of information within the framework and how to act accordingly.

Information management is a growing and complex field that impacts everyone within the company along with customers and suppliers. Effective information management requires strong structures, simple processes for the users and organisational discipline. With the growth of cybercrime and the increase in regulatory requirements regarding data storage, it is important to de-complexify the process and to make it easy to use.

Teachers know that learning is not necessarily a linear process, and that people will sit at different points on the learning spectrum. This knowledge informs how I work with enterprise information management processes and how to engage with users.

2. How did your role in education policy at Shell influence your work in enterprise information management?

Teachers need to be adept at developing diplomatic and communication skills with various stakeholders including the students, parents, the wider school and the community. The focal point in education is the child.

In my previous role as Shell’s education advisor, I worked to balance the business’ need for employee mobility with the employees’ needs around their children’s education.

Listening to and balancing stakeholder needs in order to create a winning solution for all parties is a skill that I bring to information management, which also has many stakeholders with different needs.

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3. How would you describe your role within enterprise information management?

A large portion of my role is change management. I evaluate how initiatives will impact different stakeholders in different environments, how these changes are landing and where to put remediation efforts. I do this while working within the highest standards set out by Shell Legal and Compliance. It’s important that our approach addresses all phases of the information lifecycle in a way that is relevant to the different working environments at SC&T. Thankfully, Shell users have a strong “learner mindset” and are always ready to reflect on and adapt to new ways of working.

4. Many digital users today have become accustomed to saving everything – every email, every presentation draft, etc. Why is keeping track of these outdated files important?

There is so much data around. We’re all handling and exchanging data. We need to store that data somewhere. And all of that information, all of that content needs to be protected due to commercial sensitivity or legal reasons. The amount of data itself could also become a legal liability to companies. There may be a time when specific data no longer serves a purpose within the organisation. Then it needs to be deleted. Determining when and how data should be deleted is an important part of information management.

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5. Could you share a perspective that you have on how people learn?

One approach I have incorporated into my everyday work is based on systems thinking. Systems thinking is a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on how a system’s parts are interrelated and how the system works overtime within larger systems.1

I was involved in the initial research phase of the NXplorers programme, which is Shell’s flagship STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programme.2 This programme provides tools to explore things that are interrelated by having students take a holistic view and see where there are interdependencies.

When things are complicated, we tend to look at things in parts and forget the big picture. Our big picture at SC&T is to put the customer at the heart of everything we do, but we do that through a variety of ways. This means that our systems and tools are set up to support our teams so they can provide the differentiated value SC&T has to offer while also maintaining a focus on the customer.

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6. How do you apply systems thinking to the enterprise information management initiatives that you support?

Systems thinking has become fundamental to how I approach learning now. If we look at SC&T and what the teams are working towards – they’re looking at the broader picture. But they also have to tackle separate pieces towards that larger goal. They have to tackle changing decarbonisation mandates and evolving technologies while continuing to build relationships with customers.

Our work at SC&T is about keeping that holistic view in mind while really focusing on and drilling down on the parts. When a project or larger initiative all comes together, we can see the relationship between our efforts. They may seem separate at the time we are working on the components but then the combined result forms something greater.

7. What are you most looking forward to, professionally?

I’m looking forward to SC&T’s decarbonisation strategy coming into fruition. It’s so critical to our society and to the kids who are in school right now: they’re the people who are going to be the beneficiaries of decarbonisation efforts.

There are many interesting challenges in the information management space: the volume of information in legacy systems (“dark data”), data ownership, bedding in our policies on the retention and disposal of data, handling complex regulatory requirements such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and new technologies to support information management.

In everything I do, I seek to address the pain points within a process and solve them to better serve the business’ needs.