BP IT chief: we became too reliant on third parties

The energy giant is in the middle of a massive IT transformation, moving towards cloud services, upskilling its employees and reassessing its relationship with third party partners


BP is looking to bring a lot of its IT back in-house as part of a wider modernisation programme across the entire energy group, which comprises of a massive 74,000 employees.

Speaking at the London leg of AppDynamic’s World Tour this week, Andy Sturrock, head of modernise IT transformation at BP, admitted that the energy company had been too reliant on outsourcing in the past.

© BP Images on Flickr
© BP Images on Flickr

“We looked at ourselves and realised that we had become an IT organisation which didn’t really do IT, we facilitated other companies doing IT to us. So we wanted to get back to us being an IT organisation and developing our own capability again,” he said.

BP announced a broader IT modernisation effort as part of a strategy update in February 2017 (pdf), with a focus on building a more sustainable utilities company.

“The detail of that strategy has this word digital all the way through it. So it is a brilliant opportunity for the IT organisation to be not just a support function but absolutely at the heart of BP’s strategy.

"That helped us realise that we are not in the right state to play that part so we need to change as an IT organisation, and that is what the modernise IT programme is all about,” he said.

5 pillars of 'modernise IT'

Sturrock, who was previously the CIO for the global oil trading arm of BP, explained how the IT modernisation programme comprises of five pillars.

The first is enabling new ways of working. This essentially boils down to bringing what Sturrock calls ‘business interfaces’, ‘run’ and ‘change’ functions together into coherent units. This encompasses adopting devops and agile ways of working.

The next pillar is sourcing and skills, which is where re-training its own IT staff and not relying on third parties comes in.

“We want to move away from being a hierarchical, traditional command and control type organisation into a more collaborative, community, network way of working which includes collaborating beyond the boundaries of BP as well,” he added.

Thirdly is an app transformation, “we have already started converging down our core estate, particularly systems of record, because if you have fewer of those it is easier to build systems of insight on top of them,” he said.

This includes a proprietary data lake, which BP predicts will reach 6 petabytes within the next three years. Now the priority is to deliver insight from that to various business units.

BP is clearly keen on the idea of driving more intelligent insight from its various IoT enabled assets, and a more rational data estate will help with that. As Sturrock said: “It’s really, really important for our businesses to be able to draw out insights from all of our sensors. There are huge amounts of data at BP but without drawing insight from that it is pointless.

Read next: How BP drives automation at scale across supply and trading business

The fourth pillar is platforms and automation, the latter of which is “at the heart of any kind of digital transformation, it is the future,” he said. “We think that automation sits in the platforms, so by building in CI/CD pipelines, security scanning and [IT] telemetry, then other teams can build products on top of those platforms quickly and reliably.”

Then there is the rollout. So far BP ran a bunch of experiments across its business last year to prove out its new strategy and some cloud technologies. This was followed by 12 pilot projects across the business this year and, finally, scaling out across the whole IT organisation.

Read next: BP's public cloud strategy helps reduce IT spend by 40 percent

BP has publicly said it is going ‘all in’ on the cloud, including deals with cloud providers like Microsoft Azure for PaaS and Workday for SaaS HR, since announcing its modernisation plans.

As Sturrock put it: “Rather than big up-front paper-based exercise we design up front, we want to learn things by trying them and with new technology like cloud it is so much cheaper and more accessible to do that.”

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