Change Of Culture Reaps Rewards For BP’s Digital Transformation

When implementing a whole new approach to problem-solving, introducing a new digital system wasn’t the only necessary ingredient. In this article by Forbes, Mark Venables discusses the way BP streamlined its digital solutions and changed the mindsets of its employees to achieve their overall goals.


Like most oil and gas operators, BP has been undergoing a fundamental digital transformation. They have clear objectives for this program. Firstly, to make themselves more competitive, and secondly to gain more profound engagement with their employees today and in the future.

This program has three strands, digital, agile and mindset. Understandably most of the media attention has been on their digital tools, which are game-changing and delivering some impressive results.

Digital tools

BP’s IoT system, Plant Operations Adviser, has been implemented in its facilities in Angola and is starting to be rolled out globally. Its APEX digital modeling system has been deployed in all its production operations around the world, delivering a digital twin of every production system. This allows BP to run optimizations for every production system in a matter of hours, a task that previously took weeks or even months. BP estimates that these digital initiatives allowed them to add 30,000 barrels of oil equivalent to headline numbers last year.

Agile working

However, impressive as these achievements are it is the agile working and change of mindset that go hand in hand with the digital tools that are just as impressive. “The millennial employees that we all have in our companies are demanding more and more that we work in an agile way,” Gordon Birrell, upstream chief operating officer – production, transformation and carbon, BP explained at the recent BHGE Annual Meeting in Florence. “We’re empowering our teams today to work in agile ways.”

This agile approach reflects the fact that inside BP there were too many meetings, hand-offs of a package from one team to another and above all too much bureaucracy. “In BP we took the agile methodology and a technique of scrum approach to problem-solving,” he continued. “We’ve trained over 3,000 people in that way of working.”

Scrum solution

Scrum is a technique adopted from the IT and software industry. It is a simple concept of cross-functional teams, but it can have a significant impact on the productivity of teams. “It involves taking a small number of cross-discipline, highly-trained professionals, engineers and scientists, creating self-managed teams to solve a single problem.,” Birrell explained. “You give them all the resources they need to solve that problem once and to solve it fast.

“It’s so simple really. “If you put a drilling engineer, a geophysicist, a reservoir engineer and a facility engineer in a room with one problem to solve, one focus and ask them to solve it, permanently, with all the resources that they need to solve it then really remarkable things happen. It’s an incredibly efficient way of teams operating to problem-solve. It allows creativity, fast solutions, and better outcomes.”

Remarkable results

In Azerbaijan by the end of 2018 BP had 16 scrum teams set up, and some of the results from the groups were remarkable. “We reduced our logistics cost by $60 million simply by a cross-disciplinary team figuring out very quickly how to optimize vessel surveys,” Birrell said. “We took $1 billion out of the capital cost of a new project in the pre-FID stage. We made a dramatic improvement in the efficiency of our maintenance work orders and our maintenance management system.

“We have 3000 people trained in this technique, and frankly, it’s going viral inside our company. We couldn’t stop our organizations working in this way now even if we tried, and we plan to scale it up even further over the next few years.”

Change of mindset

The final dimension of BPs organization transformation program is centered around mindset. The competition could copy digital tools, the competition can copy ways of working, but Birrell explained that what cannot be copied is the culture or the mindset of employees. “We have a program to dial-up a few behaviors inside our company,” he said. “The first one is business ownership.

“We want every single employee to feel and behave like they’re a business owner. When they’re solving problems, it’s as if they’re solving a problem at home with their family – deep ownership and seeing it through to the conclusion. Many of us have become world-class at describing problems. We want to become world-class at solving problems.

“I believe there’s much more to do to unleash the true power of digital. To let the creativity of our people on the supply chain flourish and work in new ways, work collaboratively, and to change our mindset and come up with different working models. If we do this and hold onto our desire to keep advancing, then I am very confident we will be successful.”


This article was written by Mark Venables from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to