IT Architect explained – what does a Chief IT Architect at BP do?
As a Chief Architect in BP’s Supply and Trading business, I’m responsible for the IT strategy and solution architectures for the systems and applications that support the middle to back office functions in trading. That covers the areas of ethics & compliance, regulatory reporting, market risk credit risk, and finance.
I have a portfolio of projects and initiatives going on at the same time. This year specifically, we are focused on realising our ambitions in modernising not just our IT estate, but also accelerating the adoption of digital technology in the business processes that we look after. We are partnering with technology companies in exploring big data solutions and we are at the early stages of testing a few machine learning use cases.
While IT architects are expected to be well versed in application, data, and infrastructure design, we are also responsible for the IT strategy of the organisation. It’s important that we are deeply connected with our business stakeholders and that we are visionaries mapping out the path ahead from an IT perspective.
Take us on a journey – what was your career path before joining BP?
My tech career started at university. Growing up in the Philippines, I did an undergraduate course in Management information Systems, followed by an MBA at the Judge Business School (JBS) at Cambridge University to get a broader business background. My university courses really gave me the building blocks for understanding and modelling business processes and using those requirements to design systems, which came in very handy when I started my first IT consultancy role at Accenture.
I worked in different roles at Accenture, mainly in the SAP implementation and application maintenance space. I started as an SAP basis technical consultant, responsible for SAP platform administration, and gradually moved into a team lead position. Working for a consulting firm, I have been part of several business transformation journeys, usually around standardisation and automating their reporting and analytics. This is where I came to appreciate the activities and functions of the organisations I worked for, as the data tells a lot about their business, their pain points, and also their performance. In addition, consulting helped me cope with unfamiliar territories in fast-paced environments, and importantly got me used to dealing with stakeholders from different business sectors and across multiple levels.
Digitalising the energy industry – what do tech projects at BP look like?
Tech projects at BP Supply and Trading, like in many other firms, aim to automate processes to increase transparency, reduce risk, and help the team make more informed decisions.
As part of that, big data analysis has become a key propriety for us. We are currently working on reducing all the ‘excel gymnastics’ that have been going on over the years. Instead of having people work on separate processes manually, which makes a system more prone to errors, we want to have all relevant data in one place for it to be easily audible and fully traceable.
Machine learning is another big area that we are currently exploring. We are assessing how a self-coded algorithm could bring different data points together and support a trader’s decision-making. Apart from transactional data, this could include geopolitical factors, information from phone calls, sentiment analysis, and natural language processing.
We are looking at digitisation and transformation at all levels, and high on the agenda is bringing the front, and middle to back office functions together through technology. These areas have different actors and activities and are supported by different systems, which makes it difficult to seamlessly understand the relationship of data and transactions across the landscape.
Why IT – what’s the importance of IT for the future of the business?
IT will play a vitally important role for the way we will work in the future, and a lot of this is down to the pace of technological change and industry digitalisation. There are three main trends that will shape the Supply and Trading department over the coming years:
- The increased focus on big data and analytics. This will allow us to shift the culture towards more data driven insights. This, coupled with cloud computing, will allow us to access, store and process more data than we can imagine. In addition, artificial intelligence could allow for more accurate calculation of market and credit risks, better working capital forecasting, and better support for providing commercial insights to our traders.
- Blockchain networks. These will mature and will start having real impact around the way contracts and payments are transacted, and we will operate in a world that is more connected than ever.
- Cyber resilience. This will become more critical, not only in terms of safe guarding operations but also ensuring that we continue to work in a compliant manner.
Staying relevant – what can technologists do to future-proof their career?
For technologists, the key success factors are not to be complacent and developing deep-rooted business knowledge.
Working in IT, it is important that we recognise the need to constantly learn and stay on top of emerging tech trends, including artificial intelligence, blockchain and machine learning. But this is not just for the individual. We need to be a learning organisation and cultivate that culture, especially now that digital technology is becoming a key differentiator among organisations. You snooze, you lose!
We also need to understand the business and the processes that we are trying to optimise. Automation for automation’s sake is not an option. When I started my first role within Supply and Trading, my top priority was to understand people’s jobs and the business problems that we are trying to solve.
As a result of the importance of IT and the need for technologists to be as close to the business as possible, I have seen a blurring of activity and roles between the business and IT teams. Business users are now expected to be more tech savvy and technology today is making that adoption so much easier. I have noticed job titles and expectations starting to change, and perhaps less vertical and more horizontal movements of people, as they progress in the organisation.
Lilybeth Go, Chief IT Architect, BP