Start with data to build a better supply chain

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Laurel: On that topic of workplace agility. In 2020, bp began a reorganization that consolidated its procurement departments into that single global procurement organization. What were the challenges that resulted from this reorganization?

Raimundo: Yeah. To give you a more context on that. So, if you think about bp being this really large global organizations divided in business units, before the organizations, every one of these business units have their own procurement departments, which handle literally billions of dollars that’s how big they were. And in that business, they have the ERP systems, your contract repository, your process and process deviation. But you only manage the portfolio to that. Once you integrate all of those organizations into a single one, now your responsibility become across some of those multiple business units, that has your data in all of these business systems.

So, if you want to create a report, then it’s really complicated because you have to not only go to these different systems, but the taxonomy of the data is different. So, an example, some business will call their territory, North America, the other one will call it east and west coast. So, if you want a report for a new business owner, it becomes really, really hard, and also the reports might not be as complete as they are. So, that really calls for some tools that we need to put in place to support that. And on top of that, the volume of requests now is so greater that just changing and adding steps to process aren’t going to be enough. You really need to look into automation to satisfy this higher demand.

Laurel: Well, speaking of automation, it can leverage existing technology and build efficiencies. So, what is the role of advanced technologies, like AI, machine learning and advanced analytics in the approach to your ongoing transformation?

Raimundo: So, today, everybody talks about AI, ML, and all these tools. But to be honest with you, I think your journey really starts a little bit earlier. I think when we go out and think about this advanced technology, which obviously, have their place, I think in the beginning, what you really need to focus is in your foundational, and that is your data. So, you ask about the role of the cloud. So, for bp, what we have done is all of the data used to reside in multiple different sites out there. So, what we have done is all the data now has been migrated to the cloud. And then what the cloud also allows is to do transformations in place that help us really homogenize, what I just described before, North America, South America, then you can create another column and say, okay, now call it, whatever, United States, or however you want to call it.

So, all of this data transformation happened in a single spot. And what that does is also allow our users that need this data to go to a single source of truth and not be pulling data from multiple systems. An example of the chaos that that creates is somebody will be pulling invoice and data from Spence, somebody will pull in PayData. So, then you already have data discrepancy on the reporting. And having a centralized tool where everybody goes for the data reduces so much complexity on the system.

Laurel: And speaking about that kind of complexity, it’s clear that multiple procurement systems made it difficult to maintain quality compliance as well, and as well as production tracking in bp supply chain. So, what are some of the most challenging aspects of realizing this new vision with a centralized one-stop platform?

Raimundo: Yeah, we have a good list in there. So, let me break it into maybe technical and people, because I think people is something that we should talk about it. So, technical. I think one of the biggest things in technical is working with your technical team to find the right architecture. This is how your vision fits into our architecture, which will create less, let’s say, confusion and complexity into your architecture. And the other side of the technical challenge is finding the right tools. I’ll give you an example for our project. Initially, I thought, okay, RPA [robotic process automation] will be the technology to do this. So, we run a pilot RPA. And obviously, RPA has incredible applications out there. But at this point, RPA really wasn’t the tool for us given the changes that could happen on the screens from the system that we’re using. So, then we decided instead of going to RPA, going to API.

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