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Migrating to the cloud transforms business

Large-scale cloud transformation can help enterprises improve operational resiliency, and accelerate technology adoption, according to Keisha Garcia, vice president of Digital Foundations at BP

In partnership withInfosys Cobalt

In 2017, bp took on a cloud-first approach that committed to building any new hardware or system builds on the cloud. Just a year prior, only 2% of bp applications lived on the cloud. At the close of 2022, 90% of bp applications had migrated to cloud environments, changing product and service integration and bp’s overall digital operating model.

Cloud transformations like bp’s can help enterprises improve operational resiliency, accelerate technology adoption, and reduce data center carbon emissions, says vice president of Digital Foundations at bp, Keisha Garcia. Migrating to the cloud at that scale, however, is challenging and extensive, especially when dealing with a legacy IT estate.

“Utilizing cloud platforms provides the necessary computational power and tools to implement advanced analytics, predictive modeling, as well as simulation techniques, which also enables us to continuously improve our sustainability performance,” says Garcia.

To successfully migrate to the cloud and subsequently collaborate and deploy cloud technologies, Garcia stresses the importance of clear communication among employees as well as stakeholders. “Involve application teams, service owners, end users early in the development and delivery of the strategy. Again, just bringing everyone along for the journey, I cannot overstate how important that is,” says Garcia.

A hybrid approach to transformation that combines cloud migration with the retention of some applications, dedicated data centers, and intermediary migration environments can ensure cost effective and secure operations. With enterprise-wide communication underpinning any successful transformation, Garcia outlines having a strong and flexible governance framework, collaborating with external digital partners, and adapting to agile ways of working as best practices for complex cloud migrations.

Looking to the cloud-enabled future, Garcia identifies the convergence of AI and edge computing, mounting progress in quantum computing, and the proliferation of IoT connected devices as transformative technologies that will drive forward better business outcomes.  

“I think that the convergence of edge computing and AI presents an exciting opportunity for the real-time data, a real-time low latency processing and decision making at the network edge, which is extremely critical for us, given all of the platforms, rigs that we have out across the globe,” says Garcia.

This episode of Business Lab is produced in partnership with Infosys Cobalt.

Full transcript

Laurel Ruma: From MIT Technology Review, I'm Laurel Ruma, and this is Business Lab, the show that helps business leaders make sense of new technologies coming out of the lab and into the marketplace.

Our topic today is building a better cloud ecosystem. From partners to internal stakeholders, enterprises are meeting challenges by deploying and innovating with cloud computing solutions. The key is to work as a team and build talent resources to confidently adopt emerging technologies.

Two words for you: optimizing cloud.

My guest is Keisha Garcia. Keisha is the vice president of Digital Foundations at bp.

This episode of Business Lab is sponsored by Infosys Cobalt.

Welcome, Keisha.

Keisha Garcia: Thank you, Laurel. I'm happy to be here.

Laurel: Well, let's start off. So, what has bp's move to the cloud been like? From your perspectives, what are the major benefits and challenges with cloud transformation?

Keisha: Yeah, so our journey from my perspective has been exciting, it's been complex, it's been a learning journey all the while. And it's been long. It's been pretty long. Our journey started in 2013 and we were experimenting on cloud computing for email services and HR learning management systems. And then you fast-forward to 2016, and we were about 2% of our bp applications were on the cloud. As the company, we were conducting proof of concepts and determining what was the best approach and how do we do this at scale, large scale. In 2017, we adopted a cloud-first approach, meaning that anything that was any new hardware, any new system builds were going to be on the cloud, no more adding to our existing, at the time, eight mega data centers and over 107 different data centers throughout our regions throughout the world.

We had decided that we were no longer going to add anything, unless it was to the cloud. Or if it had to be on-prem, it had to be by exception only. And so that kind of motivated us to push along and got everybody along for the journey. But again, just getting all of our business and everyone else sold into the business or sold into cloud and cloud concepts and all of those things, given the fact that there were a lot of unknowns at the time, so working with just different vendor partners and trying to find as knowledgeable people as possible. So again, that just all fed to the complexity. By the close of 2022, we had gotten into our stride pretty well and had done quite a few, or a large part of our state, over 90% of our state, to be exact, we have migrated to our cloud environments, which enabled our faster product and service introduction and changing the bp digital operating model, which we've moved now to a product-led organization.

So our cloud migrations, I think some of the biggest benefits was it helped us optimize bp's technology stack. Of course, it increased our operational resilience. It introduced new network and data architectures, accelerated our technology adoption, helped to push the modernizing of our state and keeping those evergreen, it also assisted in the reduction of our CO2 emissions from our data centers. However, migrating to the cloud at the scale that we've had to, as large as our landscape is, again, as I said, was challenging, complex, and extensive because we had extensive legacy IT estate. And as I said earlier on, just hosted in the eight large mega data centers throughout the US, as well as in Europe, and then also just the myriad of data centers that we have across our regions. So the challenge, I cannot overstate, it has been that, but the gains have been great.

Laurel: So that's a great look at the past and the journey that bp has been on. So, what are some of the major cloud trends you're seeing today?

Keisha: So some of the major trends that we're seeing today from a platforms perspective, see increasing numbers of organizations looking to consolidate their business applications on the cloud-based platforms, be more cloud native, have robust data and analytics platforms as well that will allow both real-time and on-demand access to key business information. Again, as we said, we've moved to a product-led organization, so we're seeing that, of course, there's several companies that are doing the same. Digital teams are aligning to product-led operating models to ensure customer centricity and customer focus. And then also just putting that at the forefront. And then product development and enabling business and business-led prioritization and product delivery, which helps, again, with us aligning more to our business strategy. And given where we are going with moving to an integrated energy company and our transition with re:Invent, that has been huge for us.

There's lots of markets that we're tapping into, lots of things that we're doing, and we have to get on board with the business to be able to be dynamic and be able to shift and be able to move, and to be able to provide a faster time to market with solutions. And so from that standpoint, being on a cloud platform, having all of the technology that's available to us to do that at pace and align with our business has been awesome for us. And I'm seeing a lot more companies wanting to just share experiences and knowledge because they're trying to do the same. Also, just the cloud native piece of that and cloud native enterprise is an organization that has aligned business and technology teams to help, again, modernize the estate, but we have to build more cloud native capability so that things can be more plug and play versus the huge build outs.

And then again, having to do a lot of the upgrading and all of the things that would come along with not building and being on top, or being with more in the cloud native state. Also, just again, part of our reinvention journey, this also enables climate action. We're seeing a lot of folks that are moving towards doing the things that align with the Paris Agreement, as well as all of the things that we're doing along re:Invent. So decarbonizing digital as assets directly impacts about 2% of the global energy consumption. So therefore, it helps. Every bit helps. And so therefore, those are the things that we're seeing. And we're also, of course, moving there in that space to also assist with us getting to net zero. There's also just being able to be more of a connected world. So 2023, this year and beyond, promises, opportunities for large scale industrial 5G, broadband based IoT usage and catapult connections for remote regions.

And so we've really started to build off that as well with building digital twins and all of the different things that we're doing at our refineries, and then also on our rigs and platforms that will capitalize on just the cloud-based technology. So, there's quite a few things that we're seeing that are trending, but things that we're already in the works with and moving towards. And the last one is just the evolution of the CIO that we're seeing. The CIO seems to have gone away. I don't see a lot of CIO titles anymore that are out there. And we definitely have moved away from that, as well as the way our organization is structured. And as I said earlier, aligning a lot more with product led organizations and making sure that we have technology leaders that are elevating their financial acumen, along with business prioritizations and outcomes, and bringing that business value and finding where those value streams are within your business strategies and aligning to those, and then evaluating and bringing about the technology that will be the catalyst and a differentiator for most businesses, and definitely ours.

Laurel: That's quite a bit. And you mentioned this a little bit earlier, but how do you actually bring together a company to maintain and manage and optimize all of those business practices in the cloud? What are some of those best practices companies should be thinking about in order to collaborate and deploy cloud technologies?

Keisha: I think the biggest thing that we are seeing, or that I saw that were best practices and lessons learned and things, is just providing clear stakeholder communications. If you don't have your business on board and understand what it is that you're doing and why you're doing it and what's in it for them, it's going to be hard. It's going to be really, really hard to do a mass migration as we have, an adoption of cloud, the way that we have. And I hate that covid-19 happened, but it definitely forced the business to really see the benefit because we were pretty much about, I want to say 50% on the cloud by the time, probably a little less than 50% on the cloud, by the time covid hit, but we were on the cloud for our major things. And our business really didn't skip a beat really with being able to connect from anywhere in the world.

And so they saw the benefit of that. They saw some of the things that we had talked about. But just having that clear outline of communication around what you will get, what you don't get, where you will be in each part of the journey, I cannot express how important that it was to do that. Involve application teams, service owners, end users early in the development and delivery of the strategy. Again, just bringing everyone along for the journey, I cannot overstate how important that is. Modify your operating model, your digital operating model specifically to align so that you're working more seamlessly together across different areas and allowing for the breakdown of expertise in particular areas and having that focus on that expertise and continuing to develop that and evolve that. Because technology, as always, but definitely in this space, changes extremely quickly. And so therefore, you have got to ensure that your people are getting as educated, updated with the skill sets as possible. And building on the benefits, a realization plan, was also key.

So those are some of the softer ones that I would think that people might overlook. Other ones, just the hybrid approach that we had, the hybrid approach to transformation. We recognized early on the need for a hybrid approach, combining our cloud migration with the retention of certain applications, dedicated data centers, intermediary migration environments, allowing for cost effective and secure operations. Those are some of the best practices as far as just how we were going to transform and what that looks like, and not thinking that it's a one size fits all and being able to assess your estate, what's best if you have a large in the service of life estate, a legacy estate, as we did where we were legacy with operating model—the code base on our applications across our entire landscape, it was huge. I think when we first started this journey, a good amount of over 60% of our estate was in the end of the service of a life due to one of one or the other of the things that I just mentioned.

And so instead of trying to tackle those separately, we decided, what's the best way for us to leverage and bring that all together? So being flexible and looking at the art of the possible across your state and what you have to do to address multiple things was also really a great way to look at this as well. Because you and I probably know from experience, just any time that you say that you're going to go back and do something, nine times out of 10, you don't. You do the first tactical thing and it stays that way forever. So it was, for me, a good thing for us to take best practice, to, if we only have to do something once or only have to open up the box once, then let's just open it up once and figure out how much of transformation can we do in one time to keep us at ease, but also to cover as much modernization as we can before we hand them back over to our ops teams.

I think I've already touched on just CIO buy-in and business buy-in. Those are best practices, some of those things that were softer that I mentioned earlier. Having a governance framework, delivery model restructured for effectiveness, and how do you get things approved and establish those things, again, upfront, having that delivery model to ensure smooth cloud migrations while also ensuring business service continuity and accommodating evolving business requirements?

Because as you know, again, with some of the trends that we talked about or that I mentioned earlier, those trends are things that when you start to go and implement those things, the business change is enormous. And so being able to be flexible to accommodate those, but not being beared down by who needs to approve this, who's making this decision. If you establish those things upfront with a good governance framework and a delivery model that allows for that flexibility and effectiveness, then that was also key and golden.

The collaboration with digital delivery partners. I can't express enough finding great delivery partners. There's no way that knowledge is known by everyone in your organization. And like I said, given the pace at which technology changes and things are being rolled out, you always need people that are also keeping their fingers on the pulse from learnings and different experiences. And so you can only get that sometimes if you also worked externally with external partners. And we had a couple of them, quite a few of them actually, that proved to be very, very great partners. And we all learned together with several of the others, but Emphasis has been a major partner of ours. We had eight vendor partners to supplement in-house capabilities, and it was great.

Adapting modern ways of working, agility. And agility in its simplest forms, but also just being agile and utilizing agile practices, which will help you move much faster, setting up your squads, those types of things. And then of course, I'll say it again, last one, but communication, communication, communication, and training for sustainability and just continuing to build your knowledge base to be able to continue to support the platforms and the new technology that's coming on board. So those are some of the things that we saw, or that's lessons learned, best practices in general.

Laurel: You mentioned this a little bit earlier, but how critical is talent to that kind of cloud transformation? And what are some of techniques–communication clearly–for recruiting and refining talent for adopting cloud technologies?

Keisha: Yeah. Given the fact that, as we talked, there's so many people that are going along this journey, some at the very beginning, some middle, some almost nearing the end. But because of that, the market out there is extremely competitive to get great talent. And then also, just upscaling your talent that you have in the door already. Your existing staff is also critical. So, offering a competitive compensation package, as well as providing training and certification opportunities. Because again, it's keeping your employees motivated and keeping them focused on being a hundred percent all in and passionate around what we're doing and why we're doing it, but also recognizing that people have to enjoy what they do. And the compensation package has to be great. And also, the learning opportunities and promoting a learning culture has to be there because that's what people are looking for. As we see, as people are moving from place to place, in order to retain great talent, in order to attract great talent, all of those offerings need to be there. They're important.

They're important for the success of any transformation program that you're doing for some of the reasons that I touched on earlier, the pace at which technology moves, as well as the fact that everybody is out doing all of these things to test the waters, and to also create a more sustainable environment, to also create, to be able to get to market faster, to create all the different trends that are happening with people working in different spaces and places across the globe. All of those things, the offerings have to be there to attract that talent. But most of all, also building a diverse and inclusive workforce. And in order to do that, the offering has to be there across the board for people that want to work from home, people that want to work in an office building, people that are doing different things or at different stages and points in their lives. Having that flexibility to offer your employees to retain that great talent is absolutely key and critical for the purposes of the success of your transformation.

Laurel: And then you did mention the importance of working with partners, especially when you're trying to build this collaborative ecosystem. So, what is that like working with partners in this large-scale cloud transformation?

Keisha: Again, you can't know everything, and you're not always going to get all of those things. So that's where you have the extension of, I would say an extension of additional brain power, extension of learning and those things. Leveraging partnerships with educational institutions, collaborating with universities and colleges to establish internships, co-op programs, and recruitment pipelines for cloud related roles. Because again, as you see in universities, technology is key and they're learning new things. And students coming out of universities, they're more conscious of all of the things that are going on in the environment, and they're wanting to work with people that are moving towards making the environment better and the sustainability of that. And the low carbon initiatives that are going on and getting to net zero, believe it or not, those are all things that are known. As soon as I go into recruiting at a university, it's the first thing that they ask. What's really going on with re:Invent?

What do you see and how do you utilize technology to help leverage that? So I think building those partnerships with educational institutions are great, as well as those partnerships with our third-party vendors that we've done as well, because they're doing some of the same things with getting students, and as well as keeping up with the trends, keeping up their skillsets and capabilities and being able to have that flex staff to flex up and down as necessary. As you go through the ebb and flows of your journey of transformation, things start, stop, and/or increase, and sometimes you need to move at pace, or just the complexities that comes with marrying things with moving off of your legacy estate and still trying to keep that BAU [business as usual] and no downtime for your business. So therefore, all of those things, you cannot know within one organization. You have to look to research and development. And again, the partnerships with the universities, the partnerships with third-party vendors are absolutely critical and key.

Laurel: You've mentioned sustainability a couple times. So how moving to the cloud and adopting these kinds of emerging technologies actually help bp as a company address the sustainability goals that it may have?

Keisha: We have the reduced environmental impact paired with efficient resource utilization. So, moving to the cloud allowed us to reduce our carbon footprint by transitioning from on-premise data centers to a more energy efficient cloud infrastructure. We are dual cloud company. We use both AWS and Microsoft Azure. And so definitely working with both of them for what they're doing around the energy efficient cloud infrastructure that they're pushing and doing, and working with them on all hands of how to measure that. Also what's the projection of what we're going to contribute as we continue to move forward and get to nearing the end of our cloud journey. Also enabling us to optimize our energy consumption, like I said, by scaling resources up and down based on demand, driving efficient energy usage, reducing waste, and contributing to our wider bp sustainability goals as well.

There was a time, again, when we were on-prem and we would have large amounts of servers running. And some of those servers were literally less than 50% utilized. But yet they're still on. They're still utilizing energy as well. So this moving to cloud allows us, again, from the optimization perspective of what we consume. Also, low carbon emissions, data-driven sustainability, and enhanced operational efficiency. Moving to the cloud supports and drives our low carbon emission by enabling our company to utilize renewable power sources, so by adopting emerging technologies, such as AI and machine learning. The transformation to cloud allows for us to analyze vast amounts of data, driving our innovation and decision-making power for bp's sustainable initiatives.

And again, this has been huge for us. And being data-driven helps identify opportunities for resource optimization, emissions reduction, as well as environmental impact mitigation. So in the data space, large opportunities there. And then also, there's just a continuous improvement in innovation, and having or utilizing cloud platforms provides the necessary computational power and tools to implement advanced analytics, predictive modeling, as well as simulation techniques, which also enables us to continuously improve our sustainability performance. And it also allows for new solutions to be provided, as well as to contribute to all of the industry-wide sustainability advancements, things that when I get around other CIO tables or other tables with other people that are leading their transformations, we share ideas, we talk about the things that we're doing, how we're measuring that. And sharing that across the table is really good because, again, you get to also hear some of the things that they're doing, which gives you some of the ideas of how they're using technology to continue with the sustainability goals.

So from that standpoint, that's how we've helped to leverage our cloud transformation to help with our sustainability aspirations of getting to net zero.

Laurel: Yeah, that's quite significant. You've outlined major cloud trends like going cloud native that you're seeing today. So, what are some of the cloud-enabled technologies or use cases that you're really excited to see emerge in the next three to five years?

Keisha: So, I would say that I'm really excited about...there's quite a few, so I'll try and limit it. So edge AI. I think that the convergence of edge computing and AI presents an exciting opportunity for the real-time data, a real-time low latency processing and decision making at the network edge, which is extremely critical for us, given all of the platforms, rigs, that we have out across the globe. That is absolutely key. And I'm excited about that because this technology helps to enable and develop our innovative applications in our industry to optimize the energy consumption of smart grids and enhance predictive maintenance and our operations. So for me, edge AI is really one that I'm excited about. Also, quantum computing. It has the potential to solve complex problems and perform computations that are currently infeasible for classical computers. So in the next three to five years, I'd expect to see significant progress in quantum computing technology, which has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach computational challenges and drive innovation across multiple sectors of our business, but multiple sectors of the energy industry in general.

And then I'll probably think of a couple more. I would say things have progressed quite far along in this space, but IoT and integration and analytics in that space, the proliferation of IoT devices continues to generate massive volumes of data. So cloud platforms will play a crucial role in processing, analyzing, and extracting meaningful insights from this data. In the next few years, and currently even today, I think we see further advancements in cloud based IoT integration analytics, as well as enabling US or other organizations to harness the full potential of IoT data, which will drive smarter decision making and predictive maintenance, as well as asset optimization and automation, or optimization rather. So I just think from an IoT perspective, again, big driver. We've been doing digital twins, we've been doing quite a few things within our platforms and just within our production business. Those are some of the three that really excite me. And then of course, there's augmented reality, but I won't go into that. But there's a few things that are coming along that really excite us and will be driving our business forward.

Laurel: Fantastic. Keisha, thank you so much for joining us today on the Business Lab.

Keisha: Thank you for having me.

Laurel: That was Keisha Garcia, the vice president of Digital Foundations at bp, who I spoke with from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the home of MIT and MIT Technology Review, overlooking the Charles River.

That's it for this episode of Business Lab. I'm your host, Laurel Ruma. I'm the director of Insights, the custom publishing division of MIT Technology Review. We were founded in 1899 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And you can also find us in print on the web and at events each year around the world. For more information about us and the show, please check out our website at technologyreview.com.

This show is available wherever you get your podcasts. If you enjoyed this episode, we hope you'll take a moment to rate and review us. Business Lab is a production of MIT Technology Review. This episode was produced by Giro Studios. Thanks for listening.

This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

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