by Elizabeth Heichler

How BP Manages Its Enterprise Architecture

Apr 28, 2010
Project Management Tools

BP pilots a new assessment framework designed to drive business value from its enterprise architecture

When London-based energy giant BP was developing its enterprise architecture management capability, it needed a way to measure progress while communicating IT’s business value to management. The solution: a new assessment framework based on the experience of large IT shops.

The IT Capability Maturity Framework (IT-CMF) doesn’t make its debut until next month, but BP has already used it to dive deep into the workings of its enterprise architecture group. For BP, the fact that “it’s based directly on best practices from big companies and government agencies” was appealing, said Andrew Weir, BP’s director of enterprise architecture. “It also has a strong focus on business value, so the results are easily explained to CIOs and business people,” he added.

Enterprise architecture management is just one of 36 “critical processes” that can be assessed using the IT-CMF, but it is one of the most important, according to Martin Curley, co-director of the Innovation Value Institute, the consortium established by the National University of Ireland Maynooth and Intel to develop the framework. Enterprises at lower levels of maturity have architectures that apply to specific domains within the business, he said. But those at the highest level, such as Apple Computer, have an architecture that spans the entire enterprise and supports strategic efforts, such as its online App Store.

About 250 specialists staff an architecture and design practice at BP that encompasses global IT resources embedded across functional areas and business units. BP’s IT groups collectively spend about $2 billion annually, employ 3,000 people and have about 700 active projects in the works.

How the Process Works

BP considers the IT-CMF a fairly lightweight process. The first year, about 20 architects filled out a multiple-choice questionnaire designed to assess the maturity of the enterprise architecture framework. Those surveyed were interviewed about their answers by Boston Consulting Group, which helped validate data quality and interpret results. Each area covered by the survey was given a score on a scale of one to five, with five being the best, and the results revealed weaknesses that BP could then address.

One such shortcoming was in the linkup between strategic planning and the portfolio-management process, Weir said. To close that gap, BP mapped applications to business processes and categorized applications based on how critical they were. The study also revealed that architects’ role was vaguely defined, which BP addressed by establishing a program that includes The Open Group Architecture Framework certification.

The assessment process was repeated the following year among architects and some IT staff. BP got a clear indication of where progress had been made from which scores rose. The company plans to include business people in the next round and hopes it shows that the work prompted by the previous assessment is paying off.

One area where BP will look for improvements is communicating the value of architecture to key stakeholders—it didn’t see any progress there between the first two assessments. A new communication program designed to be more explicit about the group and its business value is now in the works, Weir said.

Elizabeth Heichler is Editor in Chief of IDG News Service.