Oil giant BP has extended the roll out of its CA Clarity version 12.0 software after it used the tool for project and portfolio management after the devastating explosion of a refinery in Texas City in 20005, which killed 15 workers.
Joe Jackson, strategic implementation plan coordinator at BP, was speaking this week at CA's annual customer and partner event in Las Vegas. Jackson explained that in 2005 BP was mandated by the US federal government a number of initiatives to run a safer operation across its refineries because of the explosion.
"There were some problems trying to figure out how to get all these things done across all these refineries in such a large geographical area, to the same rigour. The board realised that spreadsheets weren't really going to cut it and had to figure out a different way," said Jackson.
"That's when Clarity came in, we chose it because of its ability to be customised. It was very flexible."
Following the implementation of Clarity, BP found that the number of completed milestones across the strategic implementation plan (SIP) that was mandated jumped from 15 percent to 96 percent. He said: "Instantly you saw the benefit of having all of your projects in one place, which also has transparency for the leadership team.
"Throughout the year you see health updates, reports are constantly getting kicked out of Clarity. You can instantly judge where the progress of activities you are concerned about."
BP is using Clarity to assess the progress of risk reduction projects, safety and improvement mandates and resources. It is using the tool to take into conversations with the board, which can then compare and make a judgement on what is important to the company over the coming year.
Since using it for BP's refineries, the success of the implementation has led to a global rollout into other areas of the business, such as global wells, marketing, sales and supply. Jackson explained that the rollout isn't yet complete.
"Right now we have widespread use, when the business saw it was successful in the refineries it said let's apply it to other areas - not necessarily to just mitigate risk, but to support our strategy. It's still growing for us, which has led to us participating to the development of version 13.2 with CA," said Jackson.
Although BP is still operating on Clarity 12.0, it has been working with CA to refine the latest release so that when it upgrades it will be suited to BP's environment.
"We have had numerous conversations with CA about what our needs and requirements are and what we are going to need when we migrate into different parts of the business. They've taken that into consideration and you will see a lot of that in the new version - we are making a plan for that migration," he said.
Jackson also advised companies looking to Clarity, or other portfolio and project management tools, that the transparency into success and risk shouldn't be feared - it should be used to engage with the board members about what areas of the business need improvement.
"Transparency - you can never sell that short. It's great to know that when you have a business that's as spread out as we do, that on a monthly basis there are going to be reports kicked out that are looked at by our leadership team," he said.
"It's a way to communicate, so you want to look at your project health in a positive way. It doesn't matter if it's red, yellow or green. If it's yellow, there are issues and you need leadership to support you and address them. As long as you communicate those things, and there are open lines of communication, then Clarity has done its job."
However, it hasn't all been smooth sailing for BP, which as it has extended its use of Clarity into new business functions has found that getting support from project leaders has been somewhat challenging. Jackson argued that getting that buy-in is possible if you push that a global view of the business in a centralised location is an essential tool.
"With the refineries rollout we had the full support of the COO because of the mandates given by the US government. As we've grown and gone into more businesses, things have changed - it's now about supporting our strategy and reducing risk," he said.
"When you engage with new individuals it's tough sometimes, there are a lot of political issues that you have to deal with. Everybody feels comfortable with how they run their business and the tools they already use."
He added: "However, we are a global business, and we are a business of many different businesses, and there is an advantage in trying to grow BP as a whole, not just as individual businesses. Once we get hold of their data and get it into the tool, they recognise this and the light bulb goes off."