How BP got its IT suppliers to collaborate and perform after massive vendor consolidation

Oil and Gas giant BP spent 65% of its $3bn annual IT budget with 3000 suppliers in 2008 but now it outsources to only seven and  has reduced its annual IT budget by $800m as a result.

Vital to the success of the new multi-supplier ecosystem was retaining supplier performance levels while getting them to work together.

BP is a massive consumer of outsourced services across its business and as a result the overheads associated with working with partners are massive. Taking IT in-house was not an option due to the company’s size, global presence and confluence of diverse business functions.

BP Group CIO Dana Deasy told an audience at Gartner’s annual outsourcing summit in London how the company managed to  cut hundreds of millions in costs in a couple of years while retaining a multi-vendor IT outsourcing environment. Most of the $800m savings on IT is the result of the company’s sourcing transformation.

Deasy says the company wanted to reduce the cost and complexity of working with thousands of IT suppliers. It now has seven IT service providers in its multi-vendor environment and has shaken up its vendor management capabilities to ensure it gets the most out of them.

The seven suppliers in the ecosystem are: IBM; Tata Consultancy Services (TCS); Infosys; Accenture; Wipro; HP; and T-Systems.

Deasy says the challenges for BP were to ensure that the suppliers give their all and work together in a collaborative ecosystem. “We had to keep all the vendors on edge to get the best out of them. But we also have to create a collaborative environment,” he said.

As well as boosting its internal supplier management resources with a dedicated team and taking up supplier management standard, BS11000, BP has focussed on getting its suppliers to perform in the face of less competition.

The seven suppliers all have a core role which BP expects them to stick to. At the same time the suppliers must collaborate as if they were one

BP introduced what it calls “The Captain’s Table.” This is a mandatory week-long event where the CEOs of its seven IT suppliers get together for group meetings and one on one’s with BP. “You need to get the top of the house [supplier CEOs] aligned,” says Deasy. “You need to get them together and set them joint targets.” All supplier CEOs are expected to attend.

Deasy says it is important to make sure that the suppliers know that there is something in it for them when they attend these meeting, which are aimed at improving ecosystem collaboration. He says with more and more businesses multi-sourcing their IT services collaboration between suppliers will become increasingly important. “We need to tell the suppliers that there is a marketing opportunity for them. If they can demonstrate that they can work in a collaborative ecosystem they can use our relationship as a reference for new business.”

He says it is surprising how little the senior executives at  IT suppliers in the same ecosystems interact. “Next time you see your suppliers ask them how many times they have communicated with another supplier in your ecosystem.” He says there are huge behavioural changes to be instigated.

BP also had the challenge of getting its own large internal supplier management teams as well as its CIOs to move in the same direction. Deasy believes getting internal supplier relationship management to change how they work was perhaps the biggest challenge. “We underestimated the time it would take to explain this.”

The company also recognised the business continuity risks associated with reducing its supplier portfolio. It carried out a hypothetical incident of losing an entire city in India where a lot of its IT and BPO services are delivered from. Known as City Down the test  it helped BP understand how suppliers could work together in a crisis.

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