Upcycle your digital architecture

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Just because you’ve introduced a new, agile way of working doesn’t mean you have to trash your waterfall and program management approach. Learn how to integrate the old with the new to deliver a compelling customer experience.

In the words of Paul Williamson, VP Architecture and Solutions, Digital Customers and Markets at bp, being adaptable means having the ability to react quickly to change in a sustainable way

For some, the objective for sustainability is to offset their carbon by doing an act – such as planting trees, building beehives or offering a cycle-to-work scheme. The bigger the organisation, the more pressure there is to not only do bigger acts, but also use global standing to reduce carbon across adjacent industries and factor circular thinking into the design stage of solutions. 

This is especially true for the energy sector. 

The energy dilemma 

Whilst huge investment has been made to transition the sector from traditional oil companies to integrated energy companies (including a big focus on the top five oil and gas super majors), energy firms must continue to provide stable and affordable energy supplies, universal energy access, and robust economic growth. They also have a duty of care to build greener solutions for the industries that rely on their services (automotive, shipping, manufacturing, cloud computing – to name but a few).

This causes a dilemma. The old world can’t be switched off but it’s still relevant and depended on by millions. And we’re still too early to completely jump into the new world with the same stability and affordability of traditional oil. 

Energy firms are left with one foot in each camp, and their fingers in a lot of pies.

What makes this task more challenging is the knowledge that 70% of the solutions required to hit ESG targets don’t exist today – Romy Van Es, Sustainability Cloud Solutions & Partnership at AWS.

The sector is also about to experience a rude awakening. Countries around the world are on the cusp of the first wave of EV battery retirements, although very few have invested in standardised battery recycling infrastructure to ease the environmental impact. Come 2030, we can also expect an estimated stock of 78 million tonnes of raw materials to come from decommissioned PV panels and 43 million tonnes of waste by 2050 caused by the decommissioning of wind turbine blades.

Fortunately, firms such as bp are ahead of the curve. Not only have they implemented an end-of-life circular economy for blades, they are installing advanced sensing technology to collect, index and monitor data about the materials they use – allowing for condition-based maintenance as opposed to time-based maintenance. 

Modern architecture for modern problems

Another area of focus for bp is technology.

As William Lin, bp executive vice president for regions, cities & solutions notes: “The transition to a lower carbon future is incredibly complex. It requires long-term financial commitments, in an environment where there is regulatory and technical uncertainty, and integration of existing and emerging technologies.”

Whilst trees and the bees and the seas are important, sustainability stems far beyond nature. It’s about encouraging highly complex organisations – such as those in the energy sector – to initiate strategic partnerships that seek to change how energy is used. It’s also about looking at your organisation’s sphere of operations to consider reusability, architecture with flexibility and optimising investments already made.

When we asked Paul Williamson to talk more about how his team embrace sustainability and adaptability in bp’s architecture and engineering practises, he focused on adapting the tools and platforms they already have to enable engineers to move quickly: 

“[we adapt] the services that we spent time building on the platforms [where] we've got capability, and people today who know how to operate them and how to build stuff on them. Being able to move at pace doing that is great, but then doing that in a really sustainable way, and that we don't spin up lots of new technology and we optimise the investments we've made.”

Williamson also considers the developer as much of a customer as the end-consumer, and APIs as much of a product as bp’s ultra-fast-charging facilities. Using modern architecture principles, Williamson seeks to empower his developers to consider reusability and modularity at the design stage. Not only does this make for more interesting work for his team, it helps cement the image that IT is no longer a back-office function, but rather a central hub of innovation and sustainable thinking. 

Here's what he had to say:

“We're using modern architecture principles like reusability, modularity and the API economy to really shape how we develop our overall technical ecosystem at bp, and [we] think really hard about how we evolve our architecture and engineering practises. 

So, one of the ways we're really thinking about that is in terms of digital business capabilities and how we build those out. In an ideal world, [we] build them on a single technology stack, have people who have massive expertise in those technologies and the capabilities that they provide, and then utilise them across all of the different products that need to consume them.

And to do that really requires quite a bit of thought going in, in terms of the design stage, in terms of how you architect something and build something so that it can be reused. So thinking of APIs as products themselves”

Paul also advocates for teaching developers to fish, rather than handing over a cod fillet and expecting the team to know where to go for their next dinner. 

“It's one thing to build things. It's another thing that everyone understands how it worked, that it's easy for developers to consume, that they can plug things in really simply, and that they can go on and build product.”

Change upon change upon change 

The energy sector is faced with one of the largest dilemmas of the 21st century. Find a sustainable way to do energy without turning the lights off in the process. As Williamson notes: “We've got an organisation that's going through a lot of change and industry that's going through a lot of change and a world that's going through a lot of change.”

For those on the sideline, this is an incredibly fascinating industry to follow. Not only are we seeing public displays of progress, Williamson makes it clear that the fabrics of the organisation are also being tested for their adaptability and sustainability. 

By adopting a cloud-based, software-defined technology ecosystem, bp is empowering its developers to build with reusability in mind. And not just build, but communicate these builds so others are encouraged to use the library of reusable software units and maintain the library to ensure compatibility with emerging technologies. 

Whilst it’s tempting to implement new technology as it becomes available, spending time ‘upcycling’ your digital architecture can draw additional value out investments you’ve already made. If the cost to upkeep or modernise becomes too much, consider where you can add flexibility into any new architecture. This will ensure you choose the right tools to set your business (and developers) up for a more sustainable future. 

Whichever direction you go, always be mindful of the trade-offs you make and any tech debt you may incur on the way. 

Want more for less?

If you’re ready to start maximising the value of your digital estate, or introducing modern architecture into your long-term digital strategy, reach out to the GlobalLogic team for an impartial chat around your business priorities and upcoming projects. 

In the meantime, discover how GlobalLogic partnered with a major energy supermajor to futureproof a scalable, digitally-enabled solution with IoT.



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