How BP Manages Its Enterprise Architecture

By Elizabeth Heichler , CIO |  Software, 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.

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