BP implements Microsoft Dynamics CRM in its trading business

BP’s trading business is transforming its customer relationship management processes with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Rebecca Lambert
Rebecca Lambert
By Rebecca Lambert on 25 March 2014
BP implements Microsoft Dynamics CRM in its trading business

This article was first published in the Spring 2014 issue of Prime

BP has one of the largest and most successful energy trading organisations in the world, known as Integrated Supply & Trading (IST). As the single trading face of international oil and gas company BP, IST does business in over 140 countries and has a global portfolio of around 12,000 customers and suppliers. Its success comes down to its ability to build strong customer relationships, which it has been developing over many years. But in the last few months in particular, the company has taken some major steps to ensure it is doing this more effectively.

At the beginning of 2013, IST kicked off a two-year project to transform its customer relationship management (CRM) processes. Its main priority is to evolve the business in line with its customers’ demands and to be able to serve them in a consistent manner from any touchpoint – whether it’s from an office in Singapore or in Moscow. This involves having visibility of all customer relationships across all facets of its business and having the tools in place to facilitate effective organisation-wide collaboration.

As Marcel Kooter, IST’s global marketing and customer director, explains, achieving this is no mean feat. “We are a global organisation of more than 3,000 employees, managing the commodity flows of BP on behalf of our upstream and downstream segments,” he says. “IST is core to BP. To give you an idea of scale, more than 80% of BP Group’s turnover flows through our supply and trading business. We sell all the oil, gas and gas liquids that BP’s Upstream operation produces. We procure all the crude and feedstocks for our refining system, and all the products for our retail sites and airports not served by BP’s own refineries.”

The company also performs price risk management and hedging for BP’s operating units, and handles the traded aspects of the treasury’s activities, such as foreign exchange and interest rates. It offers similar services to third parties that lack the scope and scale to do this for themselves.

All these activities are managed across IST’s main offices in London, Singapore, Chicago and Houston. It has additional offices in Dubai, Calgary and Moscow, as well as many regional offices across North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

While IT has long played a key role in IST’s business, helping to deliver business value and improve agility, the company still has areas of its business that aren’t fully automated – its CRM processes being one of them.

“We had different CRM applications in place in some parts of the business, but they didn’t necessarily work together,” explains Kooter. “Other parts of our business had stuck to manual processes. This held us back from providing the best customer service we could. Many of our customers are used to operating in a global market and it’s our responsibility to ensure we have a global view of their activities and understand how we are already engaged with them. We realised that we needed to adopt a unified CRM solution across the entire organisation to achieve this.”

IST began looking for a suitable CRM solution in 2012. It evaluated several systems available on the market and in early 2013 it made its choice – Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

“At BP we follow a rigorous process when it comes to selecting new IT,” says Kooter. “First, we appraise the situation, and then we find and select the right solution. Having experience with various CRM tools and implementations in the past, I realise the importance of having business tools that are easy to use and fit seamlessly with users’ day-to-day activities. Generally speaking, sales and trading people like operating independently and do not naturally like to work with IT tools. If any tool slows them down or isn’t easy to use, it will be rejected or won’t be taken advantage of fully. As Microsoft Dynamics CRM is fully integrated with other Microsoft products we already use in the company, it isn’t perceived as a foreign solution and it’s quite intuitive to work with. Basically, if you can manage your Outlook e-mail you can start using some of the functionality in Dynamics CRM without much effort. I believe this makes a huge difference when it comes to successful organisation-wide adoption.”

Bill Moffett, manufacturing industry senior product marketing manager for Microsoft Dynamics, agrees. “The most important resource for a manufacturer is their people,” he says. “These employees want and need easy-to-use tools that are built in the context of their role and designed with their needs in mind.”

Business technology consultancy Avanade – a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft – was employed by IST to help roll out the solution. BP already has a strong working relationship with Accenture and knew it could rely on Avanade to support this particular project.

“IST has an ambitious implementation timescale and, to ensure the solution was rolled out on time, we decided to supply a small, highly-skilled team to join IST for the duration of the project,” explains Annette Giardina, senior director of CRM at Avanade. “This team is made up of a solution architect, a business analyst and two developers, and they’re working within IST to provide the necessary technical expertise and support. In essence, this is a BP team supplied by Avanade.”

IST is managing the implementation project in stages to minimise disruption to its business. The first stage, which involved building the solution and rolling it out across its Global Marine Fuel business, took just six months. 

“We completed the first phase very rapidly,” says Giardina. “The team started off very small – it was just the IST project manager and Avanade’s solution architect. In the first three months they worked together on the solution’s design and established how it would fit the company’s requirements. More people were brought on board as the project developed and then, between April and July 2013, the solution was rolled out. I’m pleased to say that it was implemented on time and within budget. The success of this first phase has really helped to steer the rest of the project.” 

As Moffett explains, the flexibility of Dynamics CRM was a key factor when it came to ensuring a smooth implementation. “Agility is essential for any manufacturer and systems need to match this,” he says. “Having a tool that can adapt to a company’s operational requirements easily leads to quick deployments, while enabling a low overall total cost of ownership.”

“I really like the configuration and extensibility capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics CRM,” adds Ali Ferling, global managing director of Oil and Gas, and Mining Industries at Microsoft. “They really help to improve business relevance and fit, so that any company can make the solution work the way it wants to and configure it in unique way that helps it focus on competitive differentiation.”

IST is now well underway on its migration journey to Dynamics CRM. “It was a great achievement getting the Global Marine Fuel business up and running on the solution within just six months,” says Kooter. “Our European Gas and Global LNG business units were also live by the end of the year. Throughout 2014 we will continue rolling Dynamics CRM out across the remainder of our business.”

Today, around 200 IST employees are using Dynamics CRM on a daily basis. “We hope to increase this to about 600 by the end of the year,” adds Kooter. “We’re finding that as the database is becoming more populated and, therefore, more useful, more people are keen to get access.”

It is still early days but IST is already realising the benefits of having all its customer-related data held in a single database. In particular, it is now in a position where it can properly understand its business and get useful information quicker. “Already we are able to generate sales analytics with the press of a button,” says Kooter. “Previously, we might have been able to perform the same analysis, but it took us a lot of time to collect all the information from different sources and create an aggregated picture. Now, the tool performs this task for us and does it instantly. Having the ability to centrally store all information and not lose this information when people move on is also hugely valuable.

“What I particularly like about the tool is that it allows us to think globally and locally at the same time,” he adds. “We have one global platform that brings our entire organisation together, but we can configure the tool to meet the very different needs of our individual business units. This is really helping Dynamics CRM to be accepted and embraced by each business.”

Looking ahead to when Dynamics CRM will be live across the whole of IST, Kooter expects to see real progression in the area of key account management. “We have many different interactions with our customers and partners, and we will be able to use the solution to build up a detailed contact map that shows all the ways we’re engaged with them. Our partners and clients expect us to offer them a consistent level of service. Dynamics CRM will allow us to work as one global team and, by being better connected, we can deliver real value where it matters.”

Moffett at Microsoft is confident that the functional capabilities available within Dynamics CRM and the fantastic delivery by Avanade will ensure IST’s ongoing requirements are fulfilled. “When you combine this with the ability to leverage the full stack of Microsoft products and the R&D investments we continue to make year after year, it’s truly a great return on investment for a customer who has future growth needs,” he says.

“So far, we have worked successfully with Microsoft and Avanade to get the most out of the application,” concludes Kooter. “What I really appreciate is the agile way we are working with the CRM project team. As we are learning more about what the solution can do, we are able to continuously develop it and improve our functionality. Dynamics CRM allows us to implement changes in a very flexible and dynamic way.”

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