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Starting small and winning big: bp’s customer-centric innovation journey

Starting small and winning big: bp’s customer-centric innovation journey

By Alla Simoneau, Global Operations Leader, Amazon Web Services, Andre Holz, Global Digial Product Manager, bp, Des Johnson, Vice President, Customer Experience & Digital Product Delivery, bp, Sapna Maheswari, Customer Experience Service Line Lead, UK


Over the last few years, bp has reinvented itself in line with shifting customer demands. Find out how refocusing on customer centricity, a thin slice approach, and Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) have helped.


During our latest fireside chat about bp’s customer-centric evolution journey, Alla Simoneau, WW Growth Segment Lead, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Digital Innovation, and Thoughtworks’ Customer Experience Lead, Sapna Maheswari spoke with bp’s VP of Customer Experience & Digital Product Delivery, Des Johnson, and Global Digital Product Manager, Andre Holz.


Together, they explored the entirety of bp’s customer-driven innovation journey, taking a more detailed look at both the technical and cultural decisions that have helped make bp’s enormous transition a success for the company’s millions of customers around the world.


bp’s shift customer demand for sustainability — it’s what the world needs


Opening the session, Des Johnson set the wider context around bp’s transformation journey, explaining how the company’s recent evolution wasn’t just driven by shifting customer demands, it’s what the world needs.


“The world needs an energy transition, and bp has a pivotal role to play” said Des. “We want to help move us towards a much less carbon-intensive world, ultimately with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions — not just for bp, but right across the operations of our customers, partners, and communities.”


“Our transformation into an integrated energy company fundamentally required us to shift from being a predominantly engineering company, into an integrated services provider — a transition that demanded we become much more customer centric” he continued. “Our customers are no longer the outlet for what we sell. They’ve become the driving force and focal point of the services we deliver.”


Big customer-centric innovation starts with small, focused MVPs


bp’s transformation into a customer-centric integrated energy provider stands out as one of the biggest and most ambitious reinventions that we’ve seen across enterprise in recent years. When you’re leading and driving change at that scale, it’s tough to know where to begin.


“You need to start somewhere, so go to the places that you already know are sources of customer frustration. Read app store reviews, look at Trustpilot, or visit your customer care center for a day and listen to their calls” said Des. “You’ll very quickly build up a list of ideas of places where you can make a difference.”


For bp, the team already had a long list of features that they’d like to combine into a new customer app, and a plan to create and deploy that app over a two-year period. However, the volume of work required to create that app in its entirety, and the significant budget needed to make that happen became significant barriers to delivery.


“We tried to make that app happen for a couple of years, but due to long delivery time and the high investment needed to drive development, we ultimately didn’t end up getting the plan off the ground”, said Andre. “That’s when we started to think of ways we could work differently — which ultimately led us to Thoughtworks.”


“Thoughtworks helped us slice up our end-to-end customer journey into smaller pieces, and choose an area to focus on that we could deliver a new app for very quickly”, he continued. “We were able to deliver a releasable MVP to the stores in just three months, and that’s really where our success started because it enabled us to talk directly to our customers about what they wanted.”


Listen to feedback and scale to success


Before the MVP app launched, bp had taken numerous steps to listen to customers — through service hotlines, customer and interviews, and sales team feedback. But once the app launched, that’s when the team really started to understand what its customers wanted.


“Immediately after launching the app, we got a huge amount of direct feedback, which was hugely helpful for prioritizing the rest of our feature backlog,” said Andre. “Plus, it showed us what needed to change with the MVP and helped us adapt the app quickly.”


One feature that customers didn’t initially enjoy was the app’s registration page. “A few customers reported an issue with registration fields, which we quickly moved to the top of our backlog,” explained Andre. “Within three weeks, we were able to get an updated version of the app into the stores that completely resolved the problem, and delivered stronger experiences for users.”


Ultimately, that customer feedback formed the development roadmap for bp’s new app. The app was scaled in line with what customers requested, or felt was missing from previous builds. Over time, more features have been added, and numerous changes have been made to ensure that the app delivers exactly what customers want from it, in line with their shifting expectations.


Three tips for successfully driving customer-centric innovation using MVPs


Throughout the session, both Des and Andre shared valuable insights for organizations planning similar transformations, or those that want to put customers closer to the center of their operations and development processes. 


Here are three of the most important tips they offered:


Define clear measurements of success


Anecdotal customer feedback is important, and can give you a strong general view of whether customers like engaging with the things you’ve deployed. However, that alone doesn’t give you a complete view of value delivered, or the financial outcomes that happen as a result of the experiences you create.


“We did quite a lot of work early on to define a value hypothesis framework,” said Des. “It identified the logical steps that get us from customer outcomes like saving them time, or providing them with more convenient journeys, to bottom-line financial benefits. That’s really helped us drive thinking around value, and show every stakeholder the value of our customer-centric approach.”


Des explained how the bp team defines success at three levels:


  • Transactional success: Are customers getting what they need? What are the features they’re complaining about?

  • Journey success: Can the customer get to an outcome that’s successful for them?

  • Relationship metrics: Are we actively making our customers’ lives better? Are they happier? And do they like us more as a result of these experiences we’re offering?


“One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is that to understand success, you need to look at metrics across all of those levels,” explained Des. “Organizations often go too big or too small when defining success. But really, you need to be looking across every level simultaneously to ensure that what you’re doing is driving the right results for everyone.”


Evolve mindsets and forget about the idea of being ‘done’ with your app


One of the biggest reasons why the app bp wanted to create never previously got off the ground was that many stakeholders believed that the long list of features planned for it meant that it would never be ‘done’.


“A big breakthrough moment for us was challenging that thinking, and helping people realize that today, no app or digital service is ever done,” explained Des. “Digital services evolve every day alongside shifting customer needs and expectations. The idea that we’ll ever be done is a fallacy.”


That mindset shift was hugely important in helping everyone see the value of an MVP-led approach. By starting small, bp was able to start its app’s customer-centric evolutionary journey and begin seeing real value from it quickly, even if it didn’t have every scoped feature right away.


Identify MVPs that are small in scope, but high in value


When you’ve got a list of things that customers want to see, and you want to start driving transformation across the entire customer journey, choosing an MVP to start with can be tough.


“I’d define an MVP as any product that you can get to market with that can positively impact something that customers care about,” said Andre. “It doesn’t matter how small it is, as long as it delivers positive results for customers, and makes a real difference to their lives.”


“That’s where selecting MVPs becomes a bit of a balancing act,” he continued. “The smaller and more focused your MVP is, the fast you’ll be able to get to market and start learning from customer feedback. But, you can’t go so small that it stops delivering significant value for customers.”


Kickstart your own customer-centric evolution journey with Thoughtworks and AWS


Refer to our joint innovation guide to find out more about how Thoughtworks’ deep expertise and unique thin slice approach combines with the speed, rapid innovation and flexibility of AWS Cloud to enable digital innovation and customer-centric success.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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