How AI is helping reshape the world of energy
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How AI is helping reshape the world of energy

Franziska Bell, PhD, SVP, Digital Technology, bp
Franziska Bell, PhD, SVP, Digital Technology, bp

Franziska Bell, PhD, SVP, Digital Technology, bp

Despite investing large sums in emerging technology like artificial intelligence (AI), more than 85 percent of data projects fail (Gartner), and 3 out of 4 AI software programs currently being built are destined to fail (NewVantage, 2019). Energy companies like bp, however, do not have that option if we are to help to solve the energy trilemma and deliver secure, affordable, and lower-carbon energy.

My journey to solving business challenges with push-of-a-button data insights and emerging tech has spanned from academia at California Institute of Technology (CalTech) to data science and machine-assisted cognition leadership roles at Uber, Toyota Research Institute, and most recently, bp.

The questions business leaders asked of emerging tech varied along the way. However, the intention is always the same: how can digital technology practically accelerate business strategy and deliver value to the business and customers?

In my experience, the best way that companies can (and must, in the case of those in the energy industry) break the trend and succeed at using AI to solve challenges is for their digital experts to partner closely with the rest of the business.

Partnering means that – instead of hiring data scientists and software engineers interested solely in pursuing new technology for the sake of it – companies need digital experts who align with other colleagues and focus on the needs of customers and the wider business. At bp, digital experts are involved in co-developing strategy with the business from the very beginning – not just at the execution stage – which means that ideas and personnel are embedded from end to end.

“Ensuring alignment between the business and technologies we pursue means digital technology bridges the gap between data science and the real needs of our business and increases the number of value-adding digital products.”

From our shared starting point, we can build trust between teams, and between humans and machines. Effective communication, human-centered design, and change management and engagement are, therefore, essential.

My bp colleagues and I are using a partnership approach to digital strategy to deliver real impact. For example, bp uses Ai to improve safety in aircraft refueling through a partnership between teams from data science, human-centered design, change management, and colleagues on the ground.

In hazardous environments, surrounded by flammable liquids, aircraft refueling requires the correct fuels to be transferred into high-powered aircraft – often at speed and in stressful conditions, with rain, wind, and pressure from ground crew all increasing the risk to colleagues and property. bp's digital-business partnership assessed the challenge and delivered an impactful digital solution.

Ensuring alignment between the business and technologies we pursue means digital technology bridges the gap between data science and the real needs of our business and increases the number of value-adding digital products.

We’re still building relationships across the company, but success stories like the one above continues to help digital develop trusted partnerships and, thus, real innovation, daily. Our mesh of partnerships also enables data experts to be inspired, launch products, gather feedback, and iterate quickly, with a flexible approach to reusable solutions, and without the confines of silos or particular technologies.

Silicon Valley start-ups may have the reputation for placing big bets on new technology, but they are not the only ones who realize the importance of digital technology. I highly encourage anyone interested in solving business problems at scale and accelerated pace to embrace opportunities to partner with your digital experts.

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