BP adopts User Centred Design approach to software transition


BP (British Petroleum) is a global player in the oil and gas business. It engaged our ergonomics consultants to assist the company’s transition to a new petrophysical software platform.

The company has a comprehensive ergonomics programme in place for preventing work related upper limb disorder. However, both the historic and new versions of its Rock Properties Tool Kit software had prompted concerns about repetitive stress risks amongst BP’s highly specialised petrophysicists.

The challenge

BP’s ergonomics programme already included measures to address physical workplace risks, and training for individuals to ensure that they had optimised their workstations. We were tasked with assisting BP by evaluating its petrophysical software and identifying potential improvements. Specifically, we looked at the potential for enhancing ease of use, and reducing the number of human computer interactions required to get the job done.

What we did

We started by gathering information on the alternative versions of the software, by interviewing subject matter experts. To identify the relative strengths and weaknesses of each version, we used the BP Software Ergonomics Guidelines that we had previously developed for the business.

This initial review demonstrated that the workflow manager in the first version of the new software was far superior to the older one, providing a good basis for Version 2 of the Rock Properties Tool Kit. We also identified specific improvements that could be incorporated during the build process.

Ergonomics and usability evaluation

Next, we conducted an ergonomics and usability evaluation of the newer software to:

  • Establish systematic baseline data with a representative sample of users.
  • Identify unmet requirements which could be considered for Version 2.
  • Highlight critical areas for improvement.

To do this we observed a variety of users using the software, and carried out task and postural analyses. We also looked at the intensity of human interaction with the software, such as the number of mouse clicks, movements and keystrokes used. Finally, we conducted structured user interviews, following ergonomics and usability best practice guidelines.

Analysing human-computer interaction

By analysing the human-computer interaction per task, we were able to highlight key areas where the software required an increased amount of human interaction and manipulation. We compared these tasks to those where the interaction was lower, creating insights on why certain functionality was more demanding to use.

Usability issues also significantly impacted the intensity and types of interaction, while postural analysis added another layer of understanding of the software design and usability.


BP gained a series of valuable insights, backed-up with solid assessment data, and recommendations on developing an improved version of the Rock Properties Tool Kit. We were then invited back to repeat the ergonomics and usability assessment on the next iteration of the software.

By applying an identical methodology, our consultants were able to generate an accurate, unbiased and independent comparison of the new and old software versions.

We discovered that:

  • Many of the ergonomics and usability issues had been successfully addressed in the new software version – developments that users were very positive about.
  • The new toolkit had the overall lowest number of human-computer interactions across the entire workflow for most users.

By using our consultants’ expertise in ergonomics and human-computer interaction, BP was ultimately able to produce a solution that:

  1. Better met its users’ requirements.
  2. Reduced the risks of users suffering work related upper limb disorders.
  3. Provided a more efficient, effective and satisfactory user experience.
  4. Won users’ buy-in to changes in the tools that they worked with on a daily basis.


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