When Brian Letzkus became chief information officer of Williams, he had a vision for helping manage thousands of miles of pipelines with the swipe of a finger. That vision is starting to become a reality.
Today, instead of driving long distances to pinpoint an issue, technicians can use a mobile app on a smartphone or tablet to securely pull data on gas pressures and volumes from the corporate intranet.
Williams is a large-scale energy infrastructure company based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, focused on connecting North America's natural gas and natural gas liquids supplies with growing markets. Founded in 1908, Williams owns and operates more than 33,000 miles of pipelines and handles approximately 30 percent of U.S. natural gas. The company's operations span from the deepwater Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian oil sands. Williams currently employs nearly 7,000 people in the U.S. and Canada.
Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device
As Williams' new CIO in 2013, Letzkus immediately began fielding questions from executives and employees about mobile solutions. Letzkus quickly realized that Williams needed to define its mobile strategy and that mobile apps, content, and devices could be transformative for the company. He implemented the "Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device" initiative to identify and define the technologies, security framework, application development processes, business processes, and policies needed for a successful mobile rollout.
The next stage was to find a security and management solution that would enable Williams to secure the devices and the data on them, separate personal and corporate data, know who was connected to their environment, and deploy mobile apps. Brian's team looked at several vendors and chose MobileIron (MOBL).
"MobileIron had several critical differentiators," said Letzkus. "We have people using all sorts of devices on every network which is why 'Any Device' is a key component of our mobile strategy. With MobileIron, we're confident that we can support the devices in use today as well as new ones in the future. Another factor was the platform's ease of use, which meant that we could support a mobile environment with our current helpdesk and infrastructure organization and didn't have to create a new team. Finally, we didn't want a lot of friction between what a user does to get to their data. The ultimate selling factor for MobileIron was that it was simple for our user community."
Transforming with mobile apps
Williams now has more than 6,000 corporate and personally-owned, iOS and Android devices connecting to the network daily. In keeping with Williams' culture of safety, Brian's team has focused on building mobile apps designed to improve operational efficiency and safety.
The first app the team deployed, called Pi, has enhanced how Williams monitors and maintains assets. Pi shows the pressure and flow of gas through the pipelines and provides the geographic location of the assets. When the flow is right, the pipeline is green. When there is a problem or if the meter is not registering correctly, it turns red. The technician can see on a map exactly where the issue is and efficiently resolve it.
For their second app, Brian's team wanted to build something that would touch every employee in the company. The ViewPaycheck app allows access to paycheck information formatted in a mobile friendly way for employees. Williams has several other apps it is piloting and they have also rolled out MobileIron Web@Work to give employees access to all of the company's safety, maintenance and procedural content stored on Williams' intranet. Williams has also written an application named PinPoint to map its numerous office sites, compressor stations, meter stations and other assets -- complete with contact information, facility specs and driving directions.
One surprise benefit of Williams' mobile strategy has been the level of employee enthusiasm and engagement. "Now that they've heard of our app store, employees are really excited and are coming up with all sorts of ideas for new apps," Letzkus continued. "We are looking at building up our app team to support the demand."