Phillips 66, an energy manufacturing and logistics company ranked No. 4 on the Fortune 500 list, is connecting its employees through mobile technology to empower its workforce and gain competitive advantage. The company recently unleashed more than 2,000 iPhones equipped with business productivity apps for employees in less than two months.
The journey to offer mobile-access to employees and customers was not always an easy one. Sometimes that’s the price to pay when you become an early adopter. Their custom-built “HR Connect” app is the first of its kind in the Apple App store and endured the rigors of Apple’s watchful eye and comprehensive process before being approved.
It all adds up to a “wild” and “exciting” journey according to John Henthorne, manager, IT Strategy and Planning for Phillips 66. When Phillips 66 became a publicly traded company in May 2012, Henthorne and his team wanted to understand other mobile options, which spurred an iPhone pilot and the start of internal mobile apps development. However, early success opened up other challenges such as questions concerning security model, app deployment, and skills designing user interface.
“It might seem easy to hand out iPhones and put a few apps on them for employees but in reality it’s extremely complex,” said Henthorne. “We moved at a really fast pace through all those steps rolling out over 2,000 phones in 40 days. We’re proving that there is an ability to move quickly and not compromise on security, integrity and controls,” said Karen Rials, manager, IT Operations at Phillips 66. The secret to deployment success involves careful preparation and testing. “We really try to solidify our services before they are released. We want to make sure things are as ready as they can be before we start deploying.”
The Birth of HR Connect
Like most large companies, different service providers span a myriad of benefits packages for employees. Aetna, Merrill Lynch, Blue Cross and others often have systems and solutions all over the web. Enter “HR Connect,” a one-stop app for Phillips 66 employees and retirees to navigate through HR offerings while on-the-go. With HR Connect, Phillips 66 employees and retirees can easily scan through key benefits materials, and find contact information while waiting in line at the pharmacy or doctor’s office. Potential employees and family members can also see how Phillips 66 benefits stack up to other companies.
HR Connect ended up being the first app of its kind in the Apple store. Because HR Connect was a first of its kind, it forced Phillips 66 to think “mobile first.” What kind of app were they creating? How do you access the app store and reach the end user community? “We had to grow our thinking from a design principle,” said David Hunt, director, IT corporate staffs, Phillips 66. “Understanding that less is more by targeting specific functionality was crucial.”
Hunt said it was also crucial to forge a great relationship with their internal customer, in this case, the HR function. “It was a joint vision, we were in lock step the whole way,” said Hunt. “Sure, there were moments that were painful but those are also moments of growth.”
Another successful app for Phillips 66 is the “Approvals on the Go.” Whereas the HR Connect app was completely proprietary and built from the ground up, Approvals on the Go interacts with enterprise systems through the SAP Mobile Platform. It aims to be the one-stop place for different approvals processes at Phillips 66 like Travel and Expense, Timesheets and other approvals. According to Mike Lloyd, enterprise architect at Phillips 66, the company started with 250 deployments of the app, which was intentional. “We want to walk before we run,” said Lloyd. “It’s mostly presentation logic running on the device, which allows us to support other platforms in the future. All the magic happens on the SAP Mobility Platform,” said Lloyd.
Linking to Business
Phillips 66 is working on offering an app to meet the needs of busy and on-the-go customers. Phillips 66’s web portal, BizLink, will be brought to customers’ pockets with mobile apps to provide real-time pricing information. Additional functionality, including supply information, alerts and Android compatibility, will be rolled out next year. “When we show people BizLink the first response is ‘who did this for you?’ and we tell them ‘we did,’” said Lloyd. “We’re building apps today at a completely different level of user experience and capability.”
Norman Towler, manager of IT commercial, marketing and transportation for Phillips 66 said the apps that get used most by businesses drives a lot of the technology and operating systems Phillips 66 uses internally. “Employees are coming in with their iPhones and iPads, expecting a better user experience,” said Towler. “As we develop more mobile apps like BizLink that are integrated with our business, satisfaction and productivity will rise across the board.” Looking into the future, Towler believes mobile devices will play an important role in improving existing processes. “We see an opportunity to revolutionize existing workflows by utilizing mobile devices in the field in a way that is very easy to use. We are trying to do a lot more with our geographic information systems and how they connect to our commercial, transportation and marketing lines of business.”
“Mobility is an area undergoing a lot of change and picking the right partner to work with in this area is the secret for success” said Naveen Pandrangi, director, IT Strategy. After an exhaustive internal and external analysis of various mobility platform providers, Phillips 66 IT chose to partner with SAP, picking its mobility technologies as the platform of choice for the proof of concept. After a two month proof of concept in August last year proved to be successful – including a pilot of SAP Afaria for mobile device management – Lloyd said SAP was the clear choice. In an effort to realize a rapid time to value with their investment, Phillips 66 opted for SAP’s Rapid Deployment.
“This is a completely new way for Phillips 66 to work,” said Mike Spendlow, manager, enterprise solutions, Phillips 66. “Rapid development, deployment and getting the users involved early to guide and nurture our direction has driven a whole new level of what’s possible.”
SAP’s Mobility Platform for enterprise enabled Phillips 66 to innovate safely and securely across the enterprise, according to Spendlow. AT&T helped with the iPhone deployment and made it possible to meet an aggressive target of four months to replace company legacy phone devices with iPhones. Spendlow said getting senior leadership to sign off on a self-enrollment approach for employees was critical in cutting the deployment time in half. Early survey results were overwhelmingly positive; ‘user friendly’ was a common comment, according to Spendlow, who credits the partnership with SAP as a key enabler.
“SAP continues to be a very good partner for us,” said Spendlow. “We wanted to build upon our investment and partnership. This was one of the key considerations heading into the development and deployment of our mobile strategy.”
Kay Sallee, chief information officer for Phillips 66, also believes the partnership with SAP will continue to shape the company’s ‘go-forward’ vision well into the foreseeable future. “We invested in building a foundation that is secure and scalable,” said Sallee. “We like to start small, get the details right and then grow quickly. We believe this foundation will enable significant business value going forward.”