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Gibsons, a fast-growing midstream energy company, sees “One Company” vision with Microsoft

GIBSONS, A FAST-GROWING MIDSTREAM ENERGY COMPANY, SEES “ONE COMPANY” VISION WITH MICROSOFT

 
 
 
 

January 12, 2016 - After a series of major acquisitions, Gibsons found itself facing the opportunities and challenges of rapid expansion. The company introduced its “One Gibson” initiative to break down internal silos, increase efficiencies, and ensure employees work as a team in providing solutions to its customers. Gibsons modernized and restructured their entire infrastructure, moving core services to the cloud, embracing mobility, and upgrading applications to deliver a seamless customer and employee experience.

In an economy that depends on oil and gas, Gibsons provides a vital link between the oil producers and the processing facilities that turn oil into the various finished products used in consumers’ daily lives. Gibsons is engaged in the movement, storage, blending, processing, marketing and distribution of crude oil, condensate, natural gas liquids, water, oilfield waste, and refined products. They also provide emulsion treating, water disposal and oilfield waste management services and are the second largest industrial propane distribution company in Canada.

From its origins in Alberta more than 60 years ago, Gibsons has grown steadily, diversifying its service offerings and expanding geographically through numerous acquisitions. Today, the company operates 225 sites across North America. Key to its acquisition strategy is standardizing internal business processes and creating a “One Gibson” culture which presents a single, unified face to its customers.

In support of One Gibson, the IS department looked at ways technology could help unify the company. “Our goal was to roll-out a cohesive program that anchors technology decisions to business goals,” explains Vice President of Information Services Richard Hannah. “Rather than talking technology, we put everything in business terms so that employees could relate and embrace these changes.”

“We needed to get people from Houston working with and using the same information as employees in Edmonton and everywhere in between,” adds Hannah. This led the Gibsons’ IS team to focus on four key technology areas:

  • Core IT and applications—consolidating platforms and modernizing applications to eliminate redundancy and automate manual processes throughout the company.
  • Internal communications—getting all employees on the same page, communicating, and collaborating in real-time.
  • Enterprise resource planning—upgrading its existing system and bringing more line-of-business functionality onto a single ERP platform.
  • Customer experience—consolidating customer and account data into a single repository and creating a unified salesforce.
     

As part of the technology overhaul, Hannah also saw an opportunity to provide Gibsons’ employees with a more modern work experience. “To employees who live modern lives, with modern technology, at home and in their spare time, our office environment seemed a bit antiquated,” Hannah recalls. “We knew that our enterprise applications needed to provide the same seamless simplicity our employees were accustomed to: any answer, anywhere, anytime, on any device.”

Envisioning a modern, unified infrastructure

After attending an Executive Briefing at Microsoft, Hannah recognized that Gibsons’ goals for the business aligned with Microsoft’s vision of empowering people and organizations, and that Gibsons could achieve its objectives by embracing the cloud-first, mobile-first approach to technology. When he returned to the office he began to execute on this vision, laying out a roadmap for each of the functional areas they had identified.

Moving to the cloud

Gibsons adopted the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform as a single, integrated platform on which to synchronize, host, and administer its IS services. As it migrates some of its infrastructure to Azure, Gibsons will eliminate its seven data centers, significantly reducing risks to business continuity and shedding the maintenance costs associated with operating the facilities.

Gibsons’ cloud initiative includes migrating productivity applications to Office 365 as well as migrating sales and customer information from Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. The move to Dynamics CRM Online consolidated customer and account data in a single repository, enabling Gibsons’ sales teams and business development staff to quickly identify and share sales opportunities and customer leads across divisions and operating units.

Another advantage of the cloud-based infrastructure is support for mobile apps and devices. Using Microsoft InTune, Gibsons securely manages employee access to enterprise applications and information from any location on any device—a huge step toward the modern workplace Gibsons’ employees desire.

“Our cloud-based mobility strategy has eliminated the old model of VPN and corporate network log-ins, multiple passwords, and concerns of network security,” says Hannah. “Now, employees anywhere can jump on any device and be safely working and sharing right away.”

Information at the speed of modern business

To strengthen internal communications, a myGibsons portal was created to deliver company news, changes, and ideas to all employees in a way that is current and effortlessly accessible. Built on Microsoft SharePoint in the cloud, the intranet site enables people to quickly find and share information across geographies and disciplines, and allows everyone to quickly understand and align with Gibsons’ business objectives.

Within the portal, specific role-based sites include analysis and visualization tools such as Microsoft Power BI, which have replaced sluggish spreadsheets and paper-based processes, and eliminated barriers to communication. As an example of the benefits, these tools empower Gibsons’ commodity traders—whose success depends on fast accurate decision making—to  swiftly access, exchange, and comprehend data.

Unified business management systems

As part of the One Gibson initiative, Gibsons upgraded their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 to Dynamics AX 2012 R3. The upgrade has extended ERP capabilities beyond financial management to include procurement, and inventory management. “We wanted an ERP for the entire company,” says Hannah. “If we don’t have to deploy separate applications for specialized functions, that’s a big win for us.” 

In addition to consolidating disparate applications onto a single platform, new functionality in Dynamics AX allows Gibsons to automate processes that had previously been performed manually. For example, the Purchasing and Requisition modules in Dynamics AX have replaced paper-based tasks and enabled end-to-end management of Gibsons’ purchase processes. The updated ERP system aggregates data from more than 40 operational sources, which has enabled company-wide reporting for the first time.

Embracing the future

Looking ahead, Hannah anticipates that the integrated cloud platform will enable continued modernization, as Gibsons updates existing technology and rolls out new systems that allow the company to grow and diversify. Current plans include replacing common desk phones with Skype for Business; replacing traditional laptops with Microsoft Surface tablets; and migrating to Windows 10 on Azure—virtually eliminating the need for ongoing desktop maintenance.

Inspired by the Internet of Things and the capabilities of the Azure platform, Gibsons is designing a service that would capture data from sensors and devices in the field, analyze this information in Azure, and provide real-time monitoring and alerts to employees or customers with Power BI. “We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of the analytics and business intelligence capabilities of Azure,” Hannah explains. “We’re excited by the possibilities of the Internet of Things.”

“As we embarked on our One Gibson initiative, we recognized the power of working with a vendor who could support us across the board,” says Hannah. “With an integrated platform, our systems interoperate seamlessly, and the user experience becomes second nature, allowing our teams to focus on the business—not on the technology. Again, it all comes down to communicating, cooperating, and acting as one organization.”

Solution Overview
 

Product and Services

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Dynamics AX

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Microsoft Intune

Microsoft SharePoint Online

Office 365

Surface

Industry

Process Mfg & Resources

Retail and Consumer Goods

Organization Size

Large (1,000 - 9,999 employees)

Country

Canada

Partners involved