Game change: Shell adopts T-Mobile for better mobility.


Reliability is just the tip of the iceberg.

Onboarding is supposed to be the hard part, isn’t it?

Ensuring a smooth transition for remote users.

Connectivity is key to moving forward.

Keith Randolph, Downstream Manufacturing Service and Operations Manager at Shell, isn’t waiting to be told which technologies to explore next. In fact, Randolph believes in proactively bringing new technologies and ideas back into Shell’s refining and chemicals manufacturing business.

That said, it’s no small feat to stay in front of tech trends that help manage application support and infrastructure delivery for all of Shell’s manufacturing locations globally. Randolph is accountable for every device used by the organization, as well as the switches and servers they are connected to and the applications that drive them. In the U.S. alone, this covers 22,000 employees. And, like end users everywhere, Randolph’s customers are often averse to change.


Reliability is just the tip of the iceberg.

When tackling mobility related to end user devices and their networks in one of Shell's refineries or chemical plants, Randolph and team needed a strong supplier. That's where the relationship with T-Mobile for Business began. As part of a global IT sourcing project, T-Mobile was selected as Shell's mobility provider of choice in the U.S. T-Mobile improves in-building coverage for 6,000 of Shell's employees across the United States, offering in-person support to help employees light up devices with new service. They've also helped Shell all but eliminate international roaming fees for staff who regularly travel outside the U.S. with a plan that offers texting and data1 in 210 countries and destinations at no additional cost.

Reliability of the network is just the tip of the iceberg as Shell embraces new standards around mobile platforms, the cloud, and the modernization that removes customization and makes the organization more agile.  Randolph believes that Shell is in a better position to do that with the stable and strong network provided by T-Mobile.


Onboarding is supposed to be the hard part, isn’t it?

Shell’s U.S. operations are diverse, with users all over the country. Some of them are site based while others are mobile, requiring smooth transitions from wi-fi to cellular and back. Refineries and chemical plants, in particular, come with unique challenges, like signal inhibitors.

“We had over 6,000 users that we needed to work with, spread across various businesses, such as downstream, upstream, trading, global functions, and projects and technology,” says Alan Prewitt, IT Project Manager at Shell. “This represented a number of complexities in terms of coverage requirements, site needs, business needs, and more.”

“If we want to enable mobile workers, operators, process inspectors, and other employees, our cellular signal has to be both secure and consistent, in and out and around the refinery,” adds Randolph.

“We use mobile devices to access and share information seamlessly from anywhere. Being able to contact experts from the field makes it possible to be much more responsive. Connectivity is paramount.”

Keith Randolph, Downstream Manufacturing Service and Operations Manager at Shell

With T-Mobile's help, Shell's IT department was able to drive test evaluations of coverage in order to design plans for many different types of buildings. And because not everyone was ready to make the move at the same time, they helped develop creative, interim solutions and alternative paths based on the needs of special communities. This created the traction needed to move key groups at the right time, ensuring the best experience.

"Truly, T-Mobile acted as a logistics hub in getting all kinds of SIMs and devices to different populations of users," says Prewitt. "We had users with device needs, service needs, and even users with their own unique circumstances such as device upgrades. Our T-Mobile for Business team evaluated coverage needs and responded with tailored, targeted plans and documentation. They also made migrations successful by staying customer-focused, flexible, proactive, and organized. They leveraged their team and business capabilities, acting as the industry experts, which enabled the delivery of large volumes."

T-Mobile comes in with ideas. They bring industry knowledge about how to migrate users, so it doesn't feel like Shell is having to pull them along. Instead, T-Mobile is driving this effort with Shell. It's a collaboration in that way, and that relationship has set a standard for other suppliers to follow.”

Keith Randolph, Downstream Manufacturing Service and Operations Manager at Shell

T-Mobile showed up on site to handle high volumes of user interactions face-to-face, providing an enhanced support experience to those with challenges or concerns,” says Prewitt. “They kept the larger picture and objectives in mind, familiarizing themselves with aspects of the transition outside of their remit to provide better support to users. For instance, they brought a third-party expert in to assist with device troubleshooting. That kind of collaboration and flexibility set a great example of teamwork.”


Ensuring a smooth transition for remote users.

With a team the size and scale of Shell's, it's not always possible to be onsite to drive migration. "T-Mobile really tailored and documented transparent instructions for remote use cases, where there wasn't a face-to-face handoff," says Prewitt. The collaboration included additional instructions and help for each user to set up Mobile Device Management (MDM) on their smartphone. "Do those users know how that works? Not always. Even though that wasn't a T-Mobile remit, they provided that kind of information to our customers and conducted constant follow up with us to ensure that users knew what was expected of them."

"The problem we grapple with internally is that if we migrate ten users, nine of them actually find the coverage is as good or better than what they had before, but we won't hear anything from them," says Richard Broughton, Network Services Consultant at Shell. "But that one user with a problem makes a lot of noise. Having a rapid response to that, to systematically evaluate the circumstance is key. As a last resort, we may even have to use another wireless provider service for that individual, but T-Mobile works with the user to find easier solutions where possible. Having flexibility built into the process is really important."

Working globally.

Within Shell, detailed documentation was required to ensure a smooth transition. This drove engagement with Shell's internal IT stakeholders and was particularly effective for new demand, clarifying how processes and handoffs should work. "As a result, when we migrated users to T-Mobile, we found there weren't a lot of escalations for SIM deliveries," says Prewitt. "It was really working effectively by the time orders were getting placed."

Setting the bar for self-service.

Because T-Mobile for Business was so willing to work with Shell on getting a detailed run book in place, Shell IT's support team was able to more easily filter requests, which was critical to getting up and running quickly. This allowed the team to not only move existing users across the line, but to ease adoption for new users. Because the manual was comprehensive, it set a new bar for the kind of detail and template the team would expect from other suppliers, as well.

"The documentation from T-Mobile has all the elements like accountability and contact information; not just operationally, but for service management too," says Prewitt. "So, it's not just a 1-2-3 operations manual, but an overall BAU (business as usual) manual, too. Who are the interfaces? What are the escalation paths? That was in place and done so well by T-Mobile, it really sets the bar for other suppliers in the mobility space."

Because mobility is so visible, it can be very personal for users. For IT, that can mean extra work to encourage and support change. Often, one of the first goals in a change like this is to ensure users can continue to conduct their business as usual. 

“We were able to deliver this change without disrupting operations, which is exactly what we hoped for. That trifecta of cost savings, minimum business impact, and the positive relationship we have with this supplier has been what really made the move worthwhile.”

Richard Broughton, Network Services Consultant at Shell

“The role of IT has changed significantly over time,” says Broughton. “We are at a point now where there are so many different potential use cases, our business has to be more collaborative and work with our eco-system to bring new ideas to the table.”

This proactive relationship helps suppliers understand Shell’s business and focuses efforts on products, services, and innovations that are going to deliver value. 


Connectivity is key to moving forward.

Like so many companies of Shell's size, the company is grappling with a number of IT challenges. Data management, offshore connectivity, electric many things are changing. And fast. Good, affordable connectivity becomes very important for some of these expanding strategies.

Says Broughton, "We are doing a lot more in New Energies now. As we increasingly look at becoming an electricity supplier, we want to offer smart electric vehicle charging, differentiated tariffs, and more so that we can actually influence high energy demand and provide a competitive offering for what consumers need. All of that requires both monitoring and control that we can scale up to potentially quite large numbers of endpoints."

To leverage things like data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), and new energy delivery innovations, the IT team is hyper-focused on getting the infrastructure in place to give Shell's leaders what they need to change the way they do business.

T-Mobile for Business is providing that foundation, zeroing in on manufacturing and drilling sites with fence-to-fence coverage that provides connectivity today and a strong foundation for 5G and other network advances in the future. Much of this enablement relies on an $8B investment T-Mobile has made to acquire and deploy low-band spectrum (with 5G-ready equipment), effectively extending advanced LTE to rural landscapes and previously hard-to-reach places. This 600MHz spectrum and Extended Range LTE technology allows up to 4x stronger service in most buildings—allowing mobile devices and IoT sensors alike to get and stay connected.

"Putting sensors and inexpensive connectivity into things is something that has endless application in our industry," says Broughton. "Manufacturing is an obvious area, certainly. But we can see this for pipelines, upstream operations, and other areas of our business, as well. It's not that we don't do some of this today, of course, but often it is on proprietary, bespoke-type infrastructures, which aren't always cost effective. Narrowband IoT and 5G networks offer lots of opportunity for us."

“In many ways, T-Mobile for Business is helping us by sharing their perspective on the industry and opening our eyes to innovations on the horizon.”

Alan Prewitt, IT Project Manager at Shell

"Using IoT and the 5G demos T-Mobile shares in its tech experience center as an example, they’ve really opened up to us, sharing their point-of-view and vision for how we can continue to drive value and where opportunities will lie in the future," says Prewitt. "In keeping those ideas flowing toward us, we’ve gained a very proactive partner."

"There were probably two main factors that played into our relationship with T-Mobile," says Broughton. "One was certainly competitiveness on price. But we were also very pleased by what we saw as a willingness to work with us on meeting future needs as well. It is quite easy to convey that message in a tendering situation, but T-Mobile has actually followed through, post contract. For us, that is a very good thing."

"We see this relationship with T-Mobile as being a win-win for everybody," adds Randolph.

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