The CIO Forum: IT Weathers the Storm
In the rough-and-tumble energy biz, IT departments are paddling hard to stay afloat.
The storm that Enron ignited last fall shows little sign of abating. Information technology (IT) departments at every energy company have had to react to rapidly changing conditions, whether it be shrinking budgets or nervous workforces. Fortnightly interviewed the chief information officers (CIOs) at five very different companies-Williams, Duke, PJM, Pacific Gas and Electric, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District-to find out how they're coping, and how they plan to chart a course through such turbulent waters.
At Williams, change threatens to capsize the ship. The waves rocking the company are reflected in the IT department, which is slashing its staff from 1,400 to 700. The company says the cuts will be completed by early next year-but there are no assurances that there won't be more. Yet Ron Mucci is navigating with a plan. He is determined to provide Williams with the IT services it needs to survive, even though it means shifting internal expectations from a "champagne … to a beer budget," he says.
In contrast to Williams, the waters that Duke is sailing in seem positively calm. But Cecil Smith faces his own set of challenges. He has to steer a course with a flat budget-at an organization that isn't used to one-and still find his way amongst the shoals of employee unrest, to keep one of the industry's leaders out in front.
For all the choppiness of the industry waters, some like PJM are riding the wave. Rather than face shrinking budgets, Nora Swimm is setting an IT course to support PJM's non-stop expansion.
On the West Coast, the U.S.S. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is sailing into the uncharted waters of a contentious bankruptcy. Roger Gray's task is to keep a steady IT course and bring into dock a multi-year customer information system (CIS) project, while preparing to split his department if PG&E's bankruptcy plan is approved.
And in the quieter waters of public power, Linda Hensley is preparing to run a tighter ship at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Faced with a wave of retirements over the next five years, Hensley plans to implement technologies that will increase efficiencies with fewer employees-the quintessential function of IT.
Batten Down the Hatches: Williams Deals With 'Draconian' Cuts
An interview with Ron Mucci, vice president and chief information officer, Williams Co.
What were your biggest accomplishments and struggles in the last year?
We've gone through incredible change [in] less than 12 months. Last year, there were four separate IT shops in Williams. There was a CIO for the pipeline, for the energy company, for the corporate group, and one for energy marketing and trading. So, basically you had four autonomous IT shops, and the only common thread was that the corporate IT shop managed the majority of the infrastructure, but they were kind of light in the sense that there weren't very many enterprise applications. So, they had a council that tried to find common ground, talk about events and best practices, and look for opportunities. At