In the media

An agile IT organisation is essential for the energy transition

By Menno de Boer

NRC

Dec 22, 2022

An agile IT organisation is essential to the energy transition. The energy market is constantly changing and is in the middle of a transition. So how do network operators deal with the major challenges that this brings?

Enexis makes full use of digital technology and innovative ways to respond more quickly to new developments. “We already take into account the fact that more and more people have solar panels on their roof and an electric car outside their front door. And in addition, a geopolitical situation has now arisen that means that, we in the Netherlands, now want to reduce the use of natural gas faster than we had already planned. This has enormous consequences for electricity demand. In recent years, we have therefore gone from a relatively calm market to the perfect storm”, is how Joost Looij’s, ICT director at Enexis, summarises the position.

Over to the cloud

A big advantage: Enexis had already decided about five years ago to focus strategically on further digitisation. That led to the decision to transfer all data centres to the cloud. It also meant a switch to applications that have been specially developed for the cloud. This strategy ensures that Enexis can spend more time on initiatives that contribute to the energy transition.

Other technologies

In addition to optimising cloud solutions, Enexis decided about two years ago to start using other digital technologies and innovations. Looij says: “Artificial intelligence, for example, means we can better predict fluctuations in the power grid. We also use augmented reality to allow technicians to practice complicated maintenance jobs in the virtual world. Now that it is so difficult to find technical staff, it is even more important to deploy our people as optimally as possible. That is also the reason why we have decided to use robotic process automation (rpa) where feasible. This enables us, for example, to automate the ordering process to a large extent. That means less administration for technicians, which makes their work more fun.”

From strategy to execution

On paper, the new strategy looked promising, with Enexis investing on a large scale in digitisation and innovation in order to achieve the required acceleration. “But it soon became clear that there was more to it than we had expected,” Looij says, looking back. “Digitisation and innovation also require different working methods and an appropriate organisational structure. So we needed some help. At the end of 2020, we decided to call in PA Consulting.”

Different ways of working together

“What you can clearly see at Enexis is that the mutual dependency between the business and the IT department has increased enormously,” explains Pim Masselink, principal consultant at PA Consulting. “The cloud strategy was a smart choice. But more is needed to be able to respond really quickly to changes in the energy market. And that goes beyond prioritising and financing change initiatives differently. Enexis really had to become a different type of organisation: more agile and with a different way of working together. One of the first things we advised was to bring the business closer together. They now work in multidisciplinary teams based on agile principles.”

Respond quickly to changes

“There’s a world of difference!” says John Smarius, enterprise architect at Enexis. “Because we now work more closely with colleagues from the business, it is very easy to coordinate something with each other. In addition, the new IT technology helps us to implement desired adjustments quickly. We are currently working in sprints where the starting point is to deliver concrete results every three weeks. This is not only very satisfying, but is also really necessary: the energy market is constantly changing and it is important that we, as a network operator, can respond quickly.”

Thanks to the new working method and the broad use of physical and digital technology, Enexis is transforming into an all-round tech company. That’s exactly what is needed to help accelerate the energy transition.

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