Three things our digitalisation journey has taught us
Jon Andreas Pretorius, Chief Information Officer, Elvia:
Hafslund Nett (today Elvia) is Norway’s largest grid company and 1.5 million inhabitants rely on us every day. Our vision is to provide energy solutions for the future – both for our customers and for the environment. To help achieve this, we embarked on a digitalisation journey. It sounds like a huge endeavour – and reinventing our processes has been interesting, to say the least – but the rewards have made it all worthwhile.
A regulatory requirement to be implemented by the 1st of January 2019 is the reason for our Advanced Metering System (AMS) investment. However, we also viewed the project as an opportunity to modernise our IT platform and build our enterprise architecture to focus even more on the customer.
We began with the key information elements in our company and our processes. We thought of ways to design those well so that they can be consolidated and ready for reuse and for analytics. Throughout our journey to this future model, we faced some challenges, all of which we were thankfully able to overcome.
Three key ‘awakenings’
The first involved human resources. A lot of the people who work with technology and in IT have been doing so for some time. It becomes easy to get stuck in old architecture and old technology. So, on the pure technology side, we used external partners to get new individuals on board. We took ownership ourselves but when it came to knowledge, we focused on people who were really up-to-date in cloud technology and big data platforms.
The second issue was due to the fact that we spent too much time in the beginning focusing on the technology and on IT. Down the line, we eventually figured out that a digitalisation journey is about processes and the data created and stored in the business we do every day, which is the most important. We switched around to a data-oriented focus instead of a technology-centred one.
The third and last awakening, if you will, involves culture and our organisational structure. It has been set in a certain way for a number of years, so change management was necessary to get things moving. While we had a bottom-up approach on the people side – getting employees involved, letting them take part in design, allowing them to participate in building the solution and fostering a sense of ownership – our CEO stood behind this project from day one as well. We would not have succeeded without that combination.
Customer benefits today
Hafslund Nett is currently deploying a smart metering system which will cover 700,000 electricity connections in the Oslo area by the end of 2018. With such a volume, it’s quite a large job just to get into customers’ houses. In Norway, the meters are mostly indoors so IT needed to be built to support this kind of rollout.
All the information we are now collecting through Aidon’s solutions is going to play a major role in running the grid in a more optimal and cost-efficient way. We believe that the information these solutions give will be vital to predictive maintenance, to keeping the grid running at all times and to adapting it to a new future with perhaps more distributed energy and more charging stations.
A key benefit for customers now is our ability to keep track of all the information and to keep it secure. Through Aidon’s solutions, we can give customers pretty close to real-time data. This enables us to create customer apps and self-service solutions, for instance. Automation is now possible, which cuts down on the time we need to give the customer an answer to whatever query.
A bird’s eye view of the grid
The complete Aidon solution provides us with a lot of information about every metering point we have in the infrastructure. By getting all that data every hour every day, it gives us extremely vital insight as to how the grid is running. We can then use that data to consolidate and look at the grid from a bird’s eye perspective.
In addition, it gives us the opportunity to be a more advanced player in terms of the future grid. In the years to come, people will produce their own energy and we will need to support more flexibility and relay high current charging while keeping the grid balanced.
The Aidon solution is the only connection Hafslund Nett has with our customer and their assets. It covers our complete geographic area. The fact that it’s a radio mesh means we can add new sensors as well within that mesh. That offers great possibilities when it comes to the two-way highway of important data.