As a distribution system operator for electricity and gas, Enexis Netbeheer depends entirely on flawless and stable operations. The decisions it takes must in effect be good for at least the next 30 years. To facilitate the energy transition in society, and to be able to respond to changing needs and demands, long-standing resistance to change has given way to a desire for agility and adaptability. One dimension of this is that, since the summer of 2017, the company has operated within an award-winning ecosystem of partners. COO Rutger van der Leeuw, and CIO Jeroen Sanders, Arthur van Schendel, Managing Director at Schuberg Philis, discuss the current state of the partnership.
The increasing importance of sustainable sources of energy and decentralized generation is unmistakable. Natural gas consumption must be reduced. Electric vehicles and fully electrical suburbs are the way ahead. "Changes in the demand for energy require radical modifications in the network," says Rutger van der Leeuw. "As grid manager, we'll need to be much more adaptable." In addition to facilitating the energy transition, Enexis Groep wants to make things as easy as possible for customers, and it aims to keep electricity charges low by cutting its operating costs by twenty percent. "That's very ambitious," says Jeroen Sanders. "Especially in the context of a growing economy, with increasing demand for connections and scarcity of labor, what we are facing is a perfect storm."
New IT and technology play an important role in these developments, observes Arthur van Schendel of Schuberg Philis. "What do you expect from these trends at Enexis Groep?" he asks. "For our dayto- day business processes, the support systems simply must work all the time," emphasizes Rutger van de Leeuw. "That's the starting point. We have a fragmented IT landscape, because we were created from a merger of local power supply companies. That legacy is not ideal for state-of-theart service provision. As we renew and restructure the IT environment, we can reduce complexity and increase agility." The promise that the IT department makes to the rest of the organization is in the first place that the current level of services will be maintained. Jeroen Sanders: "We will also carry out the desired changes in the best possible way, together with the business. In the third place we will contribute to cost savings, thanks to more efficient IT." To achieve these goals, Enexis Groep wanted to be the first in the sector to make the transition to the public cloud.
The contract for the IT transformation was won by a consortium of Sogeti, First Consulting, and Schuberg Philis. What are the pros and cons of such a partnership? Rutger van der Leeuw: "Working with a single party gives you the illusion of clarity; a consortium gives you the illusion of diversity. Given the pressure and complexity, the consortium option could go two ways: a true partnership could be formed or there could be finger-pointing when things don't work out. I feared for the latter, but I realized that the same could happen with one main supplier plus various subcontractors; it would just be less visible."
CIO Jeroen Sanders was appointed in mid- 2017, when the decision to go with the three partners had been made. He had high hopes of working with Schuberg Philis, although he would have opted for working with a single supplier and would have been somewhat more conservative about using the public cloud. Rutger van der Leeuw recognizes this: "We're all finding it new – it's not easy to get used to, but we're definitely heading in the right direction."
Arthur van Schendel says that every part in the partnership has its strengths, from which the others can benefit. "That works well if there's a foundation of trust, in which you are open to one another's strong and weaker sides," says Rutger van de Leeuw. "That chemistry develops as you do things together, share experiences, and have the first disagreements and successes together." Jeroen Sanders has seen the effects already: "A true ecosystem has evolved, because Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, SAP and others are also participating whole-heartedly. This way we get the best from the market. In the future we'll be unable to manage without connections of this kind."
Arthur van Schendel is curious about the benefits. Are some things already going better? "The 'hygiene' factors, such as the platform managing all the applications and their inter-relations, are fabulous," says Jeroen Sanders. "Thanks to that we've already been able to roll out various systems. The calculation capacity in the cloud has also enabled us to perform complex scenario calculations to identify where in the network we should invest or replace things, and the calculations run at a fraction of the cost and much faster. And the amazing thing was we executed this Proof of Concept in under two weeks!"
The other promises of the IT renewal process are also important, says Jeroen Sanders. There's the new automatically deployed development, testing, and acceptance environment, which should deliver much shorter development times. "The renewal will need to be built on a foundation of trust and continuity," he says. "The partnership has even more value for us if our partners are trusted advisors who are in close touch with what's important for us, given our societal role and responsibility."