Powering up l’énergie française, Enedis has embarked on a ‘journey to digital’ that is reshaping devices, worker operations and management responsibilities.
L’électricité pour le smart grid
Teradata Universe EMEA 2017, the data management and analytics company’s annual European conference, is happening this week in the French city of Nice.
Among Teradata’s customer presentations this year, attendees heard from Christian Buchel, chief digital and international officer at French energy company Enedis, in a presentation entitled ‘Moving Beyond Digital Transformation’.
Enedis is a company that works on the distribution side of the energy industry value chain in France. With 40,000 staff, it is currently rolling out 35 million smart meters for the country.
The electricity grid has been separated from the generation and supply of electricity as a wider strategic move across all of Europe, so (on the positive side), there is an opportunity for both integration and agility here, but also (on the negative side), a risk of complexity and lack of connectivity.
Invisibility equals satisfaction
The operational concept for an organization like Enedis rests on the thinking that its work should effectively be invisible to its customers. The company kept this idea front of mind as it embarked on its digitization drive, according to Buchel.
“We have been through a quiet time in the energy industry in a sense, because if you look at huge technology innovations like mobile, these have not had initially a huge impact upon the way the industry works,” he said.
“But now smart meters and the higher level impact of the software industry are starting to change the way we work. In particular, the use of big data (much of it stemming from the Internet of Things) is at the point where it will now really change the way the energy industry works.”
A future with ‘instrumented operations’
Buchel explained that his firm had been through a period of ‘realization’, looking at the way the business IT landscape was changing. To acheive a new level of data-centric ‘instrumented operations’, the company launched its own dedicated digital transformation initiative.
“We needed to define the ‘structural orientations of industrialization’ to get us to the future,” said Buchel. With this (arguably somewhat tautological) phrase, Buchel was really referring to the way his organization took five specific steps to digital enablement:
- Employing data scientists
- Building a data warehouse
- Rolling out its so-named ‘Linky’ IoT program
- Creating a culture of collaboration
- Laying down a layer of data governance to oversee the new way of working
Enedis embarked on a process of what the company calls ‘bottom-up stimulation’ to inspire a new, digital way of working, by staging bootcamps for employees and related stakeholders. Each of these were focused on energizing (no pun intended) specific business units. New software application development work was undertaken to create apps for both customers and employees at different levels.
With a wealth of user data relating to public energy consumption at its fingertips, Energis had to make sure that it approached its new program formats with consideration for the way it worked when it comes to open data sharing.
Open data sets are a sensitive point – according to Buchel, this is because the company needs to keep users’ identities private, but at the same time, to look at usage data openly, in order to identify macroeconomic trends and work towards goals such as CO2 reduction.
Workers now get all their assignments delivered to them on their industrial mobile smart handsets, from which they can report back on job completion, engage in cross-team collaboration, and so on.
“This used to be the job of management, but now that jobs and workloads are despatched automatically, the managers themselves need to look for some way to add something to the internal value chain,” said Buchel.
In fact, managers at Enedis are now operating at a higher level and getting to grips with data analytics, he said. Even at the relatively non-technical level, managers now look at data relating to every element of the customer world that they serve.
Flicking the switch
In summary, the Enedis story is compelling, because it is a real-world example of the move to digital and so-called ‘business transformation’.
Further, while the initial work stemmed from IoT device deployment and the need for a new digital backbone, a somewhat unanticipated impact was felt higher up the hierarchy, as the people in charge increasingly needed to find new ways to add value to the business.
Finally, it gave us an opportunity to spell electricity in French and round out by saying ‘Vive Le IoT’… and who can argue with that?