5 reasons utility companies trust app development with Neptune DXP
Established energy suppliers still work with outdated, mostly SAP-based processes. At the same time, competitive and margin pressure in the energy industry is increasing enormously and will not diminish in the foreseeable future. Therefore, modernizing mobile and digital processes is crucial for utilities and the entire energy sector to meet the growing global environmental and climate concerns. This requires simpler and faster processes, more information transparency, continuous use of data, and more cost-effective solutions. Of course, we know that changes are unpleasant and usually involve a lot of effort, time and money. But are they really?
More and more companies are turning to sustainable digital solutions such as no-code and low-code. In particular, SAP-based companies such as Vattenfall, Hydro Tasmania, TC Energy, and Würzburger Verkehr und Vertrieb (WVV) have managed to digitize existing business and IT processes cost-effectively and in a very short amount of time, becoming a role model for a more sustainable economy.
What are low-code apps?
Low-code and no-code apps refer to a set of tools designed to create applications with minimal or no programming skills. These allow companies to speed up many work processes and seamlessly transfer them into one or more apps. They are easy to create and implement using a modular approach. As a result, companies themselves gain flexibility.
The application areas for low-code are diverse, ranging from workforce data collection to workforce scheduling to customer onboarding and more. Drag-and-drop development, business logic mapping, and easy integration into the IT landscape make IT teams’ jobs much more manageable and, most importantly, encourage cross-functional collaboration. As a result, teams focus on developing the business applications they need rather than coding applications from scratch. The energy sector also benefits from this. Here, we’ll list the five key characteristics that are driving utilities to invest in low code.
1. Mobile working - even without a network connection
Fitters and technicians usually work from distributed locations with little or no Internet access, whether in technical service or maintenance. Therefore, it is vital that they can maintain and view information both on the move and offline. In addition, since utilities rely heavily on customer satisfaction, they need to be able to intervene at any time to ensure further satisfaction. Integrating features such as the barcode scanner or camera allow processes such as meter changes to become digitized. With GPS tracking and image capture, errors can be identified more quickly and accurately. These applications are made available on all mobile devices thanks to low code. You can also operate on all platforms (iOS, Windows, Android), and apps can be used offline, i.e., without a permanent network connection.
2. Flexible usability
Whether for maintenance or a customer portal, a low-code development platform like Neptune Software allows organizations to determine the extent to which the app is distributed. This will enable companies to unify workflows with both their employees and users outside the organization, such as end customers and service partners. So the technology favors mobility and a more flexible working model. Apps can be deployed on the launchpad, as a web app via the browser (so-called progressive web apps) or as a “native” app on mobile devices. Depending on the requirements and user group, the ideal way can always be found for convenient and secure access by the target group.
Low-code projects are based on the trial-and-learn principle. At Vattenfall, process gaps and paper waste were eliminated thanks to the digitization across wind farms. Until recently, field workers faced utilizing 20-30 different screens to complete one task. Now they only focus on one. By using low-code, the applications were quickly tested on two pilot sites and later rolled out to all wind farm sites. With constant feedback, their users are now happier and can work on or offline, anytime, on any device.
3. Low barrier to entry and low licensing costs
Low-code platforms can be used both on-premise and in the cloud. For customers, finding a compatible low-code partner who can build directly on their existing system and modernize it is a clear advantage. They don’t have to buy new software or move data. For SAP users, for example, the only requirement is a NetWeaver system (version 7.x). There is no need to develop additional infrastructure, such as middleware for data synchronization. This means that applications can be piloted with little initial effort and in a short time. No further costs are incurred for the development and operation of additional IT infrastructure, and the overall architecture remains lean.
4. Compliance and secure infrastructure
As operators of critical energy infrastructures, security and compliance are essential. Especially when deploying an SAP landscape, security measures are particularly rigid. But because the barriers to entry are so low and low-code applications are built to the same standards as the existing IT landscape, security systems are not compromised. In addition, as a certified add-on, low-code applications can be run entirely in the company’s own data center. This allows companies to keep all data in their hands and all systems under their control.
5. Proven standard technology creates investment security
This is probably one of the most significant factors. The applications and the IT system speak the same language and complement each other. This means that low-code development platforms avoid using proprietary technologies and build on the existing know-how of software developers. Synergy effects can often be achieved in this way. For example, Neptune Software’s DX Platform also accompanies companies on their way to modernizing their outdated processes to the latest SAP versions. Due to the SAP certification and the technologically solid foundation, decades-long service life can be planned and guaranteed. The following industry example also proves this.
Like many medium and large companies, Open Grid Europe, one of the largest gas network operators in Europe, was working with an outdated and very complex SAP user interface. This affects the efficiency of the entire organization. Low-code development usually enables the transition to a more modern and more straightforward user interface without breaking the budget. After less than five months of development, the desktop portal went live with 200 SAP and non-SAP applications. The main benefit for OGE was a unified user interface that includes future-proof features and displays only information that the user needs.
In the case of Statkraft, workflows across the entire business, operations and maintenance employees found existing processes and tools hard to navigate, which made it difficult to find information and get work orders completed in a timely fashion. That’s when Statkraft turned to Neptune Software. A simplified experience in the new mobile app allows employees to tackle maintenance issues with ease: opening the work order, accomplishing all relevant tasks, and saving when complete, regardless of whether they have network access at the time or not. The app registers the data, keeps it on the mobile device, and syncs when the user is back online. They were also able to reduce training time to only a few short hours.