How the utility and energy industry is becoming a driver of digitization
“There is no plan(et) B!” is the slogan at every climate protest. For a few years now, society has been putting more and more pressure towards change in the energy sector. This requires, among other things, a major transformation in the energy supply industry itself. And for this, more and more companies are relying on sustainable digital solutions such as no-code and low-code solutions to help the utility industry along.
The modernization of mobile and digital processes is crucial for the utility and the general energy sector to address the growing environmental and climate concerns worldwide. The climate issue is becoming extremely urgent and will fundamentally change our society over the next 10 to 20 years. Along with the will to bring about change, the energy industry can be a key driver of change. This requires simpler and faster processes, more information transparency and the continuous use of data and more cost-effective solutions.
Low-code and no-code [so-called rapid application development platforms] have proven their worth in terms of connectivity, cost reduction, resource management, and customer satisfaction. Ultimately, the utility and energy sector should operate more efficiently through better business and IT processes and become a role model for a more sustainable economy.
What does low-code offer? Low barrier to entry with low cost
To improve business efficiency and sustainability, it is now clear that data must be captured and traceable to every level of the business – from the plant to the back office, to the technician in the field, to the end customer. However, these stringent requirements often make already overburdened IT departments, and by extension, the professionals who deal with customer requests, run on fumes. For these reasons, low-code app development platforms offer a real solution that significantly reduces hurdles, concerns, complexity and time-to-market.
Easy drag-and-drop development, business logic mapping, and simple integration into the IT landscape bring developers and operational professionals together. This eliminates frustration and lowers development costs: teams focus on implementing the best business features instead of coding applications from scratch. Low-code ultimately shortens the so-called “time to value” until businesses use digital solutions meaningfully. Applications are thus piloted with little initial effort and in a short time. There are no additional costs for setting up and operating further IT infrastructure, and the overall system architecture remains lean. So how can this be applied to the energy sector?
The main advantages for the use of low-code for utilities and energy companies
Today, most utility companies are still using processes from 15 to 20 years ago. That’s half an eternity in a world where technology is changing rapidly. At the same time, however, competitive and margin pressures in the industry are increasing tremendously and will not let up anytime soon. This is where no-code and low-code come into play to help the energy industry as a whole to become more efficient and sustainable. As low-code applications are developed and implemented quickly and easily based on existing application building blocks, the companies themselves gain flexibility. In addition, investment security is created through proven standard technology.
The areas where low-code is used are diverse and range from recording personnel data to deployment planning, customer onboarding, and much more. In this industry, it is crucial to be able to maintain and view information both on the road and offline on-site, as assemblers and technicians often work in locations with little or no Internet access. It’s also important to be able to analyze the data for maintenance and fault identification because water, power or gas outages happen. Since utilities rely heavily on customer satisfaction, they need to be able to intervene at any time to ensure further satisfaction. Integrations of functions such as barcodes, GPS tracking or image capture can be used to identify faults quickly and accurately.
For example, with the introduction of mobile applications for order and message management, checklists, and maintenance instructions, Vattenfall improved the exchange of information with workers in the field, streamlined SAP processes, and reduced maintenance and repair costs. In practice, the first applications were tested in two wind farms after just a few weeks and later implemented across all sites, thanks to user feedback. Digital and mobile processes lead to wind farms becoming more efficient. Possible failures are detected and prevented at an early stage. Ultimately, it leads to green energy sources producing more energy for companies, municipalities and private customers.
Examples from customers
Many medium and large companies work with an outdated and very complex SAP user interface. This affects the efficiency of the entire organization. Low-code development is usually based on the existing infrastructure and enables the transition to a more modern and more straightforward user interface without breaking the budget. The main advantage of digital solutions is that they provide a unified user interface that includes future-proof features and only displays information that the user needs.
From the start, business departments and IT have to work very closely together. It quickly becomes apparent that low-code is no longer a pure IT project. Open workshops and close collaboration between business and IT departments characterize the new projects. IT is always heavily involved and has clearly defined the roadmap from the beginning. But also to keep the IT architecture as lean as possible. By using low-code, these applications can be tested quickly and later rolled out to all departments. A clear time gain for the company and a better overview for those responsible.
Through a step-by-step roadmap, companies manage to introduce, test and improve all planned applications gradually. For successful mobilization of the energy sector, companies must keep the cost and time factors in mind. This means developing intuitive applications that reduce paperwork, streamline processes and, in turn, increase productivity.
Innovation in the utilities and energy sector and the associated need for digital solutions and flexibility are inevitable. Modernizing outdated processes that companies have used for decades may seem like a daunting task. But forgoing it can be fatal for a company. The many benefits are worth the investment. Sustainability or a cleaner environment is the vision. Low-code supports management in the concrete implementation and brings the end goal a crucial step closer.