Climate change, the energy transition, and structural change are all having a lasting impact on the energy sector right now. This presents Vattenfall, the fourth largest power company in Germany, with a series of major challenges.
Energy provider Vattenfall finds consistent data solutions
Its stated aim of becoming a modern, future-oriented company is equally ambitious: it wants to be carbon-neutral within a generation. A new data and analytics platform provides a means of getting there. Using its predefined templates, Vattenfall’s approximately 20,000 employees have a quick and easy way of using corporate data consistently throughout the company.
Making central cloud services available
“We used to work with traditional IT and our own data centers—we didn’t have an enterprise cloud solution or big data architecture,” says Matthias Krüger, Manager Digital Platform Enablement at Vattenfall IT. “We simply couldn’t analyze the sheer volume of relevant data provided by sensors or customers.” In light of this situation, several of the company’s business units had already decided to launch their own cloud projects. The result was a multitude of decentralized digitalization initiatives, with local data-centers increasingly reaching the limits of their capacity. “Then there was the fact that the topic of big data wasn’t being managed centrally and so wasn’t available to everyone in a consistent way,” explains Krüger. The specific solutions and big data clusters for the respective business units were barely automated, rolled out individually, and non-scalable. Ultimately, this meant that Vattenfall IT could no longer provide adequate support for the decentralized cloud solutions.
Also, more and more redundant data was piling up in numerous silos, which prevented the company from tapping the full potential of its various corporate data sources to optimize business processes and make solid decisions. Vattenfall became increasingly aware that it would soon be time for a paradigm shift.
“We wanted to start again from scratch while also giving the departments all the options they had previously been unable to access,” Krüger says. “One of the biggest challenges back then was that some of the decentralized solutions were already in use, and we had to transition toward a central enterprise solution.” Doing so called for experts—and Krüger and his team found what they needed at mindcurv:data & ai. A member of the Microsoft Partner Network, and intelligent cloud specialist, mindcurv:data & ai brought 20 years of expertise to the project. Together, the teams developed a strategy for establishing a consistent, company-wide platform for data and analytics.
With the support of top management, Krüger and his team built up an enterprise cloud platform based on Microsoft Azure. This meant that the new, central cloud services were scalable within the company and could be managed by Vattenfall IT and its partners. But what was even more important was that the architecture and IT security were integrated into the enterprise platform from day one, thus ensuring companywide adoption.
Providing an intelligence cloud based on Microsoft technology
According to Krüger and Ulf Ackermann, Business Unit Director at mindcurv:data & ai, the solution was out of the box—not customized. The planned deployment of a standard service was in line with the company’s strategy of “cloud-first” and “Microsoft-first.” However, even with standard tools available as future project accelerators, the company needed to make room for suitable options. To this end, Vattenfall IT created its own cloud enablement team, specifically to drive the process from architecture to software development to automation. This central team would also kick-start future projects on the platform.
The team took specific business use cases to the various business units and offered them a new platform for data and analytics services based on Azure. In addition to Azure services, the platform framework includes standardized project environments for workflow management, code management, and reusable provisioning processes. Krüger’s team determined the feasibility and added value for the decentralized business units as part of its proof of concept. The ultimate selling point was the combination of lower costs and better conditions. For example, since the departments no longer needed to manually set up, monitor, and operate the required cloud infrastructure, they can now make use of predefined platform services that cover central processes and security. In this way, the cloud service platform established a guided process for providing, monitoring, and invoicing Azure resources for managing the source code. By involving the relevant departments closely in various initiatives, it ceased to be purely an IT project and became a true Vattenfall team effort.
Three years on, the cloud platform has become the company standard, with several projects completed in the realms of big data and analytics and business process digitalization.
IT projects must always contend with technical challenges, but ultimately, the people who pursue these initiatives will master these challenges. “Among the key success factors were the make-up of the project team and the support of the Board of Directors,” Ackermann says. They gave the project initiative full backing and invested in the operation, security, monitoring, and governance teams from day one. Krüger adds, “We promised our departments that within five weeks they would have an environment that meets their requirements. And thanks to mindcurv:data & ai, we had no trouble keeping our word. Our recipe for success was to combine deliverability, a sound concept, and technical expertise with a great deal of courage.”
The cloud platform has become the company standard
Where there were once multiple reporting tools, a single technology platform allows analyses to be performed within a consistent governance model. Microsoft Power BI provides a quick and easy way of visualizing terabytes of market or customer data. The data and analytics platform encompasses almost everything Microsoft offers. For instance, Vattenfall’s sales and marketing departments are now able to perform detailed analyses of market data that wouldn’t be possible with conventional business intelligence (BI) solutions.
Ulf AckermannManaging Directormindcurv: data & ai, Hamburg+49 (0)40 8221 71-300