A future-proof and scalable IT landscape for Ecopower

11 October 2019

Environmental change has always been a hot topic for Ecopower, a cooperative that differentiates itself from other energy suppliers by offering 100% green energy of their own production. All Ecopower shareholders are co-owners of energy production facilities which include wind turbines, solar panel fields, small hydroelectric power stations and a pellet factory. Due to consumers’ increasing awareness of climate change, Ecopower has grown tremendously in the last few years. As a result, their IT application landscape is at its limits.

Moving towards a future-proof and scalable digital platform is a must for Ecopower if they want their services to meet their own stringent standards. To tackle this complex challenge, the company called upon AE’s architectural and methodological expertise.

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Phased approach

To buy or to build? That’s the question whenever the need for a new digital platform arises. In the case of Ecopower, buying a new platform was deemed the best option. Eager to adapt their way of working to the current market and industry expectations, Ecopower were keen to have the rich functionalities (and future-proof roadmap) of leading (sector) platforms at their fingertips. Typically, this kind of exercise calls for a phased approach.

For Ecopower to make their new landscape a reality, the ‘as is’ situation needs to be captured. High-level requirements need to be gathered, too, followed by experts designing the future landscape. Furthermore, vendors of potential solutions need to be evaluated and selected accordingly. Finally, the selected platform will be implemented and rolled out across the entire organization.

Co-creation

It was clear from the get-go that co-creation would be key to make this project a success. Hence, combining Ecopower’s expertise and vision with AE’s methodology and guidance proved vital. After all, Ecopower plans on using the new platform for the coming five to ten years at least. To co-create in the best way possible, various business stakeholders were involved from the beginning and governance boards are still held on a regular basis.

Helicopter view

Arguably the main challenge of this project is that the new platform will have to support what is virtually Ecopower’s entire business. Unlike traditional energy suppliers, Ecopower does more than simply sell electricity. For example, the scope of the new platform needs to include the day-to-day operations of their pellet factory (stock management, factory monitoring, logistics, …) as well. Hence, obtaining a clear ‘helicopter view’ of Ecopower’s activities, i.e. by creating a business capability map, proved a vital aid.

In addition, Ecopower and AE organized several workshops to gather information concerning business non-functional requirements, and to properly describe business processes. The result: a logical application landscape-to-be, defining all the functional building blocks Ecopower needs to meet the broad range of specific requirements.

Furthermore, an investigation of potential vendors and their solutions – market research, if you will – was carried out. Thanks to AE’s extensive experience with some of those solutions, this phase turned out a breeze.

Preparing to stand the test of time

Finally, we poured all the above into a Request for Proposal (RFP) which we sent to a shortlist of potential vendors. Our experience with similar projects, combined with Ecopower’s business expertise, ensured we were able to adequately challenge the proposals we eventually received. Next up on the agenda is deciding on a solution or a combination thereof. Ecopower and AE are thoroughly analyzing the different options as we speak, making sure the new platform will support Ecopower in its growing activities for the coming five to ten years.

Laurens Boeckx

Written by Laurens Boeckx

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