Launching the next generation meter-to-cash platform for utilities
For this interview we prepared an interesting and challenging Q&A session with Frederik and Jorn about the development of inni, the Digital Backbone for Utilities. We are interested in the challenges for utilities with upgrading the so called ERP system for energy, basically how to contract, receive the metering data and produce a timely and accurate invoice for a customer
Q: You are developing a new meter-to-cash platform for utilities. What is the reason for such a new platform? What is our idea behind this platform?
Frederik: The main reason we build this new platform is to ensure that our customers can handle large loads of data, which is one of the biggest challenges in current technologies. We also want to provide continuous insight in what is happening with the data from a process perspective, and from a data intelligence perspective. Not too much Utility companies are already making clever use of the huge piles of data that they have at their availability, to create new offerings in the market.
Q: How do you see the utility market changing? What are the biggest challenges today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow?
Jorn: Today and even more in the future, additional products, innovations and customer experiences will make the difference for companies in this market. Our solution is providing a low cost to serve as a hygiene factor for the backbone, such that our clients can focus on products and innovations which can make profit.
Frederik: Adding to that, in order to cope with tomorrows and the day after tomorrow requirements, you need an open and extensible platform, which enables you to lower your cost to serve by keeping operational costs in infrastructure, software and operations as low as possible, but in a rapidly changing digital landscape, you also need to be able to innovate quickly, delivery new functionalities quickly. innitmdoes deliver a open API which allows partners and/or customers to build new capabilities, business models on top of inni. This ensures not only the investment in inni now, but also for the future.
Q: Can you tell a bit more about the platform? Why is it a Digital Backbone for Utilities?
Jorn: The core idea is that the innitm platform provides standard processes like meter-to-cash out of the box, “it just works”, and making sure that companies can focus on making a difference in the market by creating new products and sell those products. For example, the features in our platform to support Lead to Offer value chain are optimized for creating offers in a fast and easy way, and for the Meter to Invoice value chain we design it to be fully transparent, such that errors and missing information can be tracked easily and solved, so you are able to bill first time right. Of course the processes are configurable and can be adapted depending on how you set up innitm to suit your needs.
Q: What is the main differentiator for inni in the market?
Frederik: If I were a Supplier company, I would buy inni, because it would allow me a couple of things: first of all it would allow me to quickly implement a fully working and tested solution which supports my meter to cash processes and which provides me insight in every step along the way, secondly it allows me to monitor my process activities continuously and provide me information on potential improvement areas in those processes. Thirdly, the platform is able to scale massively, so even if I start small – I am able to scale up quickly thanks to the use of the newest cloud technologies. As inni is a cloud based platform, I will be exposed continuously to new features. Lastly it allows me to build or integrate additional functionalities in which I would like to make the difference in my business model.
Q: What are your main challenges in developing the inni platform?
Jorn: The energy market and regulations around it are quite complex, and across borders there are also differences. Creating a backbone which can cover these complexities in a generic way and keep it simple is a challenge we face daily. It is our main challenge to not expose these complexities to our users and customers of the platform. Frederik: In order to solve this we have build a layered architecture in which the Core Layer is exposed by a well documented API (REST/Messaging) and a Country and Tenant Layer where you can use for country specific developments (for example market connectivity/messaging) or your own specific development. In our platform we call this concept adapters which enable you to integrate your own systems to inni
Q: Developing a platform is nowadays all about technology. Using the best and newest technology is key for success? Which kind of technologies are being used for inni?
Jorn: Having a solution which scales with the growth of our customers is required, therefore we use different technologies to make this possible: we use ElasticSearch as a scalable and high performing database and Azure cloud technology to get more performance if needed. Also we see that insight in processes and the performance of processes is key to maintain a low cost to serve, to support this we have a partnership with Camunda which provides the best BPMN (Business Process Model) engine in the market and which is fully integrated and embedded in inni. This integration enables lower costto-serve by providing insight in every individual process that is triggered as part of your meter-to-cashprocesses, and in the follow-up of your regulatory requirements.
Frederik: Often we see black box implementations which are working perfectly as long nothing goes wrong. Our experience shows that often due to complex legal requirements things go wrong, and finding and solving the issue is much more difficult in a black box solution, costing a lot of manual
effort – which increases your cost-to-serve.
Q: Where are you now with the development of inniTM? Is the platform already running? and if not? When will the platform go live?
Jorn: Currently we are in development phase to reach our goal by the end of this year to have inni implemented and support Powerhouse in the Netherlands in selling B2B products on the new Powerhouse Energy Platform using inni as the digital backbone. New launching customers will follow soon beginning next year.
Q: A SaaS platform is continuously growing by adding new features? Can you say something about the product roadmap? What are the main priorities
Jorn: Our main priority is to first add additional functionality into the innitm Core in order to support flexible markets and market access. These possibilities will be added to our Core API and datamodels, so we can quickly enable partners and customers to build adapters to connect other countries (for example Spain, Germany) to inni
Frederik: Next to that we would like to build a extended Customer Portal to automate customer acquisition through digital means to support both B2B and B2C suppliers.
Q: For the implementation of inniTM, are you working with selected partners or are you implementing the platform yourselves?
Frederik: Our priority with the platform is to build it in such a way that we can easily onboard new partners to implement the platform, and to develop new innovative solutions around it. So we bet for sure on deploying an ecosystem of partners to rapidly scale and deploy innitm in the Energy and Utilities landscape.
Q: Where do you see the inniTM platform over one year?
Frederik: innitm in a year means to me that we have deployed innitm with 3 to 5 launching customers proving the value proposition we offer: combining both lower cost-to-serve and quick digital innovation capability.
Frederik and Jorn, thank you for the interview and insights. Good luck this next months with the development of inni