IT and the business go for gold together at Eneco

30 July 2020

Sentia has been working with Eneco for years now. Our services began with targeted performance monitoring, but that has since developed into performance management for Eneco’s entire IT landscape. At Eneco, IT and the business work closely together. How do they do that?

Eneco is one of the biggest and most eco-friendly energy suppliers in the Netherlands, and currently serves 2.1 million businesses and households. In addition to producing, procuring, supplying and trading in energy, Eneco also offers service and advice, particularly in the field of sustainability.

Eneco customers

Within Eneco, Sentia supplies its services to the IT branch of ‘Eneco Consumenten’. This division consists of 150 FTE working in 19 scrum teams. Over the past year, Eneco has considerably accelerated the adoption of agile working. As well as being a great success, this brings new challenges with it. There are many more changes, and there is no operations department now; this means it is important to safeguard processes across all the teams and to make the transition to continuous integration. Resources are required to help the scrum teams accomplish this and keep it manageable.

Keeping an eye on the entire landscape

To keep a grip on the performance of its IT, Eneco set up monitoring of all critical components in the consumer domain. This currently involves about 12 applications, consisting of 33 chains. Among other things, the components relate to the infrastructure, Dynamics CRM, the integration layer (Tibco) and also the back-end and front-end systems. This provides insights into the entire consumer chain.

Interpretation of performance figures

The more monitoring that is put in place, the more difficult it becomes to interpret the performance figures. Without context, it becomes impossible to determine what the figures mean: what does it tell us, that a transaction lasts 4 seconds? It is precisely the interpretation and context of these figures that creates added value for both the business and IT.

For example: if the front-end applications are working well and as expected, more self-service actions can take place, which means fewer questions by telephone to the call centre. And if the systems at the call centre perform faster and better, the staff can deal with more questions. Which raises the
question: what speed is right and to be expected?

What does decreased performance mean?

To determine the (financial) consequences of worsened performance, and which performance issues should therefore be prioritised, Eneco quantified the IT processes. If there are performance issues at the call centre application, this has little impact on the small scale. However, if the entire staff is experiencing problems, the lead time – and thus the costs – increase dramatically. More important still: it causes a nuisance to customers in the form of longer call centre waiting times or reduced performance of the online environment. Eneco therefore uses Ymonitor for user monitoring, and Nexthink for monitoring workstation performance and stability.

Based on cases of this type, IT entered into a dialogue with the various business units at Eneco. For each consumer chain, they determined the optimum performance figures for critical applications. For example, how does the performance of the website relate to the conversion? How long may it take to look up customer details in the call centre without having an impact and the quality and speed of the conversation? The Apdex was then used to relate the measured performance to the desired performance.

Adding context with the apdex

The Apdex is an industry standard for indexing performance. IT and the business jointly draw up expectations for the various transactions, chains or processes. Response times are used as criteria, giving rise to three bandwidths, each of which is allocated a value.

  1. For example, does it take 4 seconds or less to retrieve customer details? If so, that measurement is marked as satisfied and is assigned a value of 1 point.
  2. Does it take from 4.1 to 7 seconds? If so, that measurement is marked as tolerated and is assigned a value of half a point.
  3. Measurements of longer than 7.1 seconds are marked as frustrated and allocated 0 points.

The number of points is divided by the number of measurements and plotted on a scale. The goal is an Apdex of at least 0.85.

The context is derived from the fact that all transactions have their own parameters: with a CRM system, for example, logging in – which occurs once per day – may take longer than looking up customer details, which takes place 100 times per day.

In Ymonitor, Sentia has incorporated a functionality for Eneco whereby the Apdex is calculated automatically and displayed on dashboards. This functionality has since been successfully used with other clients, and it has become a shared basis for management reports.

Single point of truth

With the Apdex, Eneco has 33 index figures that are targeted towards the relevant business values. For the scrum teams, partners and the business, these form a ‘single point of truth’ as regards performance in the IT landscape. The figures are reported periodically to enable Eneco to respond rapidly, in accordance with the ‘agile working’ philosophy, to any possible deterioration in performance. For example, the ‘search customer’ process – frequently used by Customer Services – has been accelerated from 4 seconds to 1 second by means of insight into the Apdex. This improvement, among others, has led to a more efficient call centre and reduced the required number of FTEs.

The dashboards allow everyone to see which applications are eligible for further optimisation. This insight is applied directly to the backlogs of the relevant scrum teams because IT and the business can both see where gains can still be made. This immediately justifies certain investments associated with the performance improvements.

Optimum cooperation

Eneco is a fine example of how an IT department can work optimally with the business by applying oversight, grip and control to a large and complex landscape.

IT and the business share a single point of truth regarding performance and, based on the Apdex, speak the same language. This results in shared ownership of performance and the associated business result. Sentia is proud to form part of the Chain Management Team and, with a number of staff deployed on site, is directly available to Eneco’s teams. This makes for a rapid response to malfunctions in the landscape and the prevention of incidents through fast analysis.

Eneco uses the Ymonitor Platform (modules  Essentials, Automatic Root Cause Analysis, Real User Monitoring and Business Process Monitoring)

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