Practical insights from the CDAO conference: How Gridserve succeeded in their data and analytics transformation
At CDAO, the leading trade fair for data analytics decision makers, Gridserve's CITO was on stage with Hitachi Solutions. The UK company develops and distributes sustainable, technology-enabled energy solutions. The customer and implementation partner reported on how a cloud-first approach to data analytics can be successfully implemented.
CDAO stands for "Chief Data and Analytics Officers" and is a conference for decision-makers in the field of data and analytics.
In today’s highly volatile markets, consolidated, retrievable business data and real-time analytics are becoming increasingly essential, and so are the technological solutions that make them conveniently usable: the cloud, data platforms and lakes, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The CDAO was correspondingly well attended, because the disruptive power of digitalisation has long since gripped all industries, even if the transformative process itself is often still in its infancy in companies. How to get started? That was the question on the minds of many decision-makers.
The session of our data and analytics experts on the first day of the conference was all about this: "Are we there yet? – Futureproofing your data-driven strategy": Under this motto, Jonathan Scott and Oliver Glassmann from Hitachi Solutions invited Andre Pageot, the CITO of Gridserve, to join them on the CDAO stage to share his experiences. The UK company designs, builds, owns and distributes a "sun-to-wheel" ecosystem of hybrid solar farms, as well as charging facilities and leasing solutions for electric vehicles. It is responsible for building and operating more than one gigawatt of solar energy and energy storage solutions and has already connected over a hundred sustainable energy projects to the UK grid.
Andre Pageot started by talking about how, from 2021, they decided to consider how they could set up Gridserve in a leaner and more efficient way in the future with a cloud-first approach. Gridserve turned to Hitachi Solutions because implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 was not proving to be quite so easy on their own.
Hitachi Solutions initially conducted an audit, which resulted in an assessment and a concrete roadmap for the next steps. During implementation – with Dynamics Customer Experience, SarbOx compliance and HR as the first project elements – the topic of "data and analytics" soon came into focus.
The Gridserve-CITO described the major challenges that can arise at the outset of such large-scale projects: "If you ask three different departments, you get three different answers – and thus also great potential for conflict when it comes to making business decisions." It therefore initially takes a holistic view, he noted, to get effective solutions off the ground in such a comprehensive way. As many relevant people as possible should be involved in the decision-making process on how and what to do – from the top of the company downwards, so that everyone pulls together later on in the actual implementation. There needs to be a steering committee in the project, a reliable implementation partner and, at the start, smaller lighthouse projects that can be used in agile processes to learn quickly, evaluate and then adapt the findings to subsequent projects.
A key realisation was that this required changes in the company’s organisation, including the staffing of the corresponding C-level roles. With these changes, the data and analytics assessment could finally be carried out twelve months after the contract was awarded.
Jonathan Scott described from the perspective of Hitachi Solutions how important this joint assessment process is in advance of the project: "First of all, a roadmap is necessary so that you can basically understand where you are on this journey." This requires jointly defined milestones, because that is what the project participants are measured against. It is also a matter of setting up convincing business cases on the entrepreneurial added value of the transformation and to keep advocating for these cases at every point of the journey.
The assessment ensures that "the house is in order" in terms of the actions to be taken: Regardless of whether it is a greenfield or brownfield project (complete new implementation or integration of a solution in the inventory), a solid roadmap, governance, joint decisions and data owners for implementation are needed. It is also important to consider how to establish a common understanding and close exchange given different levels of expertise and demands for transformation at departmental levels. Who and what is needed when it comes to seamlessly and smoothly transfer the data into the new system?
Oliver Glassmann concluded by explaining Hitachi Solutions’ role and self-image throughout this journey as advisor, facilitator and onboarding guide: "Have we achieved everything? Are people really happy with the journey we are sending them on?" Whoever asks, whether Finance or HR, should always get the same answer: Yes, everything fits. The more carefully the assessment is set up in advance, the more guaranteed success it will be. The Dynamics 365 system is now supported by Hitachi Solutions’ Lifetime Service Programme, an option that is also suitable for a future Modern Data Platform implementation.
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