Centrica: Embracing technology in the energy sector
Proud to be founded on a heritage of 200 years, serving customers in homes and businesses, Centrica is driven by its purpose to help customers live sustainably, simply, and affordably.
“As the pace of change continues to accelerate, we will respond by focusing colleagues and technology on helping businesses and households to use energy more efficiently and sustainably,” states Centrica.
The History of Centrica
Founded in 1997 following the demerger of British Gas, Centrica took on the gas sales, gas trading, services and retail business, and the gas production business of the North and South Morecambe gas field.
Over the next 20 years since its founding, Centrica continued to grow its operations, making several company acquisitions, including Direct Energy, Dyno-Rod, Clockwork Home Services (Via Direct Energy), Home Warranty of America (Via Direct Energy), Bord Gáis Energy, NEAS energy and ENER-G Cogen International Limited.
Today, Centrica is a FTSE 250 company, with 23,846 employees, 9.2 million residential customers, 17,700 electric vehicle charging points, and revenue of £20.8bn.
“Our company is founded on a proud 200-year heritage of serving customers in homes and businesses. From our early days supplying gas and coal to being an energy and services company today, we have adapted and changed to meet the needs of our customers,” comments Centrica.
The Centrica Business Model
Designed to focus on meeting the changing energy supply, services, and solutions needs for its customers, Centrica provides its offerings to both consumers and businesses, helping them transition to a lower-carbon future.
For its consumer customers, Centrica provides supply, and home services and solutions, ranging from protection, installation and smart heating to the supply of gas and electricity. “We want to make people’s lives simpler by providing seamless, time-saving services that are affordable and sustainable. Understanding and satisfying consumer needs is critical to our success,” says Centrica.
Centrica is ‘a trusted energy partner’ of its business customers, providing energy and solutions to help businesses operate more efficiently and sustainably to achieve commercial success. Its services range from energy supply to energy trading and optimisation to business services and solutions.
At the heart of its success, Centrica places its values, culture and code. “Care, delivery, collaboration, agility and courage are values we developed through conversations with employees [...] By living our values, we will be better able to fulfil our purpose and satisfy the changing needs of our customers.”
Centrica divides its code of conduct into six key areas:
- Operating safely and securely
- Conducting its business with integrity
- Valuing people
- Treating customers fairly
- Protecting assets, information and interests
- Working responsibly with communities and government
Digitally transforming the energy industry
“The world of energy is evolving rapidly, says Centrica. “It is becoming decentralised as distributed technology supports decarbonisation; choice and power are shifting to the customer, and technology and digitalisation are accelerating the pace of change. We are responding to these trends by focusing investment on our customer-facing businesses.”
One way Centrica has driven its personal digital transformation has been through its collaboration with Microsoft, NetMotion, and Panasonic.
Bringing these three leading organisaions together to optimise its operations, Centrica was the perfect customer to illustrate the impact of combining Panasonic's hardware, Microsoft’s advanced collaboration applications (OneDrive and Microsoft 365), and sustained connectivity from NetMotion.
“Centrica has a large field team that ventures into both rural and metropolitan areas resolving issues and serving customers. The company currently has approximately 12,000 workers using Panasonic TOUGHBOOKs in the field, with NetMotion Mobility deployed on each device. Centrica is also currently in the process of expanding the use of Microsoft Teams across its entire workforce to facilitate collaboration among employees,” says NetMotion.
To stress-test the technology’s capabilities, the four organisations took a unique approach, by strapping a Panasonic TOUGHBOOK® tablet to a balloon, taking the tablet up into the stratosphere while running a Microsoft Teams call.
Commenting on the test, Stuart Carver, Mobile Device Specialist at Centrica said: “A constant network connection is critical to the success of our field workers. NetMotion, Panasonic and Microsoft deliver incredibly complementary solutions that ensure a stable connection in any situation. This acid test was a brilliant way to prove it.”
In today’s fast-paced environment, it is crucial to stay on top, if not, ahead of technological advancements to remain competitive and not get left behind. Over the last 20 years, Centrica has significantly transformed its field workforce digitally. Speaking to Joanne Rose, former Head of Mobile User Computing at Centrica in 2019, she explained that digital transformation for Centrica is about “continually making sure that our fieldworkers have got the most up-to-date technology and software. What we're doing is setting the scene for our field workforce to be on the latest products and for them to be kept up-to-date.”
Working with Microsoft, Centrica implemented Windows 10 across its entire organisation coupled with the Evergreen solution to ensure that it is never too far behind the latest operating system version. The escape from incremental and periodic upgrades extends to Centrica’s embrace of cloud technologies, such as Office 365, and OneDrive. “From a user experience point of view, that Office 365 rollout has really transformed Centrica. We have the full suite and we're constantly adding new applications and features,” said Rose in 2019.
Keen to always embrace the latest technologies, Centrica’s partnership with Panasonic began more than 20 years ago when Centrica asked Panasonic to create a laptop with an integrated CD for its British Gas Engineers.
Centrica and its partners today
Nurturing its partnership with Microsoft, Centrica continues to harness Microsoft Azure and Dynamics 365 across its European and North American markets.
In the UK, Centrica is harnessing Dynamics 365 to manage customer engineer appointments and optimise in real-time. With this capability, Centrica can deliver fast and effective services to its retail and business customers.
In Denmark, Dynamics 365 is being used to manage and action energy trading across its European energy markets, and, in the US, Centrica has adopted Dynamics 365 for its contract management in the utility market.
In partnership with the leading UK telecommunications company BT, Centrica is harnessing its solutions for better Wi-Fi connectivity for its UK field operations engineers, boosting connection in areas with low cellular coverage.
The implementation is currently in its early stages, therefore, time will determine the effectiveness of BT Pinhole. However, it is said to provide the strongest connection a third of the time, enabling an average of six engineer jobs in two weeks that otherwise would not have been completed.
Centrica is currently conducting collaborative testing with multiple engineer groups to inform the effective use cases.