Els Descheemaeker, Innovation Manager at innogy, used to watch the cartoon series ‘The Jetsons’ as a child. Back then, she never thought for a moment that she would one day be living in that futuristic cartoon world. But now household robots, 3D printers for foodstuffs and deliveries via drones have convinced her that our world will soon be able to keep up with and even surpass the fictional technologies of the Jetsons.
She should know what she is talking about. Els Descheemaeker is an Innovation Manager, and her role is to put new technology formats to work in the energy sector.
“Everyone talks about big data because the world is increasingly being steered by digital technologies and data,” says Descheemaeker. “Yet corporate digitalisation can only work on a holistic basis. One person or one project is not enough.”
A personalised approach
Amongst other things, big data affects communication of a brand to its customers, who naturally are only interested in information that is relevant to them. “The right content must reach the right people at the right time,” explains Descheemaeker. In order to make that happen, you have to know exactly what your customers’ expectations are at all times to ensure the information provided is always precisely targeted, she says. The key to this is big data.
The team for one of Descheemaeker‘s major projects has started sending personalised videos to customers before they receive their power bills. In test markets, this has increasingly led to upselling, contract extensions and a higher net promoter score.
Renewables – convenient and simple
To keep up to date with technology and the data science community, Descheemaeker takes part in hackathons and start-up events, amongst other things. She's always on the lookout for the next big ideas from the stars of the digital scene. For example, a new app can analyse a roof with a smartphone to check its size, incline, and orientation to the sun, as well as its geographic location. Based on this data, the app can determine how many solar panels need to be installed on the roof, how profitable they will be, and provide a link to a phone number to call for further information.
“It’s about making the job as simple as possible for the customer,” explains Descheemaeker. It is difficult for consumers to manage all those tasks themselves. This kind of tender process is very inspiring because students are able to develop a new way of looking at things.”
The power of numbers
Descheemaeker believes collaboration is essential in order to stay abreast of fast-moving market trends. However some established companies do not appear to be in any hurry.
She compares innovation with playing in the mud. It’s fun and very stimulating for an enquiring mind, but it can also be difficult, and persisting with traditional corporate models can leave a company stuck in the proverbial mud. In the RWE Innovation Hub, a network of project developers from all over the world – from Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley to Berlin – keep a look out for interesting start-ups that might be relevant to strategic projects.
“Collaboration is the wind beneath our corporate wings,” she says. “By working with start-ups and other companies, we are able to put our plans into practice more quickly. That not only energises our team – our customers also get to reap the benefits of solutions more quickly. We have to get rid of our silo mindset.”