Case Study Summary
Lots to do, little time. That is the current situation of Roxana van der Hoogt, IT director at Alfen N.V, as the energy infrastructure powerhouse continues to grow rapidly. Alfen operates increasingly internationally, and their product range is also becoming more advanced. In this situation you could continue to let each department do its own thing with applications, but that is not future-proofed way of thinking. Therefore, the entire organisation has embarked on a digital transformation, with their most important goal being increase scalability with the cloud while applying only the most modern and secure techniques.
Their digital vision is starting to take shape and they’re supported by the experts at Rapid Circle (formerly Weolcan). Roxana is leading this digital transformation, which, after a successful transition, is currently in the post-cloud migration phase: Cloud Governance, preparing processes and people for a state-of-the-art way of working. That is busy, but worth every minute, she says from the head office in Almere.
Alfen, a typical silent force: you don’t hear much about them, but in the meantime their products and services are decisive in the Netherlands. Do you plug into a socket somewhere? Then there is a good chance that the tapped power has been made ready for use in one of the many transformer stations.
“Alfen is both the core and the linking pin of the electricity grid, providing transformer stations, energy storage systems, charging stations for electric vehicles as well as a range of other products and services. With its broad array of products developed in-house and considerable experience as a systems integrator, Alfen is building the electricity grid of the future: reliable, sustainable and innovative.”Alfen
Alfen, founded in 1937, became big with it and is still the main supplier of transformer stations in the Netherlands. Yet that is only part of the story. Alfen produces systems that make the power grid smarter (the so-called smart grid) and also specializes in the production of electric charging stations and energy storage systems. For example, there is a bit of Alfen technology in most aspects of our daily lives.
When the company went public in 2018 and showed the same patterns as Elon Musk’s company, journalist Malini Witlox quickly made the comparison:
“America has Tesla, we have Alfen.”Malini Witlox
Before the digital transformation, Alfen was already using cloud technology. After all, the smart power grid is made smart by the Internet of Things, with which you use sensors to collect real-time data about the condition of equipment and components. Before this, the organisation already had several cloud applications running. However, as they wanted all of the benefits from the Cloud, they knew they needed to deploy cloud technology organisation-wide.
That means: making the cloud the basis of all internal and external processes. That was the reason Alfen brought the experts from Rapid Circle on board in 2020. Together with the IT team, they mapped out the application landscape and supervised the start of the cloud migration.
“When I started at Alfen in December last year, their cloud adoption was already quite high. So we didn’t have to start at Zero.”Roxana van der Hoogt, IT director at Alfen
In addition, Roxana already knew Rapid Circle from the past. She had already seen a number of consultants at work and agreed with the Rapid Circle vision on Cloud Governance: focus on culture, processes and especially on people. It was therefore logical for Roxana that they would continue to work together in the follow-up process.
Many newly migrated organisations jump into the newly deployed cloud technology and forget that the processes and way of working are still the same. The result is that you work in the same way as before the migration, but from the Cloud. And then cloud technology doesn’t make that much sense. “Cloud requires a different way of working together,” says Roxana. To achieve this, she started working with Cloud Governance: an approach that allows you to adapt processes to the new situation in the Cloud and combine expertise in such a way that you make optimal use of the new technologies.
“When I started, there was already quite good collaboration between IT and the business at Alfen. People from different areas of expertise put their heads together and worked together as DevOps teams. Still, there was still work to be done. Developers are technically ahead. At the same time, the business has specific requirements for that technology. That is why we had to talk more back and forth.”Roxana van der Hoogt, IT director at Alfen
In addition to setting up new forms of cooperation, time was also made available for training the employees. After all, working cloud-native requires different skills, knowledge and routines. Communication with suppliers and partner companies also became more intensive. Thanks to the new cloud technology, they could more easily link their systems with those of Alfen, so that they can now work closely together and be part of the transformation.
Alfen’s Cloud Governance Story
In line with the Rapid Circle tradition, Alfen has now focused all its attention on People, Processes & Technology. Employees are trained in the cloud and spread this knowledge throughout the organisation. They also maintain contact with internal stakeholders such as the CFO and the Security Officer.
Rapid Circle expert Eric Groot plays an important role in this story. He has implemented the Rapid Circle Cloud Governance Framework and is involved in cloud migration and adoption as a Cloud Architect. This has great advantages, because Eric, as a Cloud Architect, has been at the drawing table himself and can now implement his ideas together with Alfen’s development teams. Together they work towards the larger goal that Roxana has set: to turn the IT department from a cost cent irento an enabler of innovative technologies.
“Ultimately, I want IT to not only respond to business needs, but also identify, test and come up with ideas on technology trends itself”Roxana van der Hoogt, IT director at Alfen
A good example of this role as an enabler is the contribution that cloud makes in the field of innovation. Thanks to cloud technology and well-thought-out architecture choices, Alfen’s services could be further improved in terms of availability and scalability. For example, charging stations can be configured from an app and large customers can link their systems to Alfen’s back office. Thanks to this constant exchange of information, the entire chain can be modernised.
A simple example: it will soon be possible to give a specific technician access to a charging station at a specific time, so that the service level improves and risks are minimised. At the same time, the charging station continuously collects data, which is forwarded via cloud applications and used for predictive maintenance. In addition, cloud makes it easier to quickly roll out services that already exist in the Netherlands in other countries. For example, the digital transformation also contributes significantly to Alfen’s international growth plans.
“I am extremely proud of the steps we have taken with cloud technology. Everything we do is at the highest level of functionality, connectivity and security. We now also have a network in which developers, sales, aftersales and suppliers work closely together and bundle their expertise. Our cloud journey is a great example of what such a journey should look like and the collaboration with Rapid Circle has made an important contribution to this.”
“Developers are ahead in the technical field. At the same time, the business has specific requirements for that technology. Ultimately, I want IT to not only respond to business wishes, but also to identify, test and come up with ideas on technological trends. Everything we do now is at the highest level of functionality, connectivity and security.”Roxana van der Hoogt, IT director at Alfen