Case Study Summary
Essential Energy’s last fleet refresh was completed over four years ago, and with 3100 staff (office and field) this is an extensive project for their IT team. With many of their employees working remotely, repeating the previous in-person, labour-intensive refresh wasn’t a feasible option.
The Essential Energy team came up with a reimagined fleet refresh concept and enlisted Rapid Circle to help build a Power Platform product, utilising their existing stack and licensing. This allowed and empowered employees to self-service.
Once invited, staff, based on their identified personas, are empowered to choose their new device and have it delivered to their home. The app then automates wiping of any sensitive data, and assists in organising the return of their old device, all while giving the IT team visibility and up to date reporting during the process.
Essential Energy is a NSW state-owned corporation with responsibility for building, operating and maintaining Australia’s largest electricity network, delivering essential network services to more than 885,000 homes and businesses across New South Wales and parts of southern Queensland.
We interviewed Chris Thompson, Essential Energy’s eTech and Customer Services Manager, the owner of this project, to share his experience in creating The Fleet Refresh App, for this case study.
In 2022 Essential Energy identified the need to start replacing 2,200 laptops across the organisation. Their IT team are highly experienced in fleet refreshes, always proactively upgrading devices before end of life to avoid downtime, with an existing working process.
Previously, IT contractors would arrange appointments with individuals, sometimes in remote locations, which often required travel and accommodation. Or, the staff member would be required to travel into the office and take time out of their day to have their device wiped and replaced, which many viewed as a disruption to their productivity.
Whilst this process worked, there were issues such as:
- Delays caused due to unactioned emails, confusing others assisting in the process
- Lack of tracking visibility for devices
- Manual status reporting, and
- Reliance on manual email reminders and call follow-ups
With the initial concept and requirements in mind, Chris Thompson and Andrew Barrett (Customer Relationship Manager at Rapid Circle) set to work on building out an A-team.
The Rapid Circle team was formed strategically, and the allocated specialists were chosen to complement Essential Energy’s existing team, enabling both teams to play to their strengths during the project.
“It instantly felt like a good match, to work together on this. The experience and bandwidth that we were lacking, Rapid Circle were able come in with the knowledge of M365, Power Automate and SharePoint Listings, and come up with a solution based on our concept”– Chris Thompson
The partnership gained strength during a lot of back and forth between the Essential Energy team and the Rapid Circle Microsoft Specialists, with the iOS idea shelved and a new idea around using SharePoint and Power Automate awakened. An agnostic solution which would work on any device, which also utilised their current Microsoft licensing, immediately saving costs.
As the idea grew and evolved, so did the requirements, as the Essential Energy team gained feedback and understanding around further constraints and user base factors they needed to consider, whilst leveraging the technology they had in their current stack.
“Agile is a key word that I’d use around the engagement. The requirements were evolving and to Rapid Circle’s credit, they evolved with the requirements. There was a strong project schedule, but it was flexible, so we shifted a few things around to deliver milestones, and there was flexibility around delivery, which is why we ended up with a really great product.”– Chris Thompson
How it works:
- Employees were invited to the fleet refresh app through an email, which opens the portal.
- The app recognises their work persona, based off their role and identified needs, and shows them what devices are available to them. E.g. 3-4 types of Dell laptops in sizes from 13’’ – 15’’.
- The employyee chooses their device, provide a delivery address and then waits for it’s arrival. Throughout they can view tracking to see where it is and when it will arrive.
- Once the device arrives, the portal takes them through the set-up and automates the wiping of the old device, and then assists in organising the return of the old one. This process can be paused at any point, enabling the staff member to work, take important meetings and phone calls, while the new device is booting up, minimising impact on their day.
- That’s it. The new device is set up and the employee can enjoy working from their new device. The IT team has received data at each point of the process, keeping their reporting up to date, allowing them better support the occasional employee who may need extra help.
The devices are picked up by their device partner, providing a return on investment, and staff are able to buy back their favourite device at a fair price, serviced, in great condition and under warrantee.
“You’ve been trusted to work at home, and now you’ve been trusted to choose your own device, set it up at a time that’s convenient for you and to return it in a timely manner as well.”– Chris Thompson
The Essential Energy and Rapid Circle team are incredibly proud of the results of this project.
This round of the fleet refresh has gone swimmingly, with only a few busy people left who are yet to complete the process, and due to great, up to date reporting, the IT team know exactly who they are.
“It’s a good news story for our team, we haven’t received any negative feedback around the app experience and people found it really easy to use, which was our main focus.”– Chris Thompson
The fleet refresh isn’t over, the next step is to replace all the field devices and monitors, so there will be another small project with Rapid Circle to make the adjustments to the app for the final part of this project. Fortunately, the app was originally built with this in mind, keeping it agile for all future fleet refreshes, with plenty of potential to evolve it for more benefits.
“All the work we’ve done with Rapid Circle has future planning in mind.”– Chris Thompson
The efficiencies gained from the new process is a benefit for Essential Energy’s employees and most importantly their customers, ensuring minimal downtime from employees and no wastage.
- Creating, distributing and tracking scheduled device refreshes for groups of employees
- Data entry occurs in the app, automatically updating status
- Devices are now shipped directly from the supplier to employee
- Employees can set-up the new device via prompts, checklist, and instruction guides
- The app ensures that all steps are taken, and nothing is missed, such as wiping a device
- There’s automated reminder prompts for the end-user to wipe their device
- End of device lifecycle data e.g. status of returned old
- Admins can search, modify information on assets, schedules, locations, and users
What an overwhelming success! Essential Energy’s re-imagined Fleet Refresh Portal solution has enabled them to overcome the obstacle of getting devices to their remote workforce without delay.
“Rapid Circle’s knowledge of the Microsoft space, and their specialists enabled delivery on our vision, delivering modern ways of working.”
“It’s clear that Rapid Circle wanted this project to be a success, the product to be delivered on time and a successful implementation,”-Chris Thompson
“We’ve ticked every box, reducing the cost of a project, improved user experience, delivery of the project on time, automation, time savings, and a robust process going forward.”
“It’s simplified something that’s usually a painful process that no one looks forward to every four years, and it’s repeatable, can be updated easily and the user experience was a simple one.”