Is the application of dashboards a temporary trend? Can a graphic insight into complex information help organizations in becoming leaner and more efficient? The latter applies to network administrator Enexis. “We are now much more inclined to speak one common language.” The Next View supported the development of dashboards at Enexis as part of their KUBIS project.
Project leader Rob Wilcke is the most important dashboard evangelist at Enexis.
Enexis manages the energy grid in the northern, eastern and southern parts of the Netherlands. The network administrator is responsible for the transportation of gas and electricity from diverse energy suppliers to approximately 2.6 million customers. Rob Wilcke is the Infra Services project manager at Enexis. His unit is responsible for the development and maintenance of the infrastructure that supply electricity and gas.
Wilcke has worked in various positions, mostly related to R&D, at companies such as Philips, GE and Dräger Medical. In recent years, he has shifted his attention from the development and optimization of physical products -from remote controls to ventilators- to optimizing processes. “Enexis is a complex business with many processes. There are people who interact within these processes and with each other and with other parties. I find that very interesting. Streamlining this complexity gives me great pleasure.” Enexis originated from Essent. That company was born when the provincial power companies PNEM/MEGA and EDON merged.
“The history and culture of the old companies can be found within Enexis, even though it has changed into a completely. People are proud of this company.” However, Wilcke does regularly notice the former, more official culture is still latent. “This is no longer appropriate.” says Wilcke. “Times have changed. We have to go with the flow becoming more efficient, lean and mean.” The pressure is on. Enexis customers, for example, may only be deprived of electricity for 11 minutes, on average, per year. This requires perfectly maintained systems and streamlined processes.
Infrastructure Services created the KUBIS (in Dutch, Kwaliteit Uniformiteit en Betrouwbaarheid van de rapportages van Infra Services) (in English, Quality, Uniformity and Reliability of Infra Services reports) in its efforts to retain its reliability and affordable as a network manager. The program’s aim was to be able to manage, make the right choices and achieve results at all levels, ranging from the director to the team manager. KUBIS contained numerous projects that all had one thing in common: they supported the transition from reporting to analysis and from commanding to managing.” We made too many reports,” states Wilcke. Solely within Infra Service research showed that 127 people were frequently involved with reports. KUBIS changed this. It was time to simplify, it is time for less hassle.”
One of the tools to realise KUBIS, were the sophisticated dashboards that increased the clarity of Infra Services’ Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The Infra Services’ KPIs were in turn connected to Exexis’ central KPIs. That allows people at various levels to be able to see how their daily activities contribute to achieving Enexis’ objectives.
The Next View supported Enexis with the development of these dashboards. “The visuals are extremely important,” says Wilcke. “Previously we reported in grey tables, but now you can see at a glance where you stand. Issues that deserve attention, get red bullet points. With the touch of a button you can drill down into the issue, helping you to quickly figure things out. Compared to before, this kind of analysis much more accessible, more direct and intuitive.” Whilst Enexis develops the new dashboards it is also working to simplify the system’s environment so that the quality of the underlying data can be guaranteed.
What is the secret of a clear dashboard? Wilcke, a self-appointed dashboard evangelist and lifelong experiencer of tried and tested developments of products and interfaces, believes that the way they are developed plays an important role. “Pieter Hendrikx, from The Next View, truly listens. He listens to your problem, quickly makes a prototype and let you test it right away. He puts his own knowledge and expertise into the design, but he draws you into the process. Together you navigate towards the best solution. We don’t write up many specifications before we start, as that would be a waste of time. You will always end up missing, what I call the ‘unspoken requirements’. By talking with each other, you quickly know whether you're on the right track.”
KUBIS was a success. The dashboards contributed significantly to this success. Wilcke: “We saw that the people who use the dashboards asked many more questions. Added to that colleagues could now, not only view their department’s results, they could also take a look at other department’s results. Due to the fact that everyone was on the same page information wise, it became much easier to talk about that data. We are now much more inclined to speak one common language.”
Dashboards can be seen as contagious, observes Wilcke. “Suddenly teams saw very clearly that other teams were doing much better. This then led to the lesser team wanting to know how the better team did this. You saw them very quickly learn from each other. Knowledge spread like a virus. We also realised that people put more effort into their work if their results are understandable. Employees can see that they are a part of a bigger picture and look at what their daily activities and actions contribute to the final result.”