The past weekend on the 16th of January we celebrated zelospark’s first birthday. The first of many to come. At zelospark it has been all hands on deck the past year, we have been working on the optimization of our byNeuron ENERGY platform. I had the pleasure to interview 2 of the co-founders of zelospark. CEO Frederik Baert and CPO Jorn Oosterwijk, give you a look behind the scenes and into the future of byNeuron ENERGY.
How is the energy market changing?
Frederik: The energy market and regulations concerning the topic are quite complex, and we see many differences across borders. Also, there is a tendency to more decentralized and less predictable but renewable energy assets, like solar, wind, … not only on a business level but also on a consumer level. Integration of these assets poses issues for the grid, which need to be overcome in a very complex system. Most of the energy suppliers are not prepared for this change to provide integrated end-2-end services around renewable assets to the market in a cost-effective manner.
How did byNeuron ENERGY start?
Jorn: The idea for byNeuron ENERGY formed a while ago. We have the experience that current IT solutions for energy service providers are mostly a burden, instead of an enabler for commercial success, operational excellence, and innovation. This results in different workarounds and tools around the system causing a higher cost to serve. We also see that a lot of parties in the market are struggling with new renewable technology, more data, and changing regulations.
Frederik: byNeuron Energy started from a vision as a digital platform to solve the many challenges of energy suppliers. On the one hand from an internal operational perspective: of creation, follow-up, and insight into the complex administrative processes and mostly automated handling of these. And on the other hand, from an externally more customer-oriented perspective: ensuring that new products and solutions can be marketed in a fast way, while at the same time supporting the acceleration of the energy transition by dynamically controlling optimal use of solar panels, charging stations, and batteries to the benefit of the customer based on price.
Can you tell a bit more about byNeuron ENERGY
Frederik: byNeuron is a unique vertically integrated and modular #energytech platform. It is a modern ERP and IoT solution for Energy companies. It supports different functional domains: from commercial operations (product management, pricing and quoting, contract fulfillment) to back-office operations (invoicing, meter data management) and market messaging for energy suppliers. byNeuron supports commodity (electricity, gas, water, heat…) and non-commodity products and services (solar panels, maintenance services…) as well. Next to the ERP modules, byNeuron can actively manage and operate energy assets on 1 or multiple sites or buildings. It is a fully modular platform, so every functional module can be implemented separately and integrate seamlessly within your existing application landscape.
What are the key characteristics of byNeuron ENERGY?
Jorn: We designed byNeuron ENERGY with a couple of principles in mind: Process Driven, Product Driven, and User-Centric. We always get back to these principles when introducing new features to the platform.
What does this mean in practice for your customers?
Jorn: We always get back to these principles when introducing new features to the platform:
Process Driven: means that every business process for an energy service provider, is transparent and can be tracked and traced. The knowledge of business processes is with the business, although we made it possible for business users to change or even add new processes. This makes it possible to quickly adapt to new regulations or new customer segments. For example, when a specific segment requires some additional checks or when the process for interaction with market parties needs to be changed. No programmer required.
Product Driven: A product in our platform is not only defined for commercial purposes, it also defines the operational fulfillment after selling the product. We have built it like this to ensure that what you sell can also be invoiced and serviced.
We achieve this by splitting up the product configuration into different domains: for example, sales, sourcing, market messaging, metering… – per domain the business can define its own rules, but in the final product configuration this needs to be aligned end-2-end. One of the greater advantages our solution has is that product modules can be standardized and reused in different products. This speeds up the time to market for commercial products while being consistent and compliant. We all know that with standardized products and services (e.g., Lean/Six Sigma), the chance of errors is reduced, and therefore the cost to serve as well
User-Centric: as you have probably noticed in the other principles, we center around our users, giving insight to users in business processes and giving responsibilities end-to-end to users in different parts of the business for a successful product. Besides, we make use of what we call “360 views”. These views are centered around a business concept, for example, “Customers” or “Assets”. All relevant related information is shown consistently. For example, invoices or contracts related to the customer, or related timeseries or documents. Our vision is that any piece of information should be accessible via different entry points and within 3 clicks.
Share your top goals for byNeuron ENERGY
Frederik: The byNeuron Energy platform focuses on 4 areas: Innovate, Engage, Operate and Integrate:
Innovate: Ensure that new services can be brought to market quickly. In combination with dynamic control of energy assets, new revenue models for energy suppliers are also possible: for example – automatically balancing solar production with electric car charging stations
Engage: The customer should be central, this means that you have to offer transparency to your customer about what happens to his questions, contracts, complaints. Engage with your customer so he can do more things himself, increasing customer satisfaction while lowering your cost to serve
Operate: It is important that suppliers can be very cost-efficient, which is why we continuously focus on providing insight on every aspect of the value chain, ranging from the metering, market, contract, and other operational processes. Most of these processes are fully automated, and if something goes wrong you have an immediate context to solve it as quickly as possible!
Integrate: Based on open APIs and connectors, we can easily integrate with other systems without losing sight of our integrated process operation.
What differentiates byNeuron ENERGY from other platforms on the market?
Frederik: byNeuron Energy stands out from other software in the market by the highly advanced vertical integration of functionality specifically targeted to the modern energy supplier. We combine an IoT solution for the management of energy assets together with a solution for the more process-driven administrative side for meter-to-cash functionality in one platform, one technological stack, and enable the flexible configuration of this. This ensures that you don’t have to combine all kinds of different solutions with the longer development times and complex integrations as a result. By using byNeuron Energy you can quickly develop an integrated offering for your customer.
What is your long-term Strategic Vision for the platform? Where do you see byNeuron ENERGY within a year?
Frederik: The long-term vision for byNeuron ENERGY is to enable and speed up the energy transition towards renewable energy and to provide a platform that benefits the customer at the same time. With our platform energy suppliers are capable of lowering the cost-to-serve from an operational perspective. They can engage with the customer in more innovative ways by leveraging our IoT capabilities and provide insights into energy efficiency. While at the same time maximizing the return on flexibility, and finally being able to integrate with other parties to form an ecosystem and provide more value to the customer base.
One last question: What is your favorite feature?
Jorn: My favorite feature can be found everywhere on the platform. It’s the insight and transparency we enable for business processes. This is a huge improvement compared to legacy systems, which tend to be more blackbox solutions in which finding and solving problems are very hard. If you even realize that there is a problem… Instead, we enable our users to view what goes well at all times yet solve what goes wrong and continue business as usual.