Mercury NZ Limited focuses on its core business of generation and retailing of electricity that is 100% from renewable sources, with nine Waikato River hydropower stations and five geothermal stations.
Every sector of every nation in the world has been caught off-guard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are fully equipped; some need a great deal of support. Fortunately, for the energy company Mercury NZ Limited (Mercury), the organisation’s early ICT investments paved the way in helping them and their customers forge ahead amidst the global crisis.
Kevin Angland, General Manager Retail and Digital at Mercury shared with CIO how the Auckland-headquartered company leveraged the early ICT systems upgrade in attending to its customers and employees’ needs during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Digital Transformation’s Fruition
In 2018, Mercury had officially completed the company’s two-year digital transformation programme of moving its core platform and SAP landscape into the cloud with Amazon Web Services. The project included rolling out SAP HANA real-time data platform and Hybris for its contact centre.
Hybris, the leading e-commerce and product content management software provider acquired by SAP in 2013, is now commonly referred to in the industry as SAP Hybris solutions. It is integrated under the SAP master brand into the wider SAP Customer Experience portfolio that features industry-leading cloud solutions such as SAP Customer Data Cloud, SAP Service Cloud, SAP Marketing Cloud, SAP Commerce Cloud, and SAP Sales Cloud.
“Right across the business, we have lifted everything that is hosted physically in Mercury into the cloud, and that was one of the drivers for the move to the new building in Newmarket. We did not want to be building a data centre or a new data room,” Angland said.
Mercury’s cloud initiative was started in 2015 and took a phased approach to mitigate the impact of the changed across the business, its people, processes, and technology. SAP was one of the last platforms that the organisation moved to the cloud.
Going Into Agile Working
The digital transformation programme included the move to Office 365 and going into Mercury’s agile working. In 2019, the company has moved 600 of its members to new purpose-built premises in Newmarket in Auckland where the entire desktop fleet was replaced by laptops.
“It was the concept of giving people freedom to do their best work and we recognised if we continue to run the desktop technology, then we were anchoring people to silos,” he said.
Before the COVID-19 situation, the Auckland measles outbreak had put Mercury’s readiness for a work from home set up to a test. Angland said:
“We asked some of the call centre staff to work from home. That gave us a good insight into the practicalities of running a call centre remotely,” he says.
Fast forward to today’s global dilemma, Mercury ran a full business continuity planning test in the weeks before the lockdown anticipating the probability of a work from home scheme. The ICT systems update done a few years ago coupled with the organisation’s readiness for unprecedented disruptions enabled its team members to easily pack away their laptops and continue working from home via a secure VPN connection even before the national lockdown.
Explaining more about agile working, Angland stated:
“What we expect is more people will work from home, and that will create additional capacity in the Newmarket building. That actually allows us to continue with agile hotdesk type working without compromising the safety and security of our people.”
Mercury has also leveraged the capability of Hiko, the chatbot they unveiled at the start of 2020. The energy company was able to maintain its service levels across all customer channels despite the surge of queries with the help of a chatbot, which averages 200 interactions a day.