Italgas has an internal force that fuels the digital transformation in its business processes. That force is the Digital Factory, a real factory of ideas and solutions.
We are going inside the four Digital Rooms to talk to the members of the different multifunctional teams, understand how they work and discover results coming from current projects.
Here Italgas applies innovative technologies and develops new competencies, using a method based on agility. With a very clear mission: to accelerate its path to becoming a frontier company.
For how long will the Digital Factory remain active?
Italgas believes that it is essential to generate internally the ideas and tools needed for the digitization of business processes, experimenting innovative technologies and adopting a learning-by-doing approach. Therefore, we have projected the Digital Factory as a permanent lab, hosted in a 1,000 square meters space – in Milan’s headquarters – designed to foster a new way to work. Started in November 2018, the Digital Factory has already launched the first solutions in March 2019, followed by additional deliveries later in July 2019, and will continue to generate useful solutions for its business every four months.
How is the Digital Factory team composed?
In the Digital Factory, we are currently 70 people, among Italgas employees and external consultants/developers. However, our spaces can hold up to 150 people, since we are planning to involve small to medium enterprises, startups and university research institutes able to propose and develop, with our support, applications that will prove to be helpful to Italgas and its customers.
What are the objectives of each Digital Room?
Operating in a ‘Time and Budget boxed’ way, the rooms deal with one major business issue or opportunity at a time. After 16 weeks, they release a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), i.e. the minimum solution that meets the needs addressed.
What happens once a project has been validated?
The results that we have achieved go to the ICT division, which make them operational as soon as possible. The Digital Factory is not an isolated reality, but it is located at the heart of a well-defined ecosystem: alongside the project development in the Digital Rooms, Italgas is also working on a deep rethinking of the Applicative Map, through the adoption of Cloud-specific solutions. Basically, an effort to re-design the ICT ecosystem so that it can support the digitization of both network and processes.
How do you people work inside a Digital Room?
We have a truly innovative approach to work, as we have adopted the Agile and Design Thinking methodologies to achieve impactful results as quickly as possible. McKinsey, as a digital partner with great experience, is supporting us in this path, but the Italgas team is constantly growing, acquiring new competencies.
What are the advantages of the Agile approach?
Compared to a project realized in the traditional way, following the Waterfall sequence, the process following the Design Thinking and Agile method presents several advantages.
In the Digital Factory, customer’s needs and expectations are central: therefore, users are constantly involved during the whole project life cycle; moreover, as we operate with cross-functional teams, we can accelerate the decision making process and avoid misunderstanding.
The Design Thinking method allows the team to understand the real needs of all stakeholders and, at the same time, design the best solutions.
Once the design has been completed, Agile development reduces the release time of the first solution, which in the Waterfall case might take 12 months, allowing users to start testing the product much earlier and collect inputs that are essential to the finalization of the solution.
What are the common objectives among the different projects you are working on?
Firstly, all projects aim at introducing new digital techniques and developing IT solutions to improve both the customer service and the efficiency of business processes. A second common objective is to have a real-time vision of Italgas network, in order to intervene effectively. Lastly, a third goal characterizing the different projects is to manage the network optimally, starting with pipe laying and maintenance activities.
What are the first solutions produced by the Digital Rooms?
Our roadmap includes four Digital Rooms to be completed by the end of 2019, with the release of five MVPs.
In the first Digital Room, we created a dynamic model of scheduling, dispatching and engaging clients that allows for the optimization of field activity planning and the update of the user waiting for a technical intervention from Italgas. It is a project meant to provide benefits firstly in terms of service quality to the customer, who can be informed in real time on his appointment through Italgas portal, with a direct notification and a reminder sent three days before the scheduled date. Secondly, there are clear benefits for internal efficiency, as we replace the former daily planning with a dynamic planning based on team geolocalization and simplify administrative activities for workers, leveraging on guided accounting and data collection via optical probe.
What are the solutions coming from the other Digital Rooms?
In the second Digital Room, we created a new Integrated Monitoring Centre (IMC), where we added to the management of emergency calls also a proactive monitoring of the network, exploiting the data collected from IoT objects. This way, we are able to handle emergencies even faster and monitor the network proactively, operating with a predictive management. The new IMC, operational from July 2019, is hosted in a modern and functional place, specifically designed to manage a completely digital network, with ergonomic workstations for operators and a videowall where Analytics dashboards allow for an overall and real-time view on the whole Italgas network, facilitating the understanding of phenomena.
The third Digital Room focuses on the optimization of both supervision and testing of site activities. As Machine Learning solutions have increasingly automated remote controls, through the dematerialization of paper documents and the introduction of continuous feedback on site activities, we could reduce the time that technicians spend on site, simplify the processes and increase the collection of data needed for subsequent steps towards efficiency.
Lastly, in the fourth Digital Room, we worked on digital solutions for knowledge transfer, by using Mixed Reality to support the workers remotely and provide them with easy and immediate access to operative guides and best practices. This solution proves to be very helpful when it comes to dealing with complex activities or when we need to accelerate the learning path of people, as they can share their own view on field with the expert located at the headquarters and then follow the guided procedures from the visor in case of challenging situations. Lastly, by leveraging on the new digital tools, we will be able to codify both knowledge and field experience.