Building a service ecosystem around energy grid expansion and maintenance

shng hero image and Smart Extranet UI

The challenge

For our long-term client Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG, of SHNG, member of the E.ON family, we were tasked to improve communication, planning and invoicing processes between SHNG and its numerous partner companies, which build and maintain the power grid in the Northern Germany countryside. 

We kicked off the project early 2017. Challenges included:

  • Replacing several old or outdated tools which suffered from insufficient usability and UX with one single contemporary digital solution that allows for effortless work experience.
  • Reducing the number of necessary phone calls as well as paper communication.
  • Gathering all order-related data in one place.
energy grid construction
power grid ecosystem

Our approach

The project started out with an intense research phase including field research at the construction site to allow our designers and developers to understand the current processes, preferences, everyday work routines and needs of the users.

We mapped the current system architecture and data, tracked which type of documents the users pass back and forth, the expert vocabulary they use, which roles are involved in the whole ecosystem, and what exactly it is each user group struggles with most in their daily work. Some of the pain points we found were:

• Too many tools necessary, these tools are data silos

• Software is outdated and insufficient usability causes friction

• Often duplicate data input necessary, missing automation

• Entirely different looking views for different roles hinders communication

• A lot of information exists only on paper

• Frequent phone calls between involved parties are necessary

What we did

  • Applied user-centric, research-based methods and ensured validated feature implementation
  • Created one single ecosystem with modules for SHNG project leads, suppliers, as well as other several roles
  • Replaced multiple outdated tools
  • Created a clear UI that our users understand without trainings
  • Designed equal views for different roles wherever possible
  • Displayed complex expert tasks in the simplest way possible
  • Increased the speed of processing orders, planning construction work and writing invoices
  • Increased automation and digitalisation where-ever possible to reduce manual work and paper usage
  • Achieved high levels of user happiness, see survey insights below
Smart Extranet screens
Timeline Smart Extranet
EKN design system

Multi-brand design system as by-product

As our work on the service ecosystem progressed, other grid operators belonging to the E.ON enterprise expressed their wish to adopt Smart Extranet for their own processes.

In a series of workshops, we collected the needs of Westnetz, Bayernwerk and Avacon, who would be next in line.

While the different company-specific features were prioritized and designed, the technical foundations for the integration of additional grid operators were established.

To ensure the adaptability of our designs, we introduced a whitelabel system to switch easily between company brands. 

Order journey

The value of user centricity

User survey results, April 2020 – 151 responses
of SHNG-internal users are satisfied or very satisfied with Smart Extranet.of users on the supplier side are satisfied or very satisfied with Smart Extranet.
of users from supplier side perceive the processing of an order as faster or much faster.of users from supplier side perceive the creation of an invoice as faster than before.

“Das ist mir zu einfach. 😉 Bisher haben wir ja geklickt wie die Weltmeister.”

Smart Extranet USER
user centric methods