Digital TNB: Big task ahead for Tenaga Nasional’s IT

During his officiating speech at Share/Guide’s 2018 annual conference and ICT awards last September, Deputy Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Eddin Syazlee Shith, had pointed out the importance of a representative body for IT users, to provide the leadership required to play a bigger role in the nation’s economy planning.

“I would like to encourage Share/Guide to share these success stories with the general public as well for a wider coverage among IT users in our country.”

EITN recently caught up with one of the winners, Tenaga Nasional Berhad or TNB to talk about its winning entry, Android Billing. TNB’s Head of ICT Strategy and Partnership, Muhammad Fahzan Abdul Hamid said, “Interestingly, we need to announce the drivers behind the solution. The key was to empower our field force team.

“A previous system operated on ageing and obsolete hardware so software was limited and our operating system Windows CE was also limited (and limiting).”

During the one year of implementation, all hardware and software was replaced, and the Android Billing solution was created, complemented by a lightweight printer that meter readers can carry so they can issue bills immediately.

“In terms of delivery, we are quite matured because we have a DevOps model. There are projects that are lagging because of integrations with so many systems within TNB; legacy systems tend to require consideration of many other areas.

“But when we see something important that can also be accelerated, then we have the delivery team push it through,” Fahzan explained.

He also cautioned that many studies have to be done involving the lines of business (LOBs) and architecture teams, before they can actually embark upon a project. This is contributing towards many other features that will be introduced later on for the Android Billing application.

“For example an Uber-type meter reader whereby we empower the public to read meters for TNB. Also, there will be gamification features to excite them. These are in the pipeline,” Fahzan pointed out.

Information technology and operational technology

The utilities business is an operational tech intensive business, and for our national incumbent, the criticality of its nationwide grid infrastructure cannot be emphasised enough.

The energy incumbent had also announced a “Reimagining TNB” transformation initiative in late 2016, and the initiative reflects their changing business model and new focus on renewable energy sources.

But not much has been reported about the use of information technologies to enable this transformation.

That said, TNB’s ICT division has been able to showcase their capabilities with other award winning projects besides Android Billing.

For example, their business intelligence project, a computerised maintenance management system, and also a mobile app for consumers to monitor their consumption.

Fahzan shared, “According to internal studies, typical IT spending for a utilities companies is about four-percent of their operating expenditure. This is 2017 data and in our case, our IT spend is slightly below that.

“However, we do see the numbers increasing because we are undergoing massive transformation within the company.

“Tech is very important to us. It is like a catalyst to help the organisation become a digital TNB by 2025. And it’s a big task ahead for the ICT division of course.”

For example, number of systems requested by LOBs have increased significantly to about 200, at time of writing.

“We will find ways to address those requests,” he concluded.