CIO50 2018 #26-50: Phil Ridley, Mojo Power
The retail energy sector is an old, heavily regulated and crowded market that is biased to favour the big incumbents. Although electricity is a commodity product, end consumers bear the brunt of market limitations and inefficiencies as well as opposing state and federal government agendas, says Mojo Power’s CIO, Phil Ridley.
Ridley says it’s hard to stand out and be different for consumers amongst all the shouting. When Mojo was established, the team wanted to create a 100 per cent digital business – one with low overheads, a better carbon footprint, transparent energy pricing, and rich data for consumers to help them better understand how they used their energy.
The plan was to build a data-intensive business which would require technology capabilities that were new to the utilities sector. These included a cloud native platform, a pure digital acquisition model, a fleet of IoT-enabled smart meters, advanced mobile and smart speaker apps, a micro services architecture, and data platform to drive automation bots and reports.
“Without this, Mojo could only offer the same basic customer billing and disappearing discount features as other energy retailers,” says Ridley.
For Mojo to offer energy cost transparency and disrupt the traditional sector, the organisation needed to provide more information than standard ‘dumb’ electricity meters could supply. These meters only read every three months and provide no insights at all as to usage profiles or time-of-day patterns, he says.
To solve this problem, Mojo deployed internet-connected smart meters across NSW and QLD that provided more granular data – through 30 minute updates – and more detailed inverter consumption and export data from those customers who had solar systems.
“Having time-of-day data enabled Mojo to correlate customer usage patterns, local weather conditions, real-time wholesale prices and other factors that help identify opportunities for consumers to save money,” he says.
The company also worked with its metering partners to create an IoT-enabled real time usage capability which was additional to and ‘out-of-band’ of the national energy market’s standard data feeds. This can be used by customers to determine how individual appliances in their home affect the overall usage.
A unique offering
Ridley says that no other retailer has the same granularity of usage data for its customer base. Incumbent energy retailers have no financial incentive to help consumers reduce their power consumption and bills because they profit from usage, he claims.
“Mojo is motivated for its consumers to use and spend less on electricity and has the data and systems to open opportunities for this,” he says.
“Our customers can understand how they use energy in their home and what they can do to reduce the cost of their power bills. From changing the time of day when appliances are used to understanding the realised benefits of their solar system – or how much money they’d save by installing one of a certain size – to weekly energy usage insights, we help customers save on their electricity bill.”
The new tech battleground
Ridley believes that the raw materials used to create IT business capabilities are much better today than they once were. A new generation of consumers are also demanding much more from technology.
Now that a lot of technical integration, function and scale issues have been dealt with or at least shifted to the cloud and we certainly have been software creation frameworks than in the past,” he says.
“The new battleground has moved to the next business layer. That layer is speed-to-market, super customer experience and data-driven behaviour and actions,” he says.
“A good CIO should focus on making sure the wheels underpinning the organisation are still spinning but they spend equal time on business and digitisation or how technology creates opportunities through innovation and knowledge from data.
“I’m not yet convinced of the argument that the CIO is by definition a safe-hands role and the CDO is a mover and shaker role and is a new and additional need. For me, that compartmentalises thinking and creates an opportunity for friction where there shouldn’t be. I think in an organisation that already functions well, these roles could potentially be one and the same.”