More than a corporate headquarters building, Eneco World reflects a philosophy about bringing people together to collaborate and innovate. To improve productivity and efficiency, Dutch energy supplier Eneco turned to Macaw—a trusted Microsoft Gold Partner—for help in developing an app that would provide an easy way for nearly 3,000 employees to find the space they needed to meet and work together. Eneco met that challenge with Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based services, using PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI to develop the RoomFinder app that now connects people and ideas.
Eneco provides energy to 2.2 million households and businesses in the Netherlands. To keep the lights on in people’s homes and offices, the organization needs to run efficiently. Until recently, however, the 3,000 employees who work at Eneco headquarters in Rotterdam were constantly competing for private meeting rooms and workspaces.
“We’re one of the biggest energy companies in the region,” says Tom van der Burg, Manager, Workplace and Document Management, at Eneco. “Growing in renewable resources, energy supply, and innovative services is the most important thing we do. We advise people about how they can lower their energy bills in a green and renewable way, so making sure our teams have what they need to stay innovative—and to give them the space they need to collaborate— is essential to our business and our customers.”
A working philosophy
Partly owned by the state, Eneco is gradually moving to privatization, which has created a need for a more modern workspace. The headquarters building was designed in 2012 to provide employees with a dynamic and sustainable environment. It brought together workers from six locations, reducing travel between offices and the company’s carbon footprint. The open floorplan provides employees with a flexible space to maximize creativity and encourage innovative thinking and collaboration.
“We call the building Eneco World,” says Tom van der Burg, Manager, Workplace and Document Management, at Eneco. “There are other Eneco locations, but we’re primarily in one building together—one big open workspace.” When Eneco moved to the new building, it also moved to the cloud by deploying Microsoft Office 365. “After we relocated, we didn’t want to have paper archives or physical documents anymore,” van der Burg continues. “That’s when we moved to Office 365 and SharePoint Online to streamline workflows and consolidate files.”
Room for improvement
Although Eneco employees benefited from having everyone in the same office, it soon became difficult to find available conference rooms and quiet workspaces. Eneco employees were using default room booking functionality in Microsoft Exchange to book the official meeting rooms at the headquarters building, but there were also approximately 200 smaller rooms for which employees need access on a daily basis. These include concentration rooms for one or two employees to use for quiet work or collaboration, small meeting, and scrum rooms for project teams.
Until recently, employees would search the 14 floors to find open meeting rooms and put their names on sheets of paper to reserve them. “It’s a big building,” says Ferry Bouwman, Technical Lead for Office 365 at Eneco. “If I’m on the second floor, I don’t know if there’s a room available on the thirteenth floor, for example.” Another challenge was that only rooms on the three floors, which the company calls Eneco Village, could be reserved for meetings with colleagues outside of Eneco. Rooms on other floors were set aside for internal meetings, but they could not be reserved.
“In 2017, one department held a Challenge Day to encourage competition to build an app that might provide a solution, but that became an expensive proposition,” says van der Burg. “So, they turned to us and said, ‘You’ve got PowerApps. Maybe you can make something work.’”
A custom room finder app
The solution was the result of a collaboration of Microsoft Partner Macaw, Eneco’s Office 365 Competence Center, and end users. Macaw used Microsoft PowerApps in Office 365 to design a custom app for Eneco and Microsoft Power BI to support reporting and predictive data analytics.
“We started by charting Eneco’s requirements on a whiteboard,” says Erik Bouman, Solution Consultant for Office 365 at Macaw. “By accessing data about available rooms, we built functions that would provide meeting organizers with a list of rooms and time slots. It was important that the app be as user-friendly as possible. PowerApps made the development process quick and easy.”
The team used Microsoft Flow to automate the reservation process. “If you book a room within the app, the appointment is saved in the SharePoint list, but the process happens in Flow,” says van der Burg. Based on the change in the list, Flow is triggered to send out reminders and notifications to employees. If the reminder is not confirmed, Flow takes care of removing the booking. “That’s how we make sure the rooms are being used,” he continues. “In addition to that, an information Power BI dashboard is created to be able to closely monitor usage of the app as well as the actual usage of rooms.”
It took about five weeks for the team to develop and deploy the app, and that included adding the custom Eneco design. After the app was launched, van der Burg published an announcement on the company’s SharePoint-based intranet and Yammer. “After the first week, people realized they didn’t have to put paper notes on doors anymore,” he says.
Employee reactions and corporate benefits
Convenience is one of the biggest benefits for employees using the RoomFinder app. “Now, when I’m at home at 7:00 in the morning, I can check to see if there’s a room available for later in the day and reserve it on my mobile device,” says van der Burg.
The feedback button was an essential function in the first version of the app. “There was a lot of positive feedback,” says van der Burg. “Many of our colleagues said, ‘This is great. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.’ And others made suggestions for improvement.” By the second version, there were even more positive reactions.
Using PowerApps, the team realized considerable savings in development costs. According to van der Burg, the cost of developing the application with Macaw was one-third of what the cost would have been by building it with the OutSystems platform that Eneco had used in the past to develop applications for end customers. “The major cost would have been involved in all the maintenance needed to keep developing the app,” van der Burg says. “That’s where PowerApps was a major benefit. And we were able to use Power BI and the security benefits that come with the Office 365 E5 license.”
In addition to the time saved by scheduling meetings through the RoomFinder app, Eneco reduced overall meeting costs. “In the past, we knew there was meeting space available, but it was not visible to our employees. So, they scheduled a lot of external meetings,” says van der Burg. “We’d go to another company or to a hotel and pay to reserve a room. Now, everyone can use the app to find available space within our own building.”
There is a greater feeling of community across the organization. “I think Eneco World is more open because of the app,” says van der Burg. “Now that we’re booking rooms on other floors, it triggers people to leave their floor and see other colleagues. It’s really increasing collaboration, which is part of the Eneco mission.”
The app is also inspiring new ideas. “Before, no one knew what PowerApps was,” says Ferry Bouwman. “After launching RoomFinder, people are thinking about other possibilities. They’re thinking that, if this works, there may be other problems that we can solve with PowerApps as well.”
In the past, we had to go through the whole building to check whether a room was available. Now, we can use our mobile devices to reserve a room before we even get to the office."
- Tom van der Burg
Manager, Workplace and Document Management