Playful learning gives better solutions to the energy problem

03-12-2015

An interactive game that helps understand complex energy issues and generate better solutions. Such a game does not exist yet, but if it is up to IT specialist and game builder Casper Bodewitz, it will do soon.

IT architect Casper Bodewitz about what energy companies can learn from the gaming industry

At the recent conference ‘Game Changers’, organised by networking platform Young Energy Professionals (YEP) and held in Utrecht, Bodewitz, IT architect at strategy and IT consulting firm Paatz Scholz van der Laan, explained why ‘playful learning’ and an integrated IT system are now so important for energy companies.

Why should energy company be interested in integrated IT systems?

“The energy sector is constantly in motion. Supply and demand, the mix of sustainable and fossil energy, new players on the energy market, gas extraction slowly being reduced in Groningen. If you want to keep up with the rapidly changing market and assess risks and opportunities, then as a company you need an integrated information system. This means having an IT landscape that covers the entire energy chain and can also deal with this new dynamic. Production, procurement, sales, pricing, invoicing. All of those things which used to be separate islands, and which, occasionally, would exchange information. That never posed a problem, because before the separation between transport and sales, everything just went a lot slower. But that’s in the past now. You now see that companies that spotted this trend early on, are progressing more quickly than companies that are still starting out on that journey.”

Does the rule of the restrictive headstart apply here? That established energy companies have to compete against new market players that do not need to get rid of that old island culture?

“In general, that is the case. Because the market is becoming more liquid, established companies run the risk that new business models with flexible IT pass you by. For many established players, this change is still in its infancy. Also, because a lot of money is involved. But, there are also companies that have taken great strides already. GasTerra, for example, where I helped set up a completely new application landscape.”

How can the gaming world help energy companies take that step?

“Companies often execute IT projects in accordance with the classical waterfall method. A project is first designed top-down, then it is built and then it is tested. However, the gaming world has long known that a more interactive approach often leads to a better end result. So each time a piece of a game is finished, it is tested, to see if it is fun enough, adjustments are made if necessary, and then we continue with the design. For companies that are used to defining everything in advance as much as possible, letting go of that habit is quite a challenge. But the gaming world can teach them that in IT projects relying on more agile methods is ultimately better for your organisation. You simply cannot think of everything in advance. Along the way, new things always come up and the outside world also changes. These can be quickly taken into account with this new approach, instead having to change everything again afterwards. On balance, the risks are lower and it saves you time and money.”

How much can a company save from learning the lessons from the gaming sector?

“It applies to each sector with large companies. This also includes the energy sector. In my experience, IT projects often take longer and cost more money than would have been necessary. Project can go over budget 1.3 of 1.4 times. I would not call that a success. The interactive approach can really improve on that.”

Gaming makes people better at strategic thinking, you say. Are you working on a game for energy professionals?

“I like working on ways to apply playful learning in your daily work activities. And because the energy sector faces major challenges, it is especially important that professionals in the sector know how to ‘play’ with problems. It teaches them to better understand the issues and build better solutions. My pitch to Young Energy Professionals was that such an energy-themed game doesn’t exist yet. But I’m going to build one. With different roles, offering players the opportunity to pursue their own interests. For example, the director of an energy company, the leader of a political party and a farmer who wants to build a wind mill or who has land rich in shale gas. Or a foreign political leader who wants to stop the supply of gas to other nations. A game with emotions too, because that is what makes it fun. This means that it has the possibility to fast-forward in time, so you can see how a decision will play out in about two hundred years’ time. And it does not matter if things go wrong, because it’s only a game.”

 

This article was previously published on Energiepodium.nl