ICT up to the frontdoor

The right information available at any time and at any location is a prerequisite for success. The ICT and Information Management (ICT/IM) department contributes to this with modern, highly secure systems. As a result, A.Hak is also able to link up with external parties, as demonstrated by the development of the Digital Cooperation Platform (DSP) of the national grid managers.

Since taking office as manager of the corporate ICT/IM department in 2012, Catrinus van der Leest has worked on the modernization of A.Hak's ICT systems. ‘Our strategy is aimed at meeting the information needs of A.Hak's employees as well as possible with as few software packages as possible’, he explains. ‘This is based on a predetermined basic architecture that helps us to maintain an overview and prevent the proliferation of overlapping and superfluous systems. This not only saves costs, but also makes it easier to connect packages and systems and have them communicate with each other.’


For a company with branches at home and abroad, this communication often goes via the Internet. Security of sensitive data is a prerequisite. ‘No problems there’, says project manager and process consultant Arjan Ribberink. ‘Our information security meets strict requirements across the board. We demonstrate this with ISO 27001 certification. Something to be proud of as a department, but also pleasant for clients. They can rely on us to have our business processes and the associated ICT environment in order. Our choice for a coherent set of modern systems, which are easy to link both within and outside our company, also facilitates cooperation with external parties.’


A good example of this is the development of the Digital Cooperation Platform (DSP). This platform should become the standard for Dutch network operators. It will make the process of providing home connections for gas, water, electricity and communication as efficient and transparent as possible. This will benefit consumers, who will soon be able to connect to their homes much more quickly and keep track of progress online, as well as all the partners involved in the chain: municipal authorities, construction companies, network operators and companies such as A.Hak, who make the connection. By working together better via DSP, they can deliver more quality at lower costs.

‘DSP is not a platform where the chain partners have to collect their own information, but a solution that ensures that their ICT systems can communicate directly with each other’, says Ribberink. ‘The processes that have to be followed in order to realize a connection have been standardized from request to delivery. The partners exchange information in DSP via a large number of messages. Our client Alliander is one of the network operators that is at the forefront of the development of DSP. Together with them, our department was able to make a significant contribution to the standardisation of these DSP messages.’


That sounds abstract, but soon becomes more concrete with a few examples. Network operators issue orders via an order message. The contractor provides a planning message and after completion of the work a readiness message follows’, explains Ribberink. ‘In the past, this information was exchanged in writing and there was a department on both sides of the line that had to take care of further dissemination. Now the messages from DSP neatly land with us in a cloud environment that distributes the information further to underlying systems such as our ERP system where the planning of people and materials is taken care of.’

‘Perhaps even better is the fact that the information also goes to the mechanic's tablet’, adds Van der Leest. ‘So he has detailed order information with him when he rings the doorbell at the end customer. When he is ready, he can indicate exactly what he has done on the tablet, take photos and unsubscribe from the assignment. This makes the process faster, more customer-friendly and less prone to errors. DSP brings the digitisation to the customer's front door.’


Van der Leest is proud of the role his department was able to play in the creation of DSP. ‘If your software is outdated, it quickly becomes complicated to link everything together. By developing a strategy for the long term in time, we had modern systems at our disposal at the right time that were easy to link to such a platform. Since DSP is becoming the national standard, this is a development that you, as a contractor, definitely want to keep up with. If you don't participate, you can just miss the boat.’