In a series of interviews with colleagues across the Energy One Group, we talk to Thomas Van Buggenhout, a Product Owner within the European division of the Energy One Group. He is based at Energy One’s Belgium office.
Hi Thomas, could you tell us about your role as a product owner?
I’m responsible for the roadmap of our portfolio of SaaS solutions across the French and Belgian offices of Energy One. This means that I consult with internal and external stakeholders to discuss new features and solutions.
Together we prioritize new features and updates in our planning to make sure new developments align with our long-term goals, short-term priorities, market updates and so forth.
It’s my job, together with our business analysts, to get features ready for development by our programmers. We do this by translating ‘business needs’ into user stories. In fact, I represent the customer’s voice in discussions with the development team when we are fleshing out these user stories. Finally, I’m also responsible for the follow-up of product development across our solutions and communicating progress to our clients and prospects.
What have you learned throughout your time with us?
Well, it has been an interesting journey due to Covid19. The main learning for me is the importance of setting up a good process. By nature, I’m rather chaotic instead of structured, but together with Jan, our Chief Technology Officer in France & Belgium, one of my first tasks was to define and implement a good process for our product development.
Before Jan and myself joined the company in 2019, client requests were handled and assigned on an ad-hoc basis. By the end of 2019 and early 2020 we implemented a new ‘way of working’ which streamlined incoming requests for new features and functionality. We also defined how to translate such requests into concrete projects for our development team. These requests can come in from our clients, from internal stakeholders such as our business analysts, or the sales team.
When Covid19 ‘hit’, it turned out that the newly implemented processes and ‘way of working’ served us. We kept on delivering what we were promising throughout the covid pandemic, while adapting the team to a working-from-home regime.
Another learning for me has been the importance of helping all departments within the company to focus and grow. I’m lucky to be part of a steering committee and came up with several initiatives to keep the organisation focused as a whole. For example, I introduced companywide Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that help people understand how their day-to-day activities contribute to the company-wide objectives and vision. Standing next to Jan as an agile coach and bringing initiatives to keep the company growing is something I really want to continue exploring, alongside my role as a Product Owner.
Which projects will you be focussing on this year?
There is a huge ongoing project that will take up 2022 and probably a big chunk of next year. We have to align the SaaS offering of the French and Belgian offices and bring the best of both solutions together.
The first step is analysing what the resulting solution for gas and power logistics, algo-trading, asset scheduling and position management should look like in terms of functionality, UX, and so forth. This step is almost done.
My main focus for this year is on the next steps, including:
- Defining the roadmap and priorities
- Creating a plan and setting milestones for the development teams
- Following-up on progress and communicating to our customer base
Our existing custom solutions for customers, such as a Contract Management System, a Storage Management Application and our Mobile App need to be maintained and improved as well.
Last but not least, I will continue working on initiatives to align and expand across the European division of Energy One, so we take the whole organization to the next level.
It sounds like you have quite a lot on your plate! How do you manage to keep track of all these projects?
Setting priorities is very important! By setting and prioritizing goals, you create focus and this is vital in managing all of our parallel development tracks. It’s important to stick to your priorities and goals when another things ‘pop up’. This mindset really allows me to say “not now”, and stay focused on what we’ve promised the customers and finish it on time.
Our business analysts, Dieter and David, and our CTO, Jan, share the same mindset, which makes them great colleagues. They are always there for me for “rubber ducking”. This means I sometimes explain a new feature very simply to them, as if they were a rubber duck. This helps with breaking down a feature and solution to its fundamentals and often you uncover innovative solutions during this process and discussion.
What are you looking forward to in the coming years with the Energy One Group?
Short-term; I’m looking forward to the economies of scale of bringing the France and Belgium teams together. Both teams have their own expertise; France has more experience in the power sector and Belgium is historically more well versed in natural gas.
The coming two years will bring the best of both worlds together to create the best Gas & Power operations platform in Europe.
Long-term; I’m looking forward to being the best software and service provider not only in Europe, but worldwide. Being part of the Energy One Group gives the customer the possibility to choose different software and service solutions for their needs. We want to become the one-stop-shop for Gas & Power Software and Services. It may sound ambitious, but I would like to be part of the best Gas & Power software and service provider in the world.
Last but not least: Apple or Microsoft?
Haha! Apple fan here; I like the simplicity of all their products. It’s also a similar approach to what we do at Energy One. I believe Apple’s “less is more” principle is relevant when looking at our own solutions.
For example, looking at our SaaS solutions, we offer a lot of functionality to our clients. I believe we can evolve to a more streamlined ‘User Experience’, using the ‘less is more’ principle. This could be via a modular approach to let them expand when they need different parts of the solution, such as algotrading.
Microsoft products sometimes offer more ‘bells and whistles’ and possibilities, but I really like the simplicity of Apple and the seamless integrations between their products.
I will be working hard with the whole product team to we can ensure great user experiences for our clients in the coming years!