Schneider Electric innovates the energy industry on a digital backbone

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Welcome to Work Unleashed, BoxWorks edition. We're recapping and highlighting some of the conversations we had at our biggest event of the year, BoxWorks Digital. We heard from business and IT leaders shaping a new era of work, who shared best practices for enabling teams in a work-from-anywhere world.

Becoming a world leader in the energy industry — and staying in that position — requires a forward-thinking mindset, even for a company that’s 185 years old. Schneider Electric’s staying power is a testament to its agility, not its focus on maintaining tradition. With 135K employees in more than 100 countries, the company is leading the transformation of energy management across many markets, including industrial, power, buildings, and data centers. 

“We have this incredible spirit of innovation in our DNA,” says Elizabeth Hackenson, Group CIO, Schneider Electric, “and we constantly challenge ourselves to rethink the future.” The company’s IoT-enabled EcoStruxure™platform is redefining the way enterprise customers connect their machines and data, ensuring that Life is On™ everywhere, for everyone.

In a recent virtual conversation with Anisha Vaswani, Corporate CIO, Box, Hackenson talked about how Schneider Electric got where it is today, and how that legwork has served the company well during the pandemic.

A purposeful, well-paced journey to the cloud

Schneider Electric has been on a path to modernize its digital backbone for a while. In partnership with Box, the company has converted to cloud content management over the last seven or eight years, moving content and assets to the cloud to minimize reliance on legacy infrastructure. It has also custom-built over 150 customer business apps using Box APIs, many of them components driving critical business processes. 

A focus on cloud content management has held several advantages for Schneider Electric:

  • The flexibility to “throttle up or down” very quickly, which wasn’t possible in a traditional infrastructure environment
  • A reduction in operating costs because the company no longer has to invest in and maintain massive data centers
  • The ability to prototype at warp speed, no longer burdened by heavy provisioning

To that last point, Hackenson says, ”We’re standing up environments very quickly and easily in the cloud, so we can have multiple build test production environments without a lot of complexity around infrastructure or having to make long-term commitments.” Having a technology partner like Box is essential to a company that needs to be proactive about staying compliant and protecting valuable intellectual property — but can’t afford to slow the pace of collaboration.

A shift in work models without slowing down collaboration

Traditionally, collaboration at Schneider Electric has often happened in person. But as the pandemic spread around the world in 2020, Schneider Electric did what every other company did — quickly shifted to a remote work model almost overnight. Only essential employees in energy plants and distribution centers reported to work in person. The company is still in a hybrid model as of this writing, with people in some regions slowly trickling back to the office, but many still working from home. 

Hackenson doesn’t see enabled remote work ending anytime soon. “What’s really important,” she says, “is not necessarily where you work from, but are you getting the job done — and how can we support you with technology?” She thinks that working from home will be the new norm for a lot of people in the world — and there are a lot of benefits to that. Some of Schneider Electric’s employees in India commuted for 4 hours a day before the pandemic. Now, they’re able to devote some of that time to productive work. 

On the other hand, plenty of employees are eager to return to the interactive office, and Hackenson says, “I think one of the silver linings is that when we do get to connect face to face, it will be more meaningful and more personal.”

Shining a light on business continuity

Digital transformation has been a business buzzword for a while now, but it’s taking on new meaning in the times of COVID-19. “If companies didn’t have a strong digital transformation plan before, I believe they have one now,” Hackenson quips. Digital transformation is being fast-tracked in businesses of all kinds and sizes in order to enable remote work and collaboration. 

“Business continuity is having its moment, too,” says Hackenson. Traditionally the domain of IT, it has become something that all kinds of leaders have to consider, and from now on, every organization will be sure to lock a business continuity plan down before they need one.

Speaking for the collective as well as Schneider Electric, Hackenson says, “This won’t be our last crisis. We’re focused on much more predictive and preventative measures, because we’re always looking to improve.” On a digital backbone, innovation will continue to unfold even as — and perhaps because — world circumstances change.

Watch the full session from BoxWorks Digital below!

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