*This article was originally published in German in CIO.de magazine*
Originating from a master plumber's workshop founded by Johann Vaillant in 1874, the Vaillant Group has developed into an industry leader known all over the world for its heating, ventilation and air conditioning technology. Today, it operates in over 20 countries and employs 16,000 people working on providing innovative appliances for the modern society of the 21st century. They have a lot to do, given the extreme change across the heating industry.
The focus is on two points in particular: the switch to renewable energies and changes in consumer demands. Consumers no longer want to simply buy a heating appliance. They expect a solution: heating or cooling adapted to their individual needs. For Vaillant Group, as a technology manufacturer, it is therefore not only a question of offering a product, but also of developing additional services around it.
Customer IoT in focus
The lever for this is digitalization. After all, services such as predictive maintenance require data supplied by heating systems installed in consumers' homes that must be collected and then analyzed. "So, it's all about the connectivity of our end devices," explains Vaillant Group CIO Steffen Ascher. "We call this Customer IoT."
A challenge for Vaillant Group is that heating systems are tailored to support the needs of respective households, says Ascher. "There is no set pattern to follow to optimize operation in terms of energy efficiency. To evaluate this data, we are therefore already moving in the direction of machine learning." And the effort is worth it. Maintenance cycles can be reduced by analyzing machine data and other information — for example, on heating usage or weather.
For Vaillant Group, installers are an important target group for digital services. To succeed, installers should also benefit from digitalization. For example, installers can plan their operations better because, thanks to corresponding data, they can recognize at an early stage when a heating system is in danger of failing. "It is therefore extremely important for us to equip our installers with effective digital solutions that are easy to use," says Ascher.
The cloud ensures flexibility and scalability
The basis for this, as well as for all digitalization at Vaillant Group, is powerful and smoothly functioning IT. For the operation of its IT infrastructure, the company works together with DXC Technology. Cloud computing provides the necessary flexibility and scalability. DXC helped Vaillant Group to implement a cloud platform in 20 months, on which a large part of its IT now runs. The server infrastructure was migrated to the DXC virtual private cloud. For all SAP systems, DXC provides platform as a service. DXC calls its approach to helping customers make the right investments at the right time, and on the right platforms, Cloud Right™.
In addition, DXC supports applications such as Salesforce CRM. This is also an important building block in Vaillant Group’s IoT concept. In the cloud, customer data from the CRM system can be combined with information from end devices. Installers thus have all relevant information available at a glance — the data of heating systems as well as associated user information.
The support from DXC gives Vaillant Group the opportunity to focus on further developing its digital services offering. "As the IT department of the Vaillant Group, we want to deal with the change-the-business projects and take care of customer consulting," says Ascher. "To have the freedom to do that, a service provider has to take the run-the-business part off our hands." DXC does this very reliably, which is why Vaillant Group has relied on its services for many years, says Ascher.
Advantages of automation
Ascher also sees an advantage in the fact that there is now a uniform connection via DXC's DXC Platform XTM , which helps companies to automate processes. "In the past, we used a separate portal for application support and the infrastructure area, which was then used to handle incidents, for example," says the CIO. Via a ServiceNow installation, only one channel to DXC is required for this. "This makes it extremely user-friendly for the user.”
Improving the user experience was also a reason to have Vaillant Group’s digital workplaces managed by DXC. With the help of Platform X, the provision of workplace functions can be automated.
Process harmonization on greenfield implementations
This uniform platform for infrastructure and application support lays the foundation for further projects at Vaillant Group. For example, the group is currently harmonizing its entire back-end processes. This is a core part of the digitalization strategy, says Ascher.
Successfully moving to the cloud starts with focusing on business outcomes. Valliant Group’s mission to offer more flexible and personalized services to customers is at the heart of its digital transformation and is DXC’s starting point for providing a solid IT foundation for the company’s business growth.