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Established in 1988, Optima Energy Systems develops and supports advanced software for managing and analysing energy data for some of the most significant energy users and consultants in the UK. Optima software is used to manage energy data for over 22,000 organisations and 250,000 sites—more than any other energy management software provider.

Optima Visualizer, developed using Infor Birst, delivers a unique set of capabilities unmatched in the Energy Management Software marketplace. Visualizer allows Optima's customers to build their own stunning dashboards and reports while also supporting fast data discovery.

Data is quickly becoming the standard tool for informing all types of energy management decisions. As the energy landscape becomes more complex, yielding more and more data for users to parse, it's not surprising that the needs of energy managers and consultants are growing alongside them.

Optima Energy Systems' core product is an energy management solution that validates bills sent from suppliers to customers. Many of its customers are large, multi-site organisations like supermarkets, water companies, telecom companies, and universities. Optima Energy Systems helps them to manage their energy portfolios and control costs.

The key reason why Optima Energy Systems sought to replace its existing reporting capability was to improve development efficiency. The old system has been in existence for some time, during which the company had built up an extensive collection of bespoke reports for customers. Every new customer that came on board required a different report, which meant either Optima Energy Systems had to build new reports from scratch or work from existing reports, which created a messy pile-up of options and settings. These, in turn, grew increasingly cumbersome and difficult to support.

To make matters worse, very few people were familiar with the original reporting technology, which meant Optima Energy Systems spent a disproportionate amount of time manually building reports rather than focusing on future product enhancements.

A vision for modern self-service analytics 

Faced with an inefficient and highly manual reporting situation, Optima Energy Systems decided to replace its existing reporting capability with a modern self-service reporting and dashboard platform. The aim was to allow customers to report on data themselves in a true self-service manner.

“Large multi-site organisations such as supermarkets, universities, and more, get tremendous value in seeing accurate, real-time insights into how energy is being consumed. It enables our customers to take the actions needed to prevent overcharges and reduce usage, said Neil Turton, Product and Development Director at Optima Energy Systems.

Business challenges

  • Transforming a manual and resource-intensive reporting environment.
  • Building an infrastructure for customer self-service reporting. 
  • Migrating from a desktop product to a modern web-based user interface.
  • Driving customer growth and adoption.

Selecting a new analytics platform

Optima Energy Systems shortlisted three different business intelligence vendors when deciding how to replace its existing reporting system. Infor Birst consistently scored highest in the company’s evaluation scheme. 

Turton said: "Two areas Birst did well was the ease of application embedding and the ease of development. Because it was a cloud-based platform, it was also highly scalable."

Adopting a self-service approach to embedded analytics meant that Optima Energy Systems could avoid the lengthy process of submitting report specifications, as well as the subsequent design, development, testing, and release work. The aim was for Infor Birst to allow customers and their consultants to create reports in a fraction of the time.

Secondly, Optima Energy Systems wanted to improve the look of its reporting offering with a modern web-based user interface. The core system was already robust, and the numbers already accurate and trusted by customers, but a modern UI would improve ease-of-use and appeal to future customers—driving increased sales as well as further adoption.

The adoption of a modern web-based UI for analytics coincided with a new web front-end for the core product that Optima Energy Systems hoped that all customers would move to. Neil Turton, Product and Development Director at Optima Energy Systems, stated that: "Roughly 50% of our existing customer base is now on our web front-end thanks, in part, to the modern web-based analytics from Infor Birst."

Built on Birst’s cloud-based analytics platform, Optima Visualizer offers a wealth of features to support data discovery and analytics, including:

  • Fully white-labelled portal that is consistent with the Optima Energy Systems brand.
  • Secure data access applied at the user level across all reports and dashboards.
  • Fully customizable dashboards that deliver precisely the information customers need.
  • Fully customizable user profiles to ensure users only see what they are authorized to see Geo-mapping shows site locations, helping visualize campuses and clusters of buildings.
  • Displays of both dynamic and static data. 
  • Real-time capabilities.
  • Support for all kinds of data, not just utility and process information.
  • Comprehensive drill-down and drill-across functionality Integration of customers websites, video, and social media feeds.
  • Image and document importing.
  • Scalability to hundreds of thousands of meter points.

Optima Energy Systems also took advantage of Birst's multi-tenant architecture, which significantly speeds up the process of onboarding new customers. Optima uses Birst's networked BI capabilities to manage one master space that applies to all customers, and ensures that each customer inherits data and application changes whenever they are made.

Networked BI dramatically reduces the administrative costs of maintaining and growing the customer base and allows customers to extend their own analytics domains safely.

Business results

  • 30% reduction in report development overhead
  • 50% increase in customer adoption
  • £1,000s of pounds of energy cost savings for customers

Cutting energy costs with Optima Visualizer

Optima Energy Systems' typical user is an energy manager or energy analyst who spends their time looking at trends in consumption of energy, gas, electricity, and water. They track statistics like daily energy usage year-over-year, and then by using Birst, can monitor those trends throughout the day.

They might be able to see that somebody mistakenly left equipment running, leading to an unusual spike in overnight consumption. The main aim of using Birst is to monitor and reduce those costs.

Turton believes these kinds of insights can have essential impacts on business costs. He said: "For example, a supermarket with hundreds of sites around the UK: if they can find a behavioural pattern that can be changed, that will reduce their energy usage across many sites, and that is a huge saving."

Predicting the future

Optima Energy Systems hopes to grow its implementation of Birst's smart analytics technology by using it to integrate weather data in the analytics process. For week-to-week comparisons, for instance, the company may use AI to observe the correlation between temperature and gas usage patterns—predicting future costs based on current temperatures and weather forecasts.

Infor builds business software for specific industries in the cloud. With 17,000 employees and over 68,000 customers in more than 170 countries, Infor software is designed for progress. 


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