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How UK Power Networks created more engaging online experiences

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By The Drum | Editorial

November 30, 2023 | 6 min read

Tangent drove digital innovation for its client UK Power Network and set them on course to collect the Digital Industries Award for Digital Transformation. Read the award-winning case study below.

Example of the award-winning digital work

UK Power Networks (UKPN) is a national energy infrastructure provider, distributing power to 8.3 million households and 19 million residents every day. As a major energy infrastructure, when things go wrong, it is crucial to keep the masses informed when things go wrong (like an unexpected power outage or heavy storm). UKPN need a fast, efficient and dependable digital platform to keep the masses informed. Without one, millions could (quite literally) be left in the dark.

But their systems were outdated and the limitations of a monolithic DXP was restricting progress. Paired with the race to achieve Net Zero objectives, this project was conceived. UKPN partnered with Tangent to relaunch their website by migrating from a monolithic CMS to a headless decoupled architecture, with bespoke, user-centric infrastructure offering users access to indispensable features, especially in times of crisis like extreme weather or widespread power failures. These changes should improve the delivery of real-time updates and vital support services whilst also reducing carbon emissions.

Far from just another brochureware website, we prescribed and built a headless, MACH, JAMStack and DXC architecture solution.

Our solution

We believed that migrating from their existing monolithic (Sitecore) platform, to a headless, JAMStack, DXC platformed approach would not only deliver environmental benefits contributing to their Net Zero goals, but offer better security, save costs and deliver a better, more reliable user experience for all. This relaunched platform, however, is not another brochureware or e-commerce site. In fact, it’s as far from “off-the-shelf” as it gets. We built a truly enterprise solution for a critical national infrastructure provider.

Throughout, we took a user-centric approach to get under the skin of what the customer needs, then prescribed and built accordingly. Among the many new innovations that UKPN’s site now boasts is totally refreshed UI across the board, enhanced power cut search functionality and new incident pages to explain how and why an outage has occurred. But the crowning glory of this new platform is without doubt the bespoke ‘Storm Centre’, which completely reimagines the storm management process.

In the event of a catastrophic outage, this ‘Storm Centre’ can be activated in an instant. Upon activation, other routes into everyday areas of the site are suspended to preserve bandwidth for the most emergent problem on record. Rather than clogging up their systems with new requests, UKPN can instantly address the masses. As well as keeping customers informed, this also communicates that the problem is widespread, rather than isolated to any one home, street or town. The ‘Storm Centre’ publishes news feeds from multiple sources to supply live storm updates, and even allows for updates to be added from workers fixing outages in the field, allowing for a personal connection even during widespread upheaval.

In comparison to UKPN’s old management system which leveraged a ticket and pin drop system (which garnered its fair share of negativity from press and customers alike), this innovation is more streamlined, reliable and the editorial approach allows UKPN to control the narrative instantly. It is also a scalable feature, applicable beyond just storms and across every eventuality, including cyber events, heatwaves and the like.

Impact

This technical migration has been undoubtedly a programme of work that has not only been transformational for the brand, but driven countless benefits and results that will future proof the business for years to come, including:

Page loads times slashed by 50% while also handling increased levels of traffic. During storms, this platform sees upwards of 10,000 concurrent users. After 12 months of repeated testing, investigation and infrastructure updates, the most recent test demonstrates capacity for 40,000 concurrent users with no errors.

Our JAMStack approach significantly reduces the attack vectors compared to a traditional monolithic approach. This architecture minimises the attack surface by eliminating the need for a backend server that can be a prime target for hackers. As JAMStack sites are built using pre-rendered files that are served directly to users, the risk of server-side attacks is also reduced – an extremely important benefit for a national infrastructure provider, who are natural targets for cyber criminality.

Carbon emissions from the platform have dropped by as much as 44%. To achieve this, we cherrypicked the most suitable and efficient infrastructure, created an experience that minimises HTTP requests and completely optimised the frontend to improve performance. Pre-migration, homepage loads were measured at 1.44g of carbon production per load. Our solution has reduced this output to just 0.11g, as measured by our own carbon emission tracking dashboard. o To contextualise this, Storm Eunice (17/2/22-19/2/22) drove 3.2 million users to the site. At that time, this composable solution could have saved the equivalent carbon emissions of 9 flights from London to Copenhagen, from homepage visits alone. Given the average user visits approximately 4.5 pages per session, the realistic carbon saving potential is astronomical.

We also saw 66% operational cost savings compared to the previous Sitecore/IaaS solution which comes with pricier hosting and licensing fees. Beyond these technical benefits, it’s clear that users are positively responding too, with OFGEM’s own survey placing ‘satisfaction with online services’ at 92.74 and ‘reporting a power cut on the website’ at 93.98. “Net Zero is one of many business-critical objectives for UKPN, and will be one of the key markers of success across the Utilities industry for years to come. Tangent managed to not only identify routes to fulfil these requirements across our digital platforms, but also suggest future-proof solutions and bring them to life.

Their skill is evident in the end product and their attention to detail and dedication to customer centricity is laced throughout their approach, making this a standout project for us. The benefits of this project go above and beyond just our Net Zero goals and have already delivered significant impact.“ - Dave Roberts, CIO, UKPN

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