Enel’s revolution

Published on Thursday, 3 September 2020

Enel? “One of Europe’s most innovative and farsighted companies.”

The London Business School’s interest in our Group is not new. Two years ago the prestigious British educational institution presented us with the Real Innovation Award People’s Choice. Enel’s story is now the subject of a long essay and article by London Business School lecturer Julian Birkinshaw, author of numerous books about innovation.

These LBS publications centre on our Group’s digital transformation, in particular following the appointment of Francesco Starace as CEO in 2014. It begins with the turning point of Open Power, the strategy introduced to change corporate culture and open the Group up to the outside world. This choice paid off and, as the authors point out, “Enel has embraced the digital revolution.

The essay also acknowledges Ernesto Ciorra’s arrival in the company in 2014 in the new role of Head of Innovability and the development of the Open Innovation model. Both of these exposed the Group to ideas from outside the boundaries of the company. “Taking advantage of the matrix management structure, Ciorra created an innovation unit within every business line, each one tasked with developing new technologies and products for its own area.”

Other innovation milestones for the Group include the construction of the international network of Innovation Hubs; the creation of the crowdsourcing platform Openinnovability.com; and the ICT team’s drive to transform Enel into a platform company (with the achievement of full cloud in 2019). There are also the digitalisation and simplification of the global procurement process; the introduction of the agile method; and a data-centric approach - not to mention financial innovations such as the launch of the world’s first SDG-linked bond, a note with payments linked to the achievement of the company’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The essay also highlights the organisational initiatives to accelerate innovation inside the Group. These include the Enel Idea Factory to stimulate creative thought, the Make it happen programme that invites teams to submit proposals to collaborate with startups, and the My Best Failure initiative to encourage experimentation through sharing experiences of less successful endeavours in order to overcome the fear of failure.

“Enel has always been a leader in applying technology to its operations”, writes Birkinshaw, who traces the Group’s transformation in every sector. Also of note is the Group’s pioneering decision to replace conventional meters with smart meters in Italy and the Digital Plant project to install smart sensors at its plants to monitor activity and communicate data in real time. Substantial investments have also been made in machine learning and predictive analysis to reduce waste and boost efficiency, while augmented and virtual reality are being used more and more to accelerate training and improve operations in the field.

This transformation began in 2014 and is still under way. Six years on, however, the London Business School has concluded, “By 2020 Enel was the most valuable utility in Europe. The revolution is a success.

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