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National Grid eyes £50 million service desk, digital workforce overhaul, as changes loom

A UK net zero target and fossil fuel vehicle ban are likely to result in as many as 1,600 connections to the grid each day. Current application processes are inadequate.

National Grid image shows a staff member in a building housing infrastructure for IFA2, a 1,000 MW high voltage direct current electrical interconnector between the British and French transmission systems.

National Grid, the UK's largest electricity distribution network provider, is planning an ambitious £50 million service desk and digital workplace transformation programme, a public procurement document shows – to include the use of AI for both support and to help allocate technicians.

The plans aim, in part, to build better digital foundations for streamlined and digitalised grid connection requests (a clunky, laborious process heavily dependent on emails and manual processes that Grid aims to swap for an API-centric portal) amid a rapidly evolving electricity ecosystem.

(As the company noted last year: "The 2030 fossil fuel vehicle ban, and the
UK’s 2050 net zero target will result in huge volumes of low carbon technologies connecting to NGED’s network at a local level, with as many as 1,600 connections expected each day and over half a million each year... a significant number ... could be processed using an automated approach)

A preliminary market notice shows it planning major automation, digital services integration including across ServiceNow and SAP, new laptops, printers and help setting up a “transformation management office.” A full contract notice is expected within days (by February 28, Grid suggested.)

The investment comes as the company continues to invest in energy infrastructure modernisation, with an outlay of what will be over £16 billion in the five years to April 2026 – amid (at this stage still wildly ambitious) plans to fully decarbonise the power sector by 2035. 

National Grid’s 2021 -2026 business plan, which followed a consultation with industry stakeholders, noted that its IT operations that had been “adversely affected by factors including limited visibility of real end user experience; inadequate real-time data on end-to-end application performance; and manual and labour- intensive application management."

National Grid £50 million digital workforce overhaul 

The February 20 market notice shows the company planning to launch formal procurement within the month across six lots, as follows:

 1) “Digital-first resolution”; 2) “Future state support model”; 3) “Integrated L1 services”; 4) “Cross-trained and specialist IT services”; 5) “Modernized print management”; 6) “Efficient laptop procurement.” 

The first spans significant further automation and digital self-service for employees, buildout of chatbots and integration across ServiceNow, AI/ Automation platforms, SAP (S4Hana and SuccessFactors), Ariba, etc.

The second will bring on a team to establish a transformation management office and design a future state support model for Service Desk and Digital Workplace Transformation – include, the February 20 market notice said, delivering “services with cross-functional teams, promoting operational efficiency and adaptability to specific business needs, while at the same time addressing unique IT support needs.” 

The third will span “enterprise-wide L1 support utilising a digital-first and AI-enabled resolution strategy with the cross-trained ability to resolve support tickets across IT, HR, Procurement, Record to Report, Order to Cash, Financial Data Reporting and Facilities end-to-end processes."

The final three procurement lots span the provision of “L2 IT operations/engineering services utilising a digital-first and AI-enabled resolution strategy through virtual tech bar/onsite at Category 1 locations: 9 US and 4 UK sites”, improved and modernised print services, and a whole bunch of new laptops. (That earlier business plan showed ambitions to replace 3,000 yearly.) Gartner estimates global IT spend will hit $5.1 trillion in 2024.

See also: Digital and data? We’re going large, says McDonalds’ CEO, as new CIO vows new OS, GenAI, "data highway"