Bringing process efficiency into the energy business
Vistra Energy is growing quickly through both organic means and acquisitions. Over an 18-month period, Vistra expanded from operating in Texas to 20 states, the District of Columbia, Japan, and Canada. Rapid growth makes for rapidly changing processes as a diverse workforce assembles across geographic locations.
By migrating content to the cloud on a central platform with Box, Vistra can now leverage Box Keysafe to create consistent processes and better secure data — even at sensitive locations like nuclear facilities and during the acquisition planning phase of an M&A effort. Putting Box Governance in place is giving Vistra even more control over content.
Box gives Vistra’s workforce the user experience they expect and has saved the company money as it’s retired expensive subscription-based tools. Processes across lines of business are now poised for automation, and all content is in compliance with FedRAMP and other regulations. Plus, cloud-based infrastructure means content processes scale as the company grows.
When everyone is in one place, it’s easy to meet, share content, and make decisions. But as companies grow and spread out, sharing assets, sales collateral, and sensitive information becomes more difficult.
A lot of big companies today have this problem. Organic growth, acquisition, and new territories of coverage lead to decentralized information, which in turn hinders all kinds of processes. Vistra was not unique in this struggle. But for North America’s largest competitive residential electricity provider, which serves about 5 million customers, the status quo was proving difficult.
“It’s all about growth,” says Eric Loyd, senior director of delivery office, “and that translates into a number of things from a technology perspective.” Enabling more efficient work processes meant honing the focus on the technologies the company was using.
“Creating a virtual, shared work environment is making collaboration possible in ways we’ve never seen before. If we can offer a unified experience for thousands of Vistra employees, that’s a win.”
Gabe Vazquez, VP and associate general counsel
Finding common ground for content
When Vistra merged with Dynegy Inc. in 2018, and then Ambit Energy in 2019, the workforce expanded suddenly. One of the biggest business challenges of rapid growth is establishing consistent standards of work, particularly when so many employees come into a company with pre-established notions of how to get things done — and bring their favorite tools with them.
“If you name an ECM tool, we have it,” Andrea Pelosi, senior director of corporate applications, admits. “That gets challenging from a skillset and maintenance perspective.”
Technology has gradually been transitioning the entire workforce over to one central content platform with which a lot of the existing collaboration tools integrate well: Box.
“Box started as a grassroots effort by some of the folks on our political affairs team in order to share information with external consultants,” Pelosi explains. “But as additional folks heard it was there, it became, ‘Oh!, we could also use that for other teams.’”
The initial Box test case of about 250 people was so successful that, within a year, the number of users had bumped up to 1,000. Now, when Vistra acquires a new team, incoming employees are given “birthright access” to Box on day one. This practice is scaling up the number of Box users dramatically, and Box has become the de facto content layer of the company’s digital work processes.
“There’s tons of opportunity for us as a technology organization to be a partner to our business counterparts.”
Andrea Pelosi, Senior Director, Corporate Applications
Uniting a collaboration experience across lines of business
Vistra has three main lines of business. The power generation organization produces safe, affordable electricity from nearly 60 power plants across the country. The retail business is responsible for customer care. And the commercial trading group operates in the seams between these two businesses to maximize the value of generated power and the top line of the business. Within those independent lines, there are numerous smaller organizations with their own ways of working.
An early group that migrated to Box was a marketing team using an expensive file-sharing tool for digital asset management. The tool was robust, but it wasn’t delivering a lot of value because the team simply didn’t use most of its features. IT helped the team move their entire repository of graphical assets to the cloud into Box, saving the company a tremendous amount of money in subscription costs for an underutilized file-sharing tool.
The regulatory response organization within Vistra has to keep a close eye on governance and retention policies, and over time, their network shared drive space had run out. Accessing files on this drive was not easy, either, since users had to be onsite and connected to the network. IT migrated these assets to Box, using Box Governance to better manage content and stay in compliance.
Moving to Box solved another pain point, as well, by creating an improved experience with direct control of security rights. As Ravi Malick, Chief Information Officer at Vistra, describes the company’s workforce, “They don't say ‘I want digital transformation,’ they say ‘I want more, faster, cheaper.’ People demand a different experience.” Part of the decision to move to Box was motivated by the intuitive user experience cloud content management provides.
“Box gives us the capability to extend the experience in a seamless way across the enterprise, without a lot of IT intervention — putting the tool in the hands of the users.”
Danielle Cooper, Director of Enablement and Governance
A granular and dynamic level of data control
Cloud content management also serves a purpose during mergers and acquisitions, when it’s critical that companies carefully manage and protect data. When Vistra acquires a new company, they create a secure site within Box to give a small cadre of folks access to specific information during the integration planning phase — such as employees, processes, and key data.
Every company is rightfully concerned about exposing sensitive information to a data security threat. By using Box as the content platform to share and collaborate during integration planning, Vistra can ensure that these files are restricted to specific eyes only. Exactly who can see which files is determined with granular and appropriate access control. And by integrating Box with a single-sign-on solution, Vistra knows its sensitive data is always protected.
“If we want to get better at how we do work, we need to get better about how people have access to it. Most people think very tactically about how they do their work.”
Ravi Malick, Chief Information Officer
A factor that can’t be forgotten: Cost savings
Vistra is a public company, and with that comes the pressure to be transparent about spending. Part of the drive to embrace digital technology comes from the mandate to reduce spending and function as a capital-oriented business. This means growing and scaling in a cost-effective way.
As Malick says, “Our driver was cost savings, but to make it permanent, we needed to simplify our systems.” For one thing, he aimed to “get out of the data-center business” and simplify the company’s technology environment by moving to the cloud.
Loyd explains the IT team’s philosophy succinctly: “It’s all about extending our technology environment with a more scalable, cloud-based infrastructure that allows us to scale without having to add that same ratio of people to the mix to enable it.”
Bringing the energy industry into the future
This is how it began for Vistra and Box. Now, the company is looking at how it can use Box Relay to automate more processes across the business and migrate existing Sharepoint applications. Vistra also plans to implement Box Governance on a deeper level and use Box Keysafe to configure Box for its nuclear and generation sites, which are heavily controlled by the FedRAMP standard and have critical infrastructure protection considerations.
As the use of Box and cloud content management expands at Vistra, and as the company itself continues to expand, centralized assets will allow for ever-better processes. And that, in turn, will get more energy into the hands of more customers.
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