When you think about waste management, visions of odiferous trash piles pushed and flattened by bulldozers may come to mind. SUEZ, a recycling and resource management company, takes a much greener, more earth-friendly approach. Their mission is to create a world without waste, and they’re doing so by reducing their customers’ impact on the environment.
SUEZ’ corporate website spells it out clearly: “The resource revolution is circular: it has become a necessity to transform water into drinking water, sludge into renewable energy, and waste into energy or secondary raw materials. By creating new, high-quality resources we avoid drawing on scarce natural resources.”
“We don’t want [waste] to be going into the ground as landfill, we want it to be processed… from material which no longer has a useful purpose in society,” says SUEZ CIO Matt Rogers. For example, he says, SUEZ globally produces 6.2 terawatt hours of renewable energy per year.
Consistent with their external goals, SUEZ holds themselves to the same standards internally. “We try to eliminate waste in our own systems and processes, which, in turn, creates value for our customers,” Rogers says.
SUEZ is also breaking down perceptions that waste management is stuck in the dark ages. “It’s not just about picking up the bins – it’s also about finding creative ways with our customers to reduce the waste streams and make good use of the material,” says Arthur Goujon, Head of Digital at SUEZ. “That involves manipulating data about materials and waste management, and it also involves finding ways to be more fuel efficient, drive more efficiently, optimize our collection schedules. And this is where digital transformation comes in.”
SUEZ finds that key contributors to their efforts to innovate are the efficiency and flexibility of low-code development. Low-code “is a big step in the right direction for us,” says Goujon. “We’re not an IT company. We have all the skills; we have a lot of engineers here, but they’re more chemists than IT.”
When SUEZ looked for a low-code environment, they found very few vendors in the space who could meet their needs. For Rogers, Mendix stood out from the crowd for a variety of reasons, including their strong cloud offering, engagement model, large community of developers, and the ability to build a solution once and deploy to many platforms. Rogers also appreciated that Mendix reviewed SUEZ’ projects and was able to advise them on how they might improve: “Some of that learning was quite painful to hear, but ultimately it is changing the culture of our business, and it is enabling our digital journey.”
Goujon, who had never written a line of code prior to SUEZ, has not only fully embraced low-code, but holds an advanced certification through Mendix. Goujon is in a new role created two years ago with a team that acts as a link between the business and IT. “We work on the requirements, we identify our priorities, and we find ways to transform our business with digital applications.”
“One of the ways that we regard low-code is [that it’s] almost the grout between tiles,” Rogers says. “Where we have gaps in our architecture, or gaps in our application portfolio, low-code enables us to build them very quickly and bring them to market.”
Generating new resources
The most recent initiative created with low-code is SUEZ’ e-commerce platform. Prior to that platform, according to Goujon, cost of waste management customer acquisition was too high. “We used to literally send people door to door to sell.”
“E-commerce itself is a fairly simple product,” Goujon says. “What’s behind it is what’s complex.” He indicates that off-the-shelf, CPQ (configure, price, quote) products aren’t designed to support map-based pricing, which is why SUEZ developed the pricing tool internally. “We are a logistics business, and the price and the cost can change for us, postcode by postcode.”
The pricing tool dramatically simplifies the process for customers to sign on for services. Now, they can enter a postcode, choose the frequency of waste pick up, size of container, materials (general waste, mixed recycling, glass recycling, food waste), and instantly get a quote for purchase. Goujon indicates that the customer portal has not only helped them entice existing customers to stay, but they’ve also acquired new customers because of the ease of use.
The short turnaround to create the pricing product was key. Low-code development allowed for that speedy turnaround. “We delivered a fully functional, highly integrated customer portal within three months,” Rogers says. “It was a fantastic example of quick delivery.”
The short turnaround to create the pricing product was key. Low-code development allowed for that speedy turnaround.
Also, in the first few months of the launch, SUEZ brought in a half million pounds of new revenue and are looking to double that figure in 2019. “That’s pure growth,” Goujon says. “We’ve also measured our cost of acquisition. Without giving the exact figure of how much it costs us to acquire a customer, I can say we’ve divided by five. So that’s a radical transformation of the process.”
Part of the value of the e-commerce portal, Rogers adds, is that they get quicker engagement with their customers and a more consistent experience for them. “It’s also been one of our most popular sales channels…by comparison to more traditional methods.”
SUEZ has also developed a subcontractor portal to manage their supply chain more productively. According to Goujon, SUEZ works with 200 different suppliers, and they spend more than 10 million pounds per year – some of which are very small transactions. “It’s a lot of admin work, it’s a lot of prices to collect, it’s a lot of transactions to exchange,” Goujon says. With the portal, SUEZ can now transact electronically with their subcontractors and can create small online auctions, allowing for a far more efficient procurement process.
Making a zero-waste future
For SUEZ, low-code development has proven itself out in their first few projects, and they now have a long-term vision of the possibilities. “It’s not even the time saved – there are things that would not have been born if we didn’t have the technology,” Goujon says.
Rogers said he gravitates toward low-code because he needs an “infinite toolbox.” “Sometimes I consider myself a chief improvisation officer because our board [of directors] are quite rightly demanding that they have a kit to move their ideas to market very quickly.”
Rogers indicates that the architecture at SUEZ was very traditional (based on ERP systems with traditional data interchanges.) Low-code has allowed them to ensure that their systems are recognizing and using the same data standards and defining their customers across their platforms consistently. Also, SUEZ “can build an interface once and re-utilize it many times for different purposes…We’ve actually seen some of the assets created in the UK being shared with our counterparts in Poland, for example,” he says.
For Goujon, participating in traditional development projects made him feel that he was asked to draw something in the dark, and then on the last day of the project, he was shown his creation. “I could finally see it for the first time, and it was too late to make changes.”
Now with low-code, Goujon says they have knocked down the roadblocks and fostered creativity between teams. “We’ve worked before in silos where we’d have the IT person that doesn’t know about our business, and the business person that wouldn’t know about IT,” he says. “That doesn’t work. We want people that understand both.”
For Rogers, he said he sees something bigger happening: “The idea of democratizing development is exactly what low-code brings to the market.” Rogers says it doesn’t matter whether it’s the CIO, business engineer, business analyst or an integration manager – anyone with the ability and enthusiasm should be able to join in and build with low-code. “Create something with an idea that they may have found outside of our industry, within it, or within the business. Make something, and ask the question, ‘Where do we go from here?’”
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Name of application /
Business Value /
500,000 in new revenue at 20% customer acquisition cost
Asking for only a post code, the Suez eCommerce Portal enables UK waste and recycling customers to choose the services best for their needs digitally