The Dutch charging station manufacturer, EVBox, has gone through exponential growth and is now ready to stop. The company is growing so fast that it needs to scale up further, and traditional SME solutions are no longer sufficient. The company is focusing on enterprise IT solutions to accelerate its growth further. Salesforce plays a key role in this.
We recently spoke to Madelein Smit, CIO at EVBox, about how the charging station company invests in new IT solutions to accelerate growth. EVBox currently has around 200,000 charging stations installed worldwide. The goal is to increase that number to 1 million by 2023. Many charging stations have to be produced, packed, shipped and installed in the upcoming years to do this. This requires the necessary preparation, in which IT plays an important role.
“We can sell everything we can produce directly.”
The original target of 1 million charge stations by 2025 was set by EVBox back in 2019 and was recently brought down to 2023. According to Smit, this will be achieved: “We still see that the demand for our products increases. Certainly, because of the climate agreement in Paris, several countries are investing heavily in electric driving and thus also in the infrastructure to make electric driving possible. We can sell everything we can produce directly.”
When asked whether they would be able to produce enough, Smit replied they can. Production has recently been increased. According to Smit, the main gain now lies in improving and optimising the IT application landscape. Smit has set a course for a well-organised IT strategy in which the company relies mainly on major players with enterprise solutions and one proprietary application.
What does the IT strategy of EVBox look like?
Smit says that 2021 is an important year for EVBox. An IPO is imminent, and IT will have to be overhauled this year to accelerate growth further. Eventually, Smit wants the core of EVBox to be formed by three applications.
The core applications of EVBox:
- Everon, a self-built application with which the charging stations communicate. Smit calls this the secret sauce of EVBox.
- As of 2021 EVBox works with SAP S/4HANA as ERP and finance solution;
- EVBox uses various Salesforce applications and the Salesforce platform is also the primary 360 application. The Salesforce platform is connected to all other applications, such as the aforementioned Everon and SAP S/4HANA.
“Everon is the secret sauce of EVBox.”
If a CIO calls an application the secret sauce of the company, we are very curious why that is. Smit explains that Everon can communicate with all the charge stations that the company has installed. This enables the charging stations to be diagnosed, updated or restarted when necessary. Also, Everon processes all charging sessions at public charging stations, with the bill going to the cardholder and the public charging station’s owner receiving a fee. It is an application that you cannot buy off-the-shelf but must develop yourself.
How EVBox becomes an enterprise-ready organisation
Smit explains that EVBox is growing rapidly every year and that it is important that the IT infrastructure and applications can keep up with this growth. Something that was a problem with the current ERP and finance solution from Exact. Employees have to use tricks and detours to get things done, according to Smit. Smit states that Exact is suitable for the SMB, a definition that EVBox is outgrowing. EVBox wants to continue to grow and innovate, and for that, you need software that can facilitate that. Eventually, the choice fell on SAP S/4HANA for the ERP and finance part.
The company recently made the switch, and this has also changed the way of working at EVBox. The SAP system is now very rigidly set up, with no room for detours. There is only one way to do things. Also, only a limited number of employees will have access to SAP, mainly people in the finance department. The other employees only work indirectly with SAP, without realising it. Most employees work through a primary application on the Salesforce platform which can perform almost all tasks.
EVBox chooses Salesforce Customer 360
A few years ago, EVBox already made the strategic choice not to offer employees all kinds of different applications but to integrate as much as possible. This is something that is fully in line with Salesforce Customer 360, where you can see all customer information in one application. Without having to log into two or three more systems to do so.
Employees at EVBox primarily work in a Salesforce environment, where all information is brought together from different systems. Information about orders and which charging stations the customer owns comes from Sales Cloud. If an engineer is scheduled for maintenance or has recently visited, this information is taken from Field Service Management. For the customer’s charging stations, there is a link with Everon to see whether a charging station is active or not.
Information about invoices and information on whether the charge station has been shipped are retrieved from SAP S/4HANA and added to the customer overview. By focusing on a good Salesforce Customer 360 experience, customers can be attended to quickly, and employees can work more efficiently. The Salesforce Platform is the cement between all the different applications.
EVBox wants to innovate further with IT
We also asked Smit whether her mission has succeeded after the switch to SAP ERP. On that subject, she says that it was a big hurdle to take, but that there are still plenty of opportunities for further innovation. The remaining quarters of 2021 will be used primarily to optimise business processes and make them more efficient. Smit also wants to focus on improving the business processes around the various customer journeys.
On this subject she says: “Our charging stations actually have five customers, who are all different, and if we can serve them better tailored by developing business processes for them, this can bring us many benefits.”
The five customers Smit refers to are:
- The automotive industry, for which they build customised charging stations;
- The installer, the person who opens the box and installs the charge station;
- A landowner;
- An operator such as a car park, hotel group or supermarket chain;
- The car owner that wants to charge his car.
For all these different customers, EVBox wants to improve its processes so that the experience with EVBox is better. In some cases, IT plays a major role in this, but sometimes it is also about practical matters.
Smit mentions a few examples:
- A car manufacturer wants its own station with its own design, colour scheme and logo. The more flexible EVBox is in this respect, the more attractive they are. But it’s even more important that the charge station is compatible with the manufacturer’s vehicles and that charging is optimised.
- An installation partner will install charging stations almost every day. Convenience is essential. It starts when you open the box: what does the station look like, has the software been updated, are most of the screws already in place, are certain cables already connected and how much work is involved in installing the charging station. If your charge post is easy to install and takes less time than the competitor’s, the installer is more likely to choose you;
- An operator buys a large number of charging stations. Ultimately, they want to get a return on investment. If, for example, three charging stations are installed at each site, and there are 100 sites, they must see a clear overview of how often the stations are used, how much they yield and what the station’s status is. It must also be possible to get in touch quickly in the event of problems;
- The car owner who wants to charge his car can currently use an app on his phone for more information. There is also an FAQ, but that’s about it for now.
Customer service and experience
Smit sees plenty of opportunities in the area of customer service. Salesforce offers natural language search options, combined with an FAQ and a chatbot. This would enable EVBox to take major steps forward, reduce phone calls, and increase the service level. This is something they will definitely be exploring this year.
There is already a Salesforce-based portal for operators where they can find the necessary information. Smit expects that they can still make some improvements, so they will do further research on that.
Salesforce also has an integration platform with which you can automate workflows. That is certainly something that EVBOx will look at to automate internal processes or possibly a customer portal.
Finally, EVBox is going to do a big test with an installation partner in the United States. At the moment, EVBox is only active in Europe. With this new partner, it wants to conquer the American market as well. With this partnership, it also wants to see how it can make IT processes and the entire installation of a charging station even simpler. Any innovations that result from this will then also be translated to the European market.
It can be quite interesting which choices EVBox will make. Despite having been around for 10 years, they do not have a huge legacy. They did recently realign their core applications, using Salesforce as a kind of cement layer. We are curious to see what they will add in the coming quarters.