Roy Young

By Roy Young

Head of Office 365 & VP Enterprise Platform and Services (UK)

Roy Young outlines what our new Flexible First app will deliver for our customers, our people and our business.

Centrica may have been a bit behind other big businesses who made the switch to hybrid working in recent years, but in the past 15 months we’ve shown how quickly we can react to the changing needs of our colleagues and customers. Using key technology alongside our own teams’ skills we’ve been able to work at pace to adapt.

From moving the majority of our customer service contact teams to home working in the middle of the pandemic to allowing our colleagues to be set up for a new way of hybrid working, our Digital Technology Services teams have delivered to ensure we put our customers at the heart of everything we do. If we were returning to the same way of working as pre-pandemic it would be relatively simple, but the past 15 months has highlighted that our previous business strategy for office working and our culture surrounding this needed to change. 

For this reason we’ve launched a new flexible way of working for our colleagues .

After many focus groups and surveys, our colleagues said they value the flexibility of homeworking and at the same time being able to use the office for collaboration. 

Using key technology alongside our own teams’ skills we’ve been able to work at pace to adapt.

The birth of our ‘Flexible First’ App

In the second half of last year, teams across our business started to think about this in detail, considering options for how to return to work during the pandemic and beyond.  It quickly became clear that in either scenario our colleagues would need an easy way to book desk space and in the age of ‘there’s an app for that’ our team started to look at options. After looking at the market, we decided to build an app in house using internal developer resources, with an initial aim of allowing colleagues to book a desk at a location of their choice.  Our aim is to make sure that coming into the office is a smooth and safe experience for our colleagues and this not only saves money and time but also puts our colleague’s wellbeing at the forefront of the process.

So where are we now?   

After a collaborative effort across numerous teams in the business and multiple focus group sessions to ensure the app delivers what we all need, the app is now going through pilot testing with the intention of gathering real world feedback so it can be refined further in preparation for re-opening our offices later this year. 

The app has been built using the Power Platform solution provided by one of our key technology partners, Microsoft. This platform is designed to help companies build end-to-end business solutions, enabling teams like us build custom apps that solve internal business challenges.  

The app can be installed on a work or personal phone or accessed via Microsoft Teams and uses QR code scanning to register when someone has checked in/out of a desk location.  It also allows you to access the building in one step. Other features such as booking office space for an entire team are being looked into.  The team have also developed an administration app for our security and facilities colleagues to help manage bookings and see how our office spaces are being used in the new model. We’ve also added tools like being able to flag who is first aid trained and on site. Given health & safety is a huge priority at Centrica seemed like the right thing to do to build in that extra layer of support for our people.

The development of this app, which is key to helping our people adapt to our new way of working, is as easy as booking a seat on a plane. It’s a great example of collaboration across our business, solving a challenge and retaining control over a solution by building in-house.