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Driving Digital Change for Energy and Technology IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Driving Digital Change for Energy and Technology 02


www. b kw . ch


Thomas Zinniker, Chief Information Officer at BKW Group, explains how business is thriving through synergies across energy, grid and services


homas Zinniker, BKW Group’s Chief Information Officer, pops up on Zoom against a striking Alpine backdrop and

for the next hour, speaks with refreshing clarity about the changing nature of energy and technology, and BKW’s pivotal position at the heart 04

of these changes. Whether it’s urbanisation, climate change or digitalisation, BKW Group is a driver of change and comfortable embracing solutions, innovations and data, as befits its vision to create “infrastructure solutions for a future worth living”. One of its core messages is decentralisation and maintaining flexibility amid volatility, across its three central business sectors – Energy, Grid and Services. Specifically, it has expertise in five key areas; Energy, Power Grid, Infra Services, Building Solutions and Engineering. The numbers speak for themselves. In the half year to 2020, BKW’s revenues shot up 12 per cent to around CHF1.5 billion and operating profit rose 5 per cent to CHF219 million.


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“We have grown dramatically over the last couple of years and we’ve taken the strategy to build up a network of companies rather than integrate them” — Thomas Zinniker, Chief Information Officer, BKW Group


Recently BKW announced its entrance into the gas market, primarily for two reasons; it has significant par-

“We have grown dramatically over

ticipation in power plants, enabling it to

the last couple of years and we’ve

buy gas more cheaply, and many of its

taken the strategy to build up a

business customers are demanding

network of companies rather than

turn-key solutions.

integrate them,” Zinniker says, “which

Fuelling Energy, Grid and Services

means we need technology to create

One key factor in the group’s ongo-

that network, to combine skills, for big-

ing success is its ability to diversify

ger projects and all the collaboration

and keep one eye on the bigger pic-

elements that are essential.”

ture – whether it’s entering the gas market and providing end customers with a comprehensive energy offering from a single-source supplier; opening

Diversity I Corporate Film I BKW CLICK TO WATCH



07 up new distribution channels with

With half of energy consumption

electricity suppliers and installation

occurring within buildings, the group

partners; or growing its end-to-end

is striving to develop solutions to save

Home Energy system. Underpinning

energy and reduce CO2 emissions.

all these elements is the technology;

Zinniker believes technology is a

each day computers with “100 engi-

“key enabler” in the fight against cli-

neering years’ worth of performance”

mate change.

scan the entire BKW network. From a ‘pure energy’ company, BKW

“With the increase in decentralised power production – be it wind or

has grown into a service company

solar – the grid has a completely dif-

across Europe, specifically Germany,

ferent meaning and capacity issues,”

Switzerland and Austria. In future,

he says. “Technology helps us get

Zinniker believes the energy sector

better insights into where the bottle-

has to come up with solutions in

necks are and also what we need to

a more smart way.

change to adapt to new consumption www. b kw . ch

DIGI AL makes it work. The energy and infrastructure service provider BKW relies on SAP solutions as the basis for a successful digital transformation. As a digitalisation service provider, T-Systems in Switzerland supports companies end-to-end with the continuous development and operation of their SAP landscape.

and production patterns, and to a

energy consumption dropped, but the

certain extent, steer the new ways

group has not been heavily impacted.

of consumption.”

In its company presentation, it states

In terms of engineering services,

Mühleberg nuclear power plant

BKW has been appointed as general

disassembly is ‘on course’ despite

planner for the overall build-up of the

the pandemic, while innovative, tech-

Tesla Gigafactory in Berlin – a pres-

oriented buildings include the Tic

tigious win for the group. Besides

Tric Trac solar-power cooling system

that, infrastructure services focuses

in Zurich and Lonza’s new laboratories

on the large transmission grids, com-

in Visp biopark.

munication networks, and drinking water supply. On the business side, COVID-19 has impacted its services area and

“Due to our model to hedge prices and sell production in advance, we were in a good position when energy prices dropped due to lower consumption,”


Thomas Zinniker Title: Chief Information Officer

Industry: Utilities

Location: Switzerland Thomas Zinniker joined BKW in 2016. As a CIO he is responsible for further developing ICT services – supporting the transformation of BKW from a pure utilities company to an international Infrastructure Services Supplier. Zinniker has a degree in Computer Science and Business Administration. Prior to BKW, Thomas worked in various global companies as a software engineer, consultant and CIO. www. b kw . ch




says Zinniker. “When it comes to work-

from home, that we give employees

ing from home, we were well prepared

stability and structure from a working

and ready from the first day of the

perspective,” adding that the group

pandemic. We have been building our

ranks among the top 10 recruiters

remote working platforms for many

in Switzerland.

years in the light of networking the

Industry 4.0 is a hot topic in the area

newly acquired companies, so when

of power generation and power grid as

the lockdown came, it was quite easy

it switches to a decentralised model.

for us to transition.”

“Electricity cannot easily be stored

But Zinniker acknowledges that in a

so you need insights into what’s going

world of volatility, there will be ongoing

on with the power grid,” says Zinniker.

challenges and technology is going

“We will now have more room to influ-

to be increasingly crucial. “It’s impor-

ence production and consumption.

tant, during this period of working

With the combination of technologies

“We have been building our remote working platforms for many years so when the lockdown came, it was quite easy” — Thomas Zinniker, Chief Information Officer, BKW Group

Clean tech is another key area, though Zinniker wishes the debate wasn’t so “dogmatic” when assessing energy consumption benefits. The flexibility of a gas plant, for example, can be much better controlled and use less CO2 serving as a bridge to solar or other new technologies. Last year, BKW became the first

and combining new ways of storing

publicly listed Swiss company to

energy, we are better equipped to

launch a green bond for trading on the

deal with these uncertainties. In other

Swiss stock exchange, with CHF200

areas, AI is enabling us to plan with

million allocated to fund sustainable

new piping, leakages and installations

projects throughout Europe.

and check everything fits by using Augmented Reality technologies.” The cloud supports the group as a

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS Strategic partnerships across markets

tool to gain flexibility – but it is just a

and sectors are vital for BKW Group,

tool, Zinniker stresses. “Digital trans-

he adds. They add the crucial flexibility

formation is not just automation – it’s

and resilience in our growth path and

the smart integration of people, pro-

let us focus on our core business. For

cesses and technology. You need to question everything, have the right culture and be allowed to make mistakes.” He highlights Uber as a good example of a company which could have created an app that just bundled call centres but they completely re-thought the model from the consumers’ viewpoint. www. b kw . ch


Intelligent tech needs ingenious humans Explore how Extended Reality is changing the way people and companies work at

“I like to see myself as the coach on the sidelines, there when they need help, rather than to interfere with the game itself” — Thomas Zinniker, Chief Information Officer, BKW Group

customers. “It is crucial to think out of the box, when developing new prod-

instance T-Systems is a strong partner

ucts for a changing market. Strategic

in the SAP area. We just outsourced

partner help us to bring in new ideas

the total SAP infrastructure to them.

an shed light on bling spots we all have.

“With their very strong position as a

Especially in areas, where we are

service provider to the energy market,

working since decades more or less

we are continuously exploring addi-

the same way”. 13

tional opportunities to further grow in to new areas.” As an operator for critical infrastructure in Switzerland we need to be resilient in case of major incidents in order to guarantee an up and running energy supply for our customers. With HPEs services for data storage and backup solutions we have implemented additional resilience. Our goal was to build a fallback scenario which has to work in case our own security measures are failing. But not only in the infrastructure area, but also in the business part we rely on partners such as Accenture bringing in expertise and new ideas to develop new services for our


• Production sites: 103 • Countries: 8 • Shareholders: Canton of Bern (52.54%), Others (37.50%) and Groupe E (10%) • Employees: 3,200 (Building Solutions), 2,900 (Engineering), 1,700 (Energy) and 700 (Power Grid) www. b kw . ch



“Digital transformation is not just automation – it’s the smart integration of people, processes and technology” — Thomas Zinniker, Chief Information Officer, BKW Group

BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY “From a career perspective I was always in the area of bringing IT into business, and making technology benefit the business. I’ve worked as a consultant for many years, in large multinational companies. But my philosophy has changed over the last couple of years. I’ve seen that the increased speed in


change can only be achieved through

help, rather than to interfere with the

self-organisation and self-sufficient

game itself. Always trust people – trust

employees. As a manager you can’t

is essential. Mistakes happen but be

always tell people what they have to

transparent and look for solutions.”

do. Provide people with guiding principles, give them a clear target – but let them find the way to that target themselves. I like to see myself as the coach on the sidelines, there when they need www. b kw . ch

BKW AG VIKTORIAPLATZ 2 3013 BERN T 058 477 51 11


Profile for Business Chief Europe

BKW December 2020  

BKW December 2020  

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