Visualising Energy placeholder

Visualising Energy

How to create an app that connects users with the intangible world of solar energy.

 

When sonnen turned to Boldare they had only a few months to develop an MVP of their customer portal that would engage its customers with their sustainable power source. Their in-house development team was tied up with other products, and the deadline did not allow sufficient time to recruit new developers and designers.

Sonnen Logo

Sonnen

Solar and battery technology, Germany

Clients review on Clutch

Boldare’s company culture really fits us well, especially their startup atmosphere, their agility, and the engagement of the team members.

Norbert Baumann, VP Research & Development / Digital

Summary

Sonnen wanted to create a customer window to the intangible world of self-sustainability and solar energy, as provided by sonnen’s core product, the sonnenBatterie. Apart from acting as an engagement tool, the customer portal would also be an important element of the company's marketing strategy, with customers acting as brand ambassadors and showcasing the web app to their friends and neighbors.

Boldare delivered a fully self-organizing Scrum team in just four days from the first contact by sonnen. A full, interdisciplinary development team, consisting of Designer, Frontend Developers, DevOps and Scrum Master, was carefully selected to meet the client's needs. The Boldare team created an MVP of the customer portal working hand-in-hand with sonnen’s Product Owner and in-house designer. The team sculpted a completely new user experience and improved the user interface, all in line with sonnen’s brand identity. The resulting responsive web app is fully scalable and performs exceptionally well in terms of loading time, achieving the product KPIs.

The customer portal is now live and new features have been added with every sprint. Following the success of the collaboration, sonnen has partnered with Boldare to deliver new products.

Visit the website:

www.sonnenbatterie.de

Product

Customer Portal

Deliverables

custom software development, UX, UI

Timespan

1st release 4 months, 2nd release ongoing

Cost

Confidential

Our client says

Boldare’s company culture really fits us well, especially their startup atmosphere, their agility, and the engagement of the team members.

Norbert Baumann, VP Research & Development / Digital

Client: global renewable energy giant

Established in 2010, sonnen is a quickly growing company operating in the renewable energy and technology sector. The company is the global leader in residential energy storage and operates throughout Europe, USA, Australia and more. Its core product is the sonnenBatterie, a home energy storage system for private homes and small to mid-size businesses. sonnen ships a ready-to-use system containing battery modules, an inverter, a power measurement system and an intelligent, internet-connected energy controller. After it has been installed at the customer’s site it can store energy collected from PVs and distribute that energy around the house as well as pass it on to other people registered in the sonnenCommunity.

Our clients demand to see how the sonnenBatterie works day-to-day and the impact it has on the environment. We tried to find something to keep the excitement alive months and years after customers have bought the system. The customer portal is a way to visualize all this information and activity.

Norbert Baumann, VP Research & Development / Digital

Furthermore, the product has the potential for more extensive use; for example, building a virtual power plant consisting of thousands of sonnenBatteries for storing or providing excess energy, achieving sustainability and stability on the electrical grid.

Visualising Energy - Boldare in Media

Problem: engaging clients with their sustainable power source

Sonnen clients are highly engaged consumers who are eager to see the effect of their sonnenBatterie. Most importantly, they want to observe how the system works and what impact it has on the environment, how self-sustainable they are, how the energy is shared within the sonnenCommunity, and how they help to stabilise the power grid.

A product to engage and retain customers

Electricity is an intangible product and thus sonnen decided that their customer portal would be a tool to keep customers engaged after they have bought the system. The customer portal is a way to visualize all relevant information for all their products, like the sonnenBatterie, Smart Home accessories and the sonnenFlat energy contract.

Revitalising the customer portal

The previous version of the customer portal had only the must-have features and offered some data, but it was very technical, complex and not visually appealing. Sonnen wanted to take the portal to the next level, simplify the data presented and make it user-friendly as well as coherent with the rest of the brand. The web app needed to be easy to be understood by everyone, so sonnen customers would proudly show it off to their neighbors and become ambassadors for the brand.

A skilled development team to deliver a great web product

In September, sonnen decided to launch the new customer portal by the end of the year and test it on real users to make further improvements in the future. Their in-house team of developers was tied up with other products and they quickly needed a fully self-organizing team.

sonnen realized that the process of recruitment and training can take up to 3-6 months and with a December deadline on the horizon they were unable to reach it without an external partner. They had initial designs for the app but needed a graphic designer onboard to work alongside the development team to further enhance the designs, add new views, and create all mobile views for the responsive version, as well as oversee the implementation.

Creating a scalable product that loads quickly and satisfies the users

The Client realized that the the old customer portal was not scaling very well, with integration of new features affecting the rest of the web app. Additionally, the loading times of the old portal were high, with customers having to wait several seconds until the page and data loaded, not only in Europe but also in the US and Australia.

The KPIs for the new portal included that it be stable, live and running, with easy integration of new features, plus reduced page loading times and minimal downtime. From the customer perspective, sonnen wanted to achieve a top-notch user experience as well as an amazing digital experience. For the MVP of the new customer portal, sonnen planned to measure the satisfaction of users through surveys, aiming for an average score of 4 out of 5 or higher.

Visualising Energy - Boldare Team

Solution: a skilled product team and fitting process to deliver the web app

Choosing the right product team for the customer portal

sonnen selected a number of partners who stood in terms of technological fit. They began their research by visiting websites, looking not only for more information about processes but also searching for a cultural fit - a startup atmosphere within an enterprise business. They contacted several potential partners and had initial talks. Boldare stood out as a company who really wanted to understand their problem and fulfill sonnen’s needs.

Boldare kicked off the project four working days after the initial contact with a fully self-organized team. From the beginning the product was developed in a Scrum framework with one week sprints. The Product Owner was on the sonnen side and the Boldare team, based in Gliwice and Warsaw, had a remote kick off meeting with a presentation about the sonnen company as well as the vision and goals for the product. They also established a structure for the coming weeks as well as dependencies between people and their responsibilities.

The Boldare team really feels like they are sonnen employees. They work on an equal footing and collaboratively with our team members. This allows us to create a better experience for our customers and that is hugely important.

Norbert Baumann, VP Research & Development / Digital

Lean Startup Chart
Sonnen Tools In Home
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Boldare carefully selected the team members to suit the client’s needs, choosing people who had worked together in the past. Product development started with three frontend developers, a DevOps Specialist and a Scrum Master. Two weeks into the development process, it was agreed that the help of the Boldare designer was crucial and thus she joined the team. sonnen’s in-house backend developer assisted in product development and onboarded the team with respect to the existing infrastructure, highlighting certain considerations for coding. The team was interdisciplinary, with all the skills necessary to complete the mission.

sonnen provided Boldare with some initial designs. The team’s goal was to prepare a responsive web design for the web app as well as rethink the UX for the customer portal based on the user stories discussed during workshops.

In November, sonnen recruited an in-house designer who also joined the team. The new designer was based at sonnen’s HQ in Wildpoldsried and was on-boarded by the Boldare team, working with them together hand-in-hand from the day one.

Close collaboration is the key to success

The Boldare team visited sonnen HQ two weeks after the project kicked off for further onboarding on-site. sonnen visited Boldare’s HQ every month and the team from Gliwice travelled to Germany twice. These face-to-face interactions helped to form bonds between project members and a better understanding of the business needs for the product.

Sonnen Customer Portal App Views

Both Boldare and sonnen worked very closely together and from the beginning the collaboration has been transparent and agile. Boldare’s Scrum Master helps the team to follow the process and looks after transparency.

The team held daily meetings online, discussing obstacles and asking questions about the product, solving them on the spot or within 24 hours. Throughout the day, everyone was in constant contact via Slack.

What we really gained from the collaboration was a partner that is not only doing what we asked them to do but is also thinking and giving feedback. We really enjoy the input from each individual team member, not only about the technology but also about the content and design.

Norbert Baumann, VP Research & Development / Digital

The designers in both companies held additional calls regarding UX and UI, constantly updating each other on progress and changes as well as making sure that everything was in line with the sonnen brand. The review, retrospectives and planning meetings were held via Google Meet, with the whole team taking part across Gliwice, Warsaw and Wildpoldsried.

Results: MVP tested with real users and performing well

In early December, a first version of the product was released to a small group of customers and the full release went live in February. The product is now live and the team measures the page loading time and uptime. sonnen has carried out customer satisfaction surveys and so far the response has been incredibly positive with an average score of 4 out of 5 or higher. The results are very satisfactory for the client.

The relationship between our companies is developing further and we feel that we can entrust Boldare with more complex projects, and for us internally this is a success.

Norbert Baumann, VP Research & Development / Digital

Clients review

Boldare treats the customer portal as their product and this resulted in the high quality of their work.

Norbert Baumann, VP Research & Development / Digital

Norbert Baumann - VP Research & Development / Digital
Sonnen Headquarters

Real impact

4

out of 5 average user satisfaction score

sonnen continues to work with Boldare on further development of the customer portal. Currently, the team is gathering user feedback, analyzing it and developing the product accordingly. They are also adding new functionalities with every sprint.

Following the success of the collaboration, sonnen has also decided to partner with Boldare on their new flagship project, which was launched in February 2018.