As businesses get larger, it gets easier to worry about internal stuff rather than worry about what is good for the customerSimon Pohlen, Flick Electric\u201cThere is no magic formula for disruption,\u201d says Simon Pohlen, chief technology officer at Flick Electric. But having been involved in a startup that is providing an alternative to traditional power companies, he believes a shift in mindset can help any organisation in the digital era. \u201cEmbrace the idea that in the digital world, the customers have got all the power,\u201d says Pohlen. \u201cLet that guide your decision-making, that is how digital businesses become disruptive.\u201dThis was demonstrated by Uber. \u201cThey have given all the power to the consumer and completely disrupted the taxi industry.\u201d \u201cAs businesses get larger, it gets easier to worry about internal stuff rather than worry about what is good for the customer,\u201d he says. If you can figure out something you can do for the users as a business, you can be successful with your model. Then I think you are probably halfway there.\u201d He says this shifting balance of power is also happening in the electricity supply industry. Flick Electric was launched almost two years ago and claims it has delivered 18 per cent average savings, more than $2 million, so far, to the company's customers. The electricity retailer won the innovative services category at the 2016 Hi-Tech awards.No caption Digital models are about transparency and that is what customers did not have previously. The company provides its customers access to the wholesale price of electricity direct from the spot market and then charges a transparent fee as a retailer.Flick\u2019s web and mobile apps and unique weekly billing system give customers key information about their consumption and price patterns, which inspires behaviour change, helps with budgeting and avoids bill shock.\u201cWith Flick, the disruption is really about the business model primarily and then secondarily, about the technology,\u201d says Pohlen. The business model provides complete transparency for all costs and also enables people to choose if they want to use power when it is expensive or not expensive, he adds. In the same way, customers are also alerted when there is a shortage in the supply of power in the market, with a price spike. \u201cWe built a solution that sends people alerts when the price goes up. \u201cThat is what digital models are. It is about transparency and that is what customers did not have previously.'' He cites an example of a household that might be paying a certain amount per kilowatt of power, but the cost of that power is going up and down all the time. \u201cYou don\u2019t get any choice about that,\u201d he says, on the way the traditional companies charge the customers. \u201cI think it is coming more and more to the forefront, as more consumers adopt the idea they can be in control.\u201d He says the Flick platform is also a preparation for the upcoming use of programmable, self-learning, sensor-driven devices. \u201cIf you could now have another input into that, the current cost of power, it can enable a whole new level of decision making how you consume power in your home. Flick could provide a feed of the power price to the device, he says. \u201cIt can enable this automated decision making about managing cost.''We have to change IT itself from \u2018information technology\u2019 to \u2018innovating togetherPhoto by Divina Paredes One of the things I really find fascinating about Facebook is that it has managed to build this complex application. They have got over a billion users and I don\u2019t think they ever ran a training programme for customers.Simon Pohlen, FlickA diverse career Pohlen joined Flick last year from Loyalty New Zealand, which runs the FlyBuys programme, where he was head of technology and new capabilities.\u201cI had an odd career,\u201d he says, with a smile, reflecting on the diverse roles he took in traditional IT from data warehousing through to digital and advertising. He says his \u201caccidental career path\u201d was paved by his interest in \u201cnew and different things\u201d. Pohlen finished an MSc in software engineering and began his career as a programmer. He worked at analytics company Datamine for 10 years. He worked with Flick CEO Steve O\u2019Connor, whose brother had founded Datamine. Pohlen says he also worked at the marketing team of New Zealand Post and in an advertising agency, the Clemenger group as head of data strategy. He says this combination of traditional IT, digital and marketing will become increasingly common with the continuing digitalisation of companies. His advice for up and coming ICT professionals? \u201cProgramming or development programming is the new literacy,\u201d he says. \u201cIn the future if you are not able to do development or understand development, your world is going to be smaller. \u201cThe breadth of what you learn is really important,\u201d he adds. \u201cIf you try to have too narrow a focus, it won\u2019t be successful.\u201dHis other advice is around having the ability to work with a team, as \u201cnothing gets built and delivered on its own\u201d.\u201cYour ability to work with other people and get along and respect different people\u2019s views is really important. \u201cDiversity is important,\u201d he adds. He describes the people at Flick as an \u201cinteresting mix.'' There are those who have worked in the electricity industry for a long time. \u201cThey are really valuable because of that. \u201cWe also have people that have never worked in the electricity industry,\u201d he states. \u201cThey will say \u2018Why are you doing it that way? It is not going to work.\u2019 Having that diversity of opinions is really essential.\u201dWestpac CIO Dawie Olivier on 'The killer app for today\u2019s ICT teams'C-change Pohlen also shares insights on working with executive peers. If you are at C-level, you are expected to be not just thinking about your area, he says. \u201cYour responsibility is to have a view and be helpful across others areas of the business. At Flick he says the technology team sits right next to marketing.No caption Having the ability to work with a team is important as \u2018nothing gets built and delivered on its own.\u2019Simon Pohlen, Flick Electric\u201cI spend a bunch of time in digital marketing as I do about technical stuff. I also spend time thinking about the customer experience, what we can do to look after our customers. \u201cThe GM of marketing, for instance, is interested on what the technology is doing. We have conversations on how marketing and technology can deliver stuff at Flick. \u201cThe days of IT and marketing being separate is gone, they just have to be close together and really work well." Because the office of Flick is \u201cnot massive\u201d, they are able to sit near the call centre and listen in on the conversations with customers. \u201cYou get real insights about the things customers expect you to do in a digital way. \u201cI expect my tech team to be building software for our people internally that's as easy to use as Facebook." This is important, he says, \u201cif you want to transform your business and have people as productive in a digital sense then they have to have tools that are easy to use. \u201cOne of the things I really find fascinating about Facebook is that it has managed to build this complex application. They have got over a billion users and I don\u2019t think they ever ran a training programme for customers."For Pohlen, this underscores the importance of simplification and \u201chow often simplicity is on the far side of complexity\u201d. \u201cIf you think how much work they put into making complex work more intuitive and simple, and then compare that to the tools people are using internally, then that gives you a clue how you can transform an organisation from inside out.\u201d He has the added advantage of having Steve O'Connor as his CEO, a colleague from his time at Datamine, who has a healthy attitude towards \u201cfailing fast\u201d. \u201cFrom an agile perspective, we fail fast on a bunch of stuff. I am lucky to work in an environment where that is accepted. He will say, \u201cYou failed, it does not work, let us move on. What is the next thing we are going to try?\u201dFlick's senior management team: Nikki Bloomfield, Simon Pohlen, Steve O'Connor, Jurjen Geerts, Shannan Hargreaves and Jessica Venning-Bryan.Send news tips and comments to email@example.comFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinapFollow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nzSign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.Join us on Facebook.