In a series of interviews with in-house industry experts here at Contigo, we talk to our Chief Technology Officer, Simon Stevens, about his role and the latest developments that the team are working on.
Tell us about your role
We’ve made a few changes at Contigo recently. I’ve moved from a delivery-focused role as Head of Technology to a more strategic role as CTO. Going forward, I’m going to be focusing on our longer-term goals of building a modern, scalable solution for our customers.
Can you tell us about your plans for the future?
Performance – We work hard to keep up with our growing customer demand. We’re committed to fundamental changes to the architecture of our key products to make scalability a central part of everything we build.
Innovation – Contigo was founded on cutting edge technology and principles; in fact we were one of the early adopters of web-based technology for the delivery of our products. We are exploring new ways to develop tools and products using containers, microservices, new APIs and technologies. We never intend to stand still for very long.
User Experience – Our goal is to provide the user with a software experience that fits with their working demands. We’re planning a refresh of parts of our UI to present a cleaner, more workflow-driven experience.
We have a number of projects in progress now and over the coming months that focus on these core values.
You sound like one busy man! You’re committed to ensuring Contigo products are best-of-breed. Is there anything you’ve been working on recently that has been particularly exciting or that you’re particularly proud of?
There have been several enhancements to enTrader, our ETRM solution, recently, which will really benefit our users. We have added the facility to integrate enTrader seamlessly with the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), and ICE Endex, to support fast, effective decision making and enable straight-through processing of trades into enTrader.
On top of this, we have also added new functionality, including a REST API, to support integration with the cloud-based business analytics service Microsoft Power BI, through an ODATA connector. This enables users to create bespoke dynamic reports using enTrader data, to support management reporting and analytics. Although this API is new, it’s quickly becoming the primary route for customer interoperation. Over future releases, we’ll be expanding its support for write operations as well.
Are there any teasers you can give us about any new features or technological developments that might be coming up in the future?
Yes! We are constantly enhancing the features and functionality of our software, and as part of our roadmap, two new features will be available within enTrader to enhance the system’s capabilities and make energy trading smarter and simpler.
We have added a Monte Carlo VaR (Value at Risk) module that provides an alternative way to calculate VaR for a trading portfolio. Monte Carlo VaR uses simulations to predict the volatility in a portfolio by modelling the probability and impact of changes in the market conditions that cannot otherwise be easily predicted. It’s fully managed in-house and complements the existing Delta Normal VaR functionality within enTrader. It is an exciting development!
We have also added to the list of exchanges and broker platforms available to customers by enhancing our Nord Pool day-ahead connectivity. enTrader has enabled connectivity to Nord Pool N2EX (the name given to the GB power market) for many years, but recently, Nord Pool deprecated its older API. Therefore, we took the opportunity to upgrade our interface to Nord Pool’s REST-based day-ahead API, so that enTrader’s coverage has expanded to include the central western Europe markets, as well as GB hour and half hour auctions.
The last year has certainly thrown up a few challenges. Has the global pandemic affected the world of technology and energy software in any stand-out ways?
The internet has really come into its own during the pandemic. Without a doubt, web-based applications have a distinct advantage in such situations, since they can be accessed any time, any place, anywhere, so long as there is an internet connection.
Our enTrader ETRM was designed for web from the start, and because it can be accessed entirely via home broadband – and the web traffic secured via HTTPS and SSL encryption – it means that enTrader users are fully online and securely connected, wherever they are.
We’ve always believed in the benefits of cloud-hosting, which is why we can host all our software products on our in-house cloud service. This means companies don’t have to worry about having staff onsite to use the software or maintain servers etc. It’s the ideal set-up for remote working, and given than many workplaces had to close during times of lockdown, I think we’ll start to see a greater shift towards cloud-hosting from companies who have historically only provided deployed systems.
And finally…Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?
As physicist Richard Feynman once noted: “For those who want some proof that physicists are human, the proof is in the idiocy of all the different units which they use for measuring energy.” I’d say that’s pretty conclusive…