Always one step ahead: an interview with Peter van Dijk, GOconnectIT CTO

Peter van Dijk tells intive the story of digital transformation in the cable and duct industry in the Netherlands. It's an account of a brave vision that paved the way to smart and practical solutions, and changed the face of an industry. What is more, it's a story of a great, lasting partnership. 

Over the past decades, digital technology has transformed the way we conduct business. Can you tell us, how it’s impacted the cable and duct industry?

At GOconnectIT, first ideas to go digital appeared very early on – just around the year 2000. I wasn’t with the company at the time, but I know that the founders had this bold vision. They knew the industry well and understood the growing need for digitalizing the most important processes.

Back in the day, engineers who worked in the field drew all their sketches on a piece of paper. Gas lines, electricity, water pipes – all the locating and relocating services were provided using manual drafting.

Then the GCIT owners came up with this wonderful idea to create a solution that would make things easier and bring great advantages for the contractors: an introduction of a proper process, no data loss, an immediate validation. See, when things are drawn on a piece of paper, every sketch is correct, because it can’t be validated.

GOconnectIT started working on this solution in 2003. There were all kinds of Proof of Concepts, but the industry was not ready.

Another aspect of the whole digital endeavor was related to the application process on the Kadaster’s end. In the Netherlands, when you perform digging with machines, you need to file a request to receive the precise location of all the cables and ducts below the ground. Incorporating the new solution in this process was just a matter of time.

What was the turning point?

In 2011, when I joined the company, smartphone and tablet market was just gaining momentum. It was a real digital revolution. People became more familiar with new technologies. Easy to use touchscreens opened up new possibilities. Field workers could forget the heavy toughbooks and laptops.

At that time, we developed the Klic App that enabled the automation of processing the Kadaster requests for cable and duct location. The reports were now available on tablets and smartphones within minutes.

This solution gave us a boost. Just imagine: we launched it and gained 30 customers within the first six months! I believed in its huge potential from the very beginning. But it wasn’t all that easy.

The first version of the app was built inhouse. It was too complicated in all kinds of ways, running on unstable backend and requiring very heavy servers. When a new customer came on board, it would take us 2–4 hours to set everything up – sometimes even a couple of days – costing us a lot of money.

I felt that we needed to go in another direction, move to cloud-based solutions, lighter versions and more user-friendly for less tech-savvy people. That was the dream we then followed.

And that’s when you decided to involve a software development company?

Yes. Our solution was great, but it was imperfect. It was like we had a great “shop,” that everyone wanted to enter, but we had to hang up a sign: “sorry, we’re closed.” We were afraid of what might happen to our servers if a lot of people started using the app.

In the meantime, I became the technical team lead and faced constant staff shortages. We had some Android devs, but just a small team and we needed to build a Windows app.

Why have you picked intive for this partnership?

In spring 2014 we did our research and selected four companies. From day one, we had the best feeling about intive (in those days it was SMT Software). We had almost immediate trust in intive’s people. And so, our journey started.

intive had a Dutch representative. I became the Product Owner. We began our collaboration with an extensive knowledge transfer.

How have intive’s services improved your business?

Together we’ve successfully redeveloped and improved our Klic App and GMF App.

The next step was moving forward with our backend. Since the cooperation on apps was very satisfying, we decided to rebuild everything from scratch. We asked for advice and were immediately offered a Business Analyst.

So, he came over to our office, and we talked for five days in a row. When he left, we spoke on a daily basis, week after week. Just to refine everything and a comprehensive plan was introduced.

The real technical knowledge within a company – that's the thing. Thanks to intive’s expertise in cloud solutions, we were able to build our new backend within a couple of months. Now the complete system is built on Azure. Another aspect worth mentioning: intive testers. They did, and do, a great job, making sure everything runs smoothly. They're always behind the whole magic. 

What I like about the people here, is that they have this positive mindset. They really want to help you forward. Sometimes they’ll say: “don’t do this.” When my team has doubts, I always listen. They are professionals.

Anything else you’d like to add?

To cooperate well, people need to feel comfortable with each other. Good communication is crucial. But business is also fun. To me, it’s very important to be able to talk comfortably to all: salespeople, analysts, and developers. And that’s what I found here.

Are there any new digital trends that you find worth exploring?

Yes, Augmented Reality. Actually, we’re doing a Proof of Concept with it. We combined it with our own GIS system.

The GPS on your phone is not very accurate. But with external AR components, all it takes is switching on your camera. Imagine, it would project the pipeline on your smartphone in real-time. Very useful. And the next step would be Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens. We’re also thinking of incorporating IoT in our solution.

We always want to be one step ahead.

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