Need to Know 

  • Delivered the core project outputs on a rapid three-month timeline to align with the OEB’s  Digital First Strategy, as part of their effort to better serve those requiring their services by becoming more responsive, adaptable, agile, and progressive
  • Implemented a simple and streamlined end-to-end digital license application process
  • Built a robust notification system to guide applicants through their applications
  • Provided a robust and secure account-based solution built on modern technology


The OEB is the regulatory authority responsible for overseeing the distribution of natural gas as well as the generation, transmission, and delivery of electricity across the province.


In order to operate in Ontario, most energy companies require a license from the OEB — a license is also required if an energy utility company wants to change their rates or ownership, sell their assets, or build new facilities. The licensing process had always been paper-based, requiring manual processing from vendors and OEB staff.

Northern partnered with the OEB to digitize and simplify the licensing process, creating a user-friendly application portal that allows users to submit directly to the Board, eliminating the need for manual submission, speeding up processing time, automating renewals, centralizing vendor data collection, and decreasing administrative burden within the organization.


With a primarily paper-based licensing system, and forms that regularly exceeded 15 pages and required multiple phases of approval, the OEB’s manual licensing process was laborious, inefficient, and time-consuming, taking months to complete.

In support of their Digital First Approach and due to a change in organizational priorities, OEB’s leadership required a fully digitized application process within three months of the project’s start date.

Throughout the Discovery phase, the team gained valuable insights into the essential parameters critical to the portal’s success. The application process had to be end-to-end — from filling out ministry-scrutinized forms, to obtaining signatures, board review, and paying for the application filing. Seven form application streams needed to be built, each with significant differences between them. Security and identity secrecy were also of paramount importance. 



Once Discovery was complete, Northern assembled a specialized team with web application, Drupal, and eCommerce expertise. In order to deliver a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) within the three-month timeline, the team created a two-phase strategy.

In the first phase, they focused on creating the core portal functionalities, delivering basic configurations, processing login and form functionalities, and integrating payment systems. In the second phase, the team fully implemented the portal, integrating it with all required platforms and enabling all workflows and permissions.

Additionally, the application forms needed to be configured for the digital world. The OEB and Northern teams dedicated time to a massive form exploration to gather the requirements, form logic, and legal obligations that differed between them. They worked in collaboration to modernize the language and revise the structure of each form to work in a digital format, using Entity Print to generate PDF versions of each form.

The team implemented DocuSign as a solution to the OEB’s signature requirements, and Shopify to integrate secure, real-time processing of licensing fees. This process overlapped with a business unit review and followed a contemporaneous testing philosophy to meet the tight deadline.

Customized dashboards with self-service capabilities were created for administrators, finance/legal, and applicants to ensure each audience had the tools they needed for their workflow and to remove unnecessary administrative burdens. These were also integrated with a robust notification system to alert those who needed to sign off on each step of the process, inform applicants of state changes, and confirmation of payment received.

Northern delivered comprehensive training and onboarding to staff to quickly get them up-to-speed on the new portal, and built in a self-help architecture with assistive text to guide applicants through the new process.

The OEB's online portal for filing license applications features a fully automated process for user registration and digital signatures, along with an e-payment system that offers a user-friendly experience for applicants. As a result, license applications are faster and more efficient for licensees, and the overall time for licensing has been significantly reduced.

Additionally, the Northern team:

  • Delivered a tailored, customizable application form pathway for seven (7) distinct license streams in just three months
  • Embedded self-help architecture and assets into the portal to reduce the administrative burden on OEB staff caused by errors, omissions and rework
  • Built a user-friendly homepage with an intuitive navigation structure to provide a guided path to the relevant licensing stream
  • Configured the portal to provide automated engagement and notification elements, such as email notifications, print-ready pages, and mandatory response sections with conditional logic and application instructions


Northern's partnership with the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) led to a transformative digital solution that revolutionized the license application process for energy companies across Ontario. By digitizing and streamlining the application process, Northern eliminated the inefficiencies of the previous paper-based system, reducing processing times and the administrative burden on OEB staff.

Through strategic planning, nimble implementation, and a commitment to meeting the three-month turnaround for the initial phase, Northern delivered a user-friendly portal that offers a seamless experience for those on both sides of the application process. The outcome not only modernized the OEB's operations but also enhanced efficiency across Ontario’s energy sector, ultimately benefiting stakeholders and consumers alike.

If you’d like expert guidance on digitizing and modernizing your internal systems, contact us using the link below.