Utilities have not historically been quick to adopt new technology, but digital transformation trends in the utility industry are taking hold. Because of generational transitions, aging grids, highly distributed workforces and technological advances, interest and investments in digital innovation are becoming high priority.
3 Digital Transformation Trends in the Utility Industry
1. Utilities Want to Be More Proactive
Following in the footsteps of field service organizations, utilities have expressed growing interest in applying analytics in order to perform proactive service. This means companies could identify issues with a transformer and fix it before it fails, rather than reacting to a failure once it’s happened. In an industry environment characterized by volatile and high-volume work, capitalizing on every opportunity to be less reactive is key.
2. Cloud Services Are Gaining Traction
According to Gartner’s recent Market Guide for Mobile Workforce Management (MWM) for Utilities, 50 percent of utility mobile workforce management deployments will be in the cloud by 2020. The leading reasons behind this transition include the ability to better support the deployment of “complex distributed systems,” as well as the ability of cloud-based solutions to deliver IT savings, scalability, flexibility and faster time to value. Time to value is incredibly important as historically, many enterprise solutions require long, disruptive implementations. Cloud-based solutions that can be up and running quickly create a huge advantage for utility companies.
3. Evolving Services Require a Field Service Management Approach
At many utility companies, an emphasis on energy storage is opening the door for field service focused vendors. Because solar and battery storage are smarter systems that involve more complex work than other grid assets, utility workers need additional mobile support such as work instructions and real-time communication with experts. When field crews are working on power systems that have been patched with repairs that reach back decades, being able to get instant support from experts is critical.
In addition, Bain & Company notes that companies need to move away from a piecemeal approach and towards the disciplined, repeatable workflows seen at field service organizations. Bain & Company recommends investing in smart-grid technology, self-repairing networks and burying lines underground to avoid unnecessary labor and redirect field forces to where they are most needed and can add the most value.
Today, most of the utility industry lags behind the progress that other industries have made in digitalization, customer engagement and the everyday use of advanced analytics to generate value from data. But this is starting to change, and for an industry that performs mission-critical work that impacts our lives every day, it’s a welcome development.