For utilities companies, digital transformation means finding ways to improve operational efficiencies while driving innovation to deliver a better customer experience.

Three years ago Gartner predicted that 80 per cent of processes and products will be reinvented, digitised or eliminated by 2020.  It feels like we’re well on the way to proving Gartner right.

For the utilities industry more so than some others it is hard to escape to the conclusion that the challenges are bigger but so are the rewards.

Utilities businesses need to get the most out of their massive and often aging infrastructure. At the same time, utilities must deal with changing demand patterns and customers who want more and aren’t afraid to switch in order to get it. That helps explains why in the recent OpenText commissioned study by Which-50 into digital transformation in the Australian utilities sector, customer experience was identified as the area most ripe for disruption by almost half the executives questioned.

Balancing supply with demand

Another study, this time of UK utility companies which we conducted with IDC in 2016 suggested that one of the key objectives of digital transformation was to better balance supply and demand. At the moment, utilities tend to generate energy to meet peak demand at all times, wasting resources and costs. This is unsustainable at a time of shrinking demand and declining revenues.

It is worth noting that customers don’t just switch for cheaper tariffs – although that is a major concern – they also change for the quality of service and the innovative products available.

Digital transformation is urgently required if companies really are to balance supply with demand – to increase the efficiency of their production while driving innovation in their customer experience.

The utility companies that can thrive in this environment will be the ones who can take greater control of their data and information – both structured and unstructured – and turn it into real value for the business. At the heart of this sits a digital platform – something that OpenText and our partner SAP are calling ‘the Digital Core.’

Defining the digital core

Creating data is not a problem for the utilities industry. Making sense of that data is another thing entirely. Our big data is getting bigger by the day. The systems we have need to move beyond the management and control of data to enable the full analysis and exploitation of all data that you need to operate. We’re all aware that we hold less and less of that data ourselves and we need to be able to work with data from suppliers, regulators, customers, and social channels.

Managing and capitalising on the enterprise information which a utility possesses is the key to simpler workflows, better decisions, more engaged customers, enhanced innovation and faster results. This requires much more than simply overcoming departmental and enterprise silos to gain centralised control of information. It necessitates a completely holistic approach to how employees work with, share and collaborate on information.

That’s what we mean by the Digital Core. It is comprised of four important elements:

  • Information Processing: Automating the capture, digitisation, and processing of information coming into your business processes from enterprise applications, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
  • Information Management: Storing, integrating and analysing the information assets required for business processes so that information flows to the right user, in the right format at the right time.
  • Information Delivery: Aggregating information from different sources, and publishing it to target groups in a personalised way in real time. This provides the platform for collaboration and sharing across devices and applications.
  • Information Governance: Maintaining all relevant information for the legally required compliance periods. This underpins all stages of the flow of enterprise information across your organisation.

The Digital Core acts as an enterprise architecture to connect people, processes, and the critical information through every stage of the information flow.

Three use cases

1. Optimise enterprise asset management

You can maintain, repair and operate your fleets, plants and distribution networks more efficiently. Extend your ERP and EAM systems to deliver collaboration, information governance and process control to operations and maintenance activities. Benefits include:

  • Increase asset uptime and reliability
  • 360-degree view of asset information, process and master data
  • Improve the quality and consistency of asset information and
    work instructions
  • Reduce HSE risks and incidents
  • Transparent compliance and effective management of change
    (MoC)
  • Support external service providers and maintenance workers
  • Move from reactive to predictive maintenance

2. Deliver a more engaging customer experience

You can empower your marketing, sales and support teams to improve the customer experience and increase your share of the customer wallet with tailored, multi-channel communications. Benefits include:

  • Deliver high-volume personalised customer billing and
    communications
  • Tailor communications based on customer information and
    energy profiles
  • Support marketing and demand-side management programs
  • Deliver consistent corporate branding and message
  • Increase customer satisfaction and reduce call centre volume

3. Manage your Smart Grid data efficiently

You can manage the ever-expanding volume and velocity of Big Data from your meter data management (MDM) and demand-side management systems (DMS). Embedded data archiving delivers improved business insight and regulatory compliance. Benefits include:

  • Retain customer and network records to support regulatory requirements
  • Optimize the reliability and performance of your production systems
  • Gain insight into historical operations and performance
  • Improve visibility, reporting, and compliance

The Digital Core makes it simple to incorporate mobile, cloud, Big Data, and AI into content-rich digital processes. It delivers the foundation for a successful digital transformation.

To learn more download Digital Transformation in the Australian Utilities Sector today.

About the author

Martin Richards is the Senior Director – Energy Industry Strategy at OpenText which is a corporate member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Our members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.

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