If you canvassed the hive of activity among Australian utilities impacted by upcoming Power of Choice reforms, you wouldn’t be wrong in drawing parallels to Full Retail Contestability 15 years ago: blueprinting workshops, impact assessments, B2B working groups, workflows, functional, and technical specs…
But is it really a case of “been there, done that” when it comes to Power of Choice? It shouldn’t be. The Power of Choice presents a massive opportunity for utilities to reevaluate, streamline, and optimise their business processes.
For the uninitiated, the Power of Choice is a set of electricity market reforms coming to an Australian utility near you. With the intention being “to provide more opportunities for customers to make informed decisions about the way they use electricity,” Power of Choice consists of a number of important initiatives that will impact utilities along with their CIS, billing, and market interfacing systems. And that’s just the surface. Read the AEMC site for more information on Power of Choice.
The Power of Choice reforms, in my view, reinforce the need for agility and innovation needed by traditional Australian utilities to evolve into what SAP refers to as the digital utility. The transformation of systems and processes is as critical to digital transformation in utilities as is smart grids, distributed generation, renewables, and omnichannel customer empowerment. With Power of Choice being one of the more imminent disruptors to the electricity market, Australian utilities should be turning this disruption into an enabler of digital transformation.
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result
If your CIS, billing, or market interfacing systems predates the Obama administration or GST being introduced into Australia, then chances are there are better and more efficient ways of doing things, and you should be challenging any notion of treating Power of Choice impacts as mere deltas to your existing processes. Indeed, utilities should be doing a health check on current B2B processes and optimising these before compounding the problematic and error-prone with Power of Choice.
This is difficult, because of the natural organisational divide between projects and IT support. Existing processes are BAU operations, whereas Power of Choice projects are separate and largely involve external consultants. Where support is with a BPO arrangement, it is even harder to gauge the health of a process because these are handled behind the scenes and thereby further removed from the Power of Choice projects.
Utilities can seek to uncover the true costs of their B2B processes by asking some fundamental questions:
- Are B2B processes being managed by exception (as they should be), or are they manually intensive?
- What component of errors are legitimate ones requiring human intervention versus ones which are manual for the wrong reasons? (Insert mental image of Homer Simpson and the dipping bird hitting Y on the keyboard).
- What tools are processes built on and what skill sets are required to maintain these?
- What alternatives exist to future-proof against disruptions?
- How can an existing process be transformed to deliver and scale innovation by harnessing technology like real-time, predictive analytics, Big Data, and machine learning?
You can’t drive forward by looking through the rear-view mirror. The same applies to digital transformation. The Power of Choice is valuable opportunity to herald a new era of digital utilities in Australia, but this is only possible by looking forward.
For more on how the utilities industry is harnessing digital transformation, see National Grid Runs Procurement Simpler.