Driving Change In Utilities – It's Not Just A Pipe Dream

Neill Smith

2019 is well underway – the hairs are getting greyer, Fortnite continues to extract every last penny of my kids’ pocket money, and the utilities industry here in the UK appears to be thriving.

Now, I can explain the first of these. The second baffles me, and the third is testimony and credit to the people driving change within the industry.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the key utilities organisations here in the UK. Over the past three years, I’ve been involved in leading or assuring a number of high-profile enterprise-wide business transformations that have either led or placed significant focus on a business change element, with the backbone of these transformations being technology.

Technology is by no means the single driver. I’ve been working hard to understand the established complex business models in energy, how these companies are changing (and moreover, what is driving this change), the disruptive new players who are entering the market, and the new technologies that are gradually reaching scalability, resilience, and greater adoption.

“Change” is, in my mind, the new trendy business term. Akin to the days when every half-reputable service provider or software solution glorified the likes of “service-oriented architecture”, “change” and its seemingly intertwined twins, “innovation” and “transformation”, is the new panacea that everyone promises – yet often fails to deliver.

To look at what change means for utilities companies, I wanted to take it back to the business drivers. I believe that 2019 is likely to present organisations with a number of challenges. I see the challenges broken down into four key areas:

  • Affordability – Delivery of cost-effective supply which is commercially viable (under the watch of the regulator)
  • Service – Changes in customer expectations
  • Sustainability – Shifting patterns of use, demographics, population growth, and reduced reliance on traditional fossil fuels
  • Supply – Safety and reliability

The organisations I see that successfully deliver this technology-led change and address these challenges do it by focusing on the following areas:

  • Affordability – Standardising business processes, improving regulatory compliance, minimizing regret spend, and eliminate wasted investment. This leads to a simplified architecture and landscape, reducing storage, hosting, and running costs
  • Service – Making better use of software and reducing manual processes, allowing the workforce to re-focus on looking forward with real-time information, resulting in demonstrable improvement in customer service
  • Sustainability – Enabling the “living” network. Assets trigger their own maintenance work orders, pipes tell us where there is an ingress of water, pressure controls automatically adjust in real time. IoT solutions drive sustainability improvements
  • Supply – Transforming the ways in which they work with their assets and the data those assets generate. Mobile apps support digitisation of previously manual and paper-based processes in the field, feeding into the cloud. For example, gas distribution organisations predict gas leaks and the impacts on supply from local/regional demand

I would like to think that wherever utilities organisations are on their journey, we have at the very least listened and sought to understand the causes for, and impacts of, such change and how technology may help aid these.

Want to learn more about how AgilityWorks has addressed the challenges in a host of UK utilities companies? Get in touch.

Neill Smith

About Neill Smith

Neill heads up the Energy and Natural Resources Sector at AgilityWorks, and is excited by how the latest innovations in technology can transform the vertical. He works closely with Practice Directors, Marketing and SAP to deliver industry solutions using SAP and demonstrable value through innovative engagement.