by Oracle Utilities

For today’s utility – facing increasing pressure to improve both operational performance and customer relationships – adopting a strategy to incorporate digital technologies into enterprise DNA is an imperative. The development of a digital strategy for any utility can be broken down into three fundamental steps.

Step 1: assessing capacity for transformation

The first step involves gauging the scope of change needed and the ability of the organisation to take the leap necessary to make the change. Within the scope of that assessment, there are technical, cultural and customer aspects to consider.

A technical assessment gauges capability and ability: will your utility’s current hardware, software and communications infrastructure be able to handle the new influx of data and the speed required to deal with it effectively? Are your systems built to interconnect? Your organisation’s digital transformation requires you to think outside of individual applications to solve singular problems.

Once your systems begin to talking to each other, and your processes become more reliant upon data for quick and agile decision support, the accuracy of the data becomes crucial.

Do you have the governance in place to ensure that each piece of critical data has a system of record, one that also allows that data to be used by other systems, processes and people within the organisation in a timely fashion?

A cultural assessment takes into account your organisation’s interest and capability to take on transformation and, specifically, how much effort it will take to change attitudes that might be in conflict with transformation goals.

Key executives must take the lead to give these efforts the commitment, strategic clarity, and deep understanding necessary to create an ecosystem for innovation. One of the biggest shifts necessary in the utility organisational culture is the blurring of the lines between technology and process.

Across the board, operational groups need to be more open and knowledgeable about how technology can enable the business of business, and IT groups must learn how they become more ingrained in the process of converging operational technology (OT), information technology (IT) and customer technology (CT).

Finally, an assessment of the current customer culture is imperative. Are your customers ready for this digital shift? When you roll out new technologies and programs, will they embrace them? How tech-savvy are they?

The answers to these questions will tell you how quickly you can move to make changes in customer engagement, and how ready the market is to embrace them.

Step 2: building a strategy

Transformational efforts typically fail due to the lack of a clear strategic approach and poor execution.

It’s roughly equivalent to taking a cross-country trip without a road map: you can get lost down a lot of side roads, wasting a lot of time, effort and expense, when mapping out the journey at the outset would have allowed for a much smoother journey without surprises along the way.

In building your digital strategy roadmap from the starting points determined in your assessments, there are also a few key elements to consider.

  • Shifting IT’s role from a service provider to a business platform builder. Successful digital transformation strategies will assess and evaluate IT’s role in the utility’s business.

Should IT become more integrated? Do operational and transactional business managers need to become more tech-savvy? What are the steps necessary to make these changes?

  • Breaking down enterprise silos. As information begins to run more fluidly throughout the business, the alignment of processes and people become increasingly important.

Rather than continuing to operate in business silos, codependent and cooperative processes must become the norm.

  • Embracing continued convergence of IT-OT-CT within the business. Make your digital strategy part of your overall business strategy and agenda.

As your IT department enables more operations, as your operations staff incorporates and becomes reliant upon more available data, and as customer service becomes more aware of and involved in the entire process, the technologies used by each of them must become more open, more collaborative, and more integrated.

  • Remember that transformation must also be transitional. It must occur while continuing to focus on reliability, customer satisfaction and continued engagement.

Agility will be of prime importance here, in order to balance that focus hand-in-hand with change. The traditional utility approach of long-range planning is not an optimal timeframe for a successful digital transformation. Each utility’s path, based upon both need and necessity, will be different.

Step 3: executing your strategy

You are now ready to execute your plans. For a successful execution, keep this in mind:

  • Remember the foundational building blocks for success. Always keep customer-centric ideals front and center throughout the process: Does this benefit the customer? Have we communicated this effectively, internally and externally?
  • Understand and be able to effectively communicate the benefits of the IT-human interaction, and how it changes the concept of work.

Ensure you are able to communicate and demonstrate how new processes will enable the business, and how the better utilisation of technology equals smarter people and smarter results.

Finally, invest in enablement. You can take full advantage of new opportunities brought about by new technologies only when everyone involved understands how to use them.

  • Work with your solution providers, partners, suppliers and customers to build a strategic network.

Just as collaboration within the organisation is important, outside collaboration can make or break your digital transformation effort. Often, suppliers, fellow utilities, industry standards organisations and regulatory agencies will all have ideas and sometimes have requirements to help you move forward.

Working to strengthen those relationships will help to guide your successful transformation into a digital utility.

  • Reinforce your changes through performance and productivity improvements.

Becoming a digital utility is a journey, rather than a destination. Each step in the process may open up new ideas and opportunities for change.

It’s also important to keep employees involved not only in the processes, but in recognition of the benefits that your digital transformation is bringing both to the business and to its customers.

This partner content is brought to you by Oracle Utilities. For more information, visit www.oracle.com/utilities.

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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