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Water utilities are often challenged to do more with less. With ever-growing pressures on service delivery, quality and cost, the demand for improved service levels, and justifications for cost of service are at an all-time high. One solution is to adopt customer-centric approaches to service delivery, asset management strategies and investments.

A customer-centric approach adds velocity and adaptability to stability, creating a critical source of competitive advantage in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous conditions.

In order to facilitate change, industry needs to better understand asset data and data-related issues. A customer-centric approach is achievable by eliminating data over-collection and generating useful insights holistically.

There are seven data management elements that can assist organisations to make the paradigm shift from data silos to collaborative data use. Each element has value to an organisation.

But experience and research show that true collaboration comes only when all seven are in place and work together within a platform-based approach that integrates across data silos.

The elements below describe the organic system that enables a data-driven approach to customer-centric decision-making. Together, these seven elements form the basis for an overarching digital water platform.

Strategy, innovation and governance

At the heart of every strong digital effort is the need for a clear vision, empowered by innovation and governance. With a digital water platform, all data is treated as an asset, ensuring it is well defined and aligned, with access granted only to authorised people.

Components include:

  • Digital strategy and roadmap
  • Stewardship, partnership and alignment
  • Open innovation and design thinking
  • Data, digital and operations governance
  • Security, masking and privacy

Development and operations

A comprehensive development and operations layer underpins a digital water platform. It includes:

  • End-to-end operations
  • Platform monitoring and managed services
  • Agile development, testing and release management
  • Scheduling and orchestration for updates
  • Centralised business rules repository and measurement framework
  • Metadata and master data closely managed

Data capture

A multichannel data capture mechanism can ensure data is loaded into the digital water platform as quickly and effectively as possible.

Features include:

  • Designed and developed based on real-time data processing
  • Seamless integration with modern edge computer and legacy systems
  • Feature extraction and pattern recognition
  • Ad-hoc files can be quickly uploaded to platform

Data curation

The evolutionary data curation layer ensures all data is stored, cleansed and transformed quickly. Features include:

  • Real-time data feeds can be configured
  • Operations and data holdings store all raw data and associated metadata
  • All data is profiled, cleansed and fused together
  • Curated data model delivers a robust, centralised data model
  • Data lab delivers specialised environments

Digital insights

Handling data effectively within a water utility helps the business, operators and decision makers understand historical trends, monitor current state, forecast the future and automate mundane tasks. This includes:

  • Business analytics
  • Descriptive analytics
  • Predictive analytics
  • Prescriptive analytics

Data interface

The data interface allows consumers to interact with the platform through a range of techniques and screens based on need and process so:

  • Consumers can dynamically explore and search data for new insights
  • Consumers can apply sophisticated mathematical, statistical and engineering analysis techniques
  • Employees can make use of sophisticated data visualisation, dashboards and performance management
  • New insights and content can be published through a centralised knowledge portal
  • Dynamic rules can drive users to be notified via email or SMS
  • New content and insights can be automatically recommended by the system
  • Insights and decisions can be actioned, approved and monitored
  • The platform is application-programming interface (API) enabled, allowing the development of specialised mobile apps

Water applications

We have developed modules and applications specific to water utilities to help accelerate the delivery of targeted insights across the business.

Components include:

  • Predictive asset failure
  • Water asset reporting
  • Workforce optimisation
  • Maintenance optimisation
  • Overflow and spill prevention
  • Event and disaster simulation
  • Digital plant performance
  • Risk prediction and monitoring
  • Field force mobile app delivers anywhere, anytime access to knowledge, insights and automation
  • Capital program portfolio optimisation

Today’s environment is pressing water utilities to become more integrated, in order to become more customer centric. In response, a new approach to data management to assist decision-making is emerging that includes these seven elements.

These steps enable water utilities to balance stability and dynamism, and thrive in an era of unprecedented opportunity.

This partner content is brought to you by GHD Digital. To learn more about how to begin the journey towards a customer-centric approach enabled by data for your water utility, contact Colin Dominish, Regional Director – Southern Hemisphere, GHD Digital, at [email protected].

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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