Will A Failure to Innovate Begin to Hurt Soon?Published: 06/03/15
It has been said that if Thomas Edison were alive he would easily recognise today's electricity grids because very little has changed in 100 years! Therefore at a grid level, it cannot be said that wholesale innovation has been the hallmark of the energy industry. Smart technology is however beginning to change matters.
Growing utility market de-regulation and increased competition have no doubt raised innovation levels, creating a more dynamic and competitive environment. It is clear that with major investments being made in smart technology in most western countries, tangible benefits are being realised. However, is this enough to satisfy what might be around the corner?
As mentioned in a recent Jendev news post, change is afoot. Smart technology creates opportunities for companies and customers to forge a new relationship. One where a better understanding of usage leads to customers demanding products tailored to their consumption patterns and specific needs. However, are utilities ready to meet this new challenge, generated from their positive investment in smart tech?
Utilities are of course no stranger to capital-intensive infrastructure projects, often essential to ensure security of supply. Investment in smart technology certainly falls into this category. However it remains to be seen if organisations, particularly those in non-competitive markets, are ready to truly engage with customers in the manner which may be required. This feature of the new smart-utility landscape can be assessed in two ways:
- Is the culture / mind-set present to ensure operations are aligned to meet and exceed customer needs?
- Are systems in place to enable the utility to understand and interact with customers?
Microsoft recently blogged about the importance of ensuring that outdated ERP systems do not negatively affect business performance and it is true that ERP is certainly an important part of the puzzle. However from a technology perspective there is more which needs to be considered. In order to match rising customer expectations, (driven by smart technology and increased competition), utilities will need to maximise the opportunities brought by:
- Understanding consumption patterns - (big data & business intelligence).
- Interacting with customers in a pro-active and meaningful way - (CRM & digital media tools).
- Ensuring that data silos are eradicated and that applications are flexible and interoperable.
In answer to the question 'will a failure to innovate begin to hurt soon', the answer is a definite... maybe! The outlook is somewhat unclear because we do not yet know if utilities will rise to meet the challenge brought by serving better informed consumers who demand more.
What is apparent however is that for utilities to thrive in this changing smart-enabled world, the systems used to help understand and manage customer interactions effectively, need to be every bit as good as the technology used to deliver energy and measure usage.B a c k t o K n o w l e d g e