Digital Innovation within the Utility

For utilities to remain competitive innovation needs to lie at the core of the business.
Published: Sun 25 May 2014

The rate of innovation outside the walls of utilities seems to be outstripping the rate of innovation within. As new and disruptive vendors, technologies, and business models come into the energy market, many utilities are left feeling uncertain about what their role is or should be.

New digital trends are changing the way we live and work and it is therefore imperative for the utility to embrace digital innovation, especially when it comes to the assimilation and analysis of big data to drive operational efficiency and consumer engagement. A particular value is around predictive analytics for asset management.

Promoting innovative solutions

We spoke to Giovanni Pepicelli, Head of IT Innovation at Enel, who believes that digital innovation within the utility sector is the way forward. He explains that his team’s mission is to provide and promote innovative solutions within the IT space. He adds that their strategic plan for IT solutions is digital innovation.

Enel’s digital strategy focuses on three directions:

  • The digital customer - Digital technologies can be used to enable multi-channel customer experiences, digital customer interactions, digital sales, and digital channel distribution options. This should enhance customer engagement.

  • The digital operation - Use digital technologies like advanced analytics and Internet of Things to change and improve operational processes. Operational efficiency is important so predictive maintenance, for instance, will help to optimize operational processes. IT/OT convergence will also make for a higher level of efficiency.

  • The digital enterprise - Use digital technologies to enable new operating models for communication and collaboration, document and contents management and improve people capabilities to enhance productivity and to develop native digital processes.

The aim of the strategy is to find innovative ways to change business models by applying digital technologies that will disrupt traditional views. The end product will be the creation of new business models.

IT - An engine for transformation

Mr Pepicelli explains that IT is important for innovation as t becomes an engine for transformation. He adds that it will make doing business easier since it creates new solutions.

While transformation is certainly a necessity today, adapting to the digital revolution requires a change in management styles and culture. Mr Pepicelli adds that introducing a new culture into a company is one of the biggest challenges. However, this can be overcome by pointing to the benefits of transformation. “Cultures will differ from company to company and country to country therefore the approach to each one has to be unique,” explains Mr Pepicelli.

Mr Pepicelli points out that both IT and business skills are necessary to support digital innovation. These skill sets will support innovative strategies and address new insights. Varying skills will be called upon to uncover new phenomena and develop new technology and capabilities.

Mr Pepicelli will be speaking in the ICT & Data Management strategic programme track at the European Utility Week and share some of his team's successes and learnings.