Re-Imagined Utilities in a Hyper-Connected World

Utilities’ legacy way of thinking has to make way for a complete re-imagination so that business threats are turned into opportunities.
Published: Mon 07 Dec 2015

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The energy industry is fast changing mostly in response to the energy consumer’s expectations. The utilities find themselves in a position where if they don’t make the necessary changes, they will miss out on significant opportunities in the market which is becoming more and more diverse. These opportunities can quickly transform into threats especially now that the entry barrier in the utility industry has reduced.

Re-imagining the business through change

It is therefore imperative that utilities respond proactively by “re-imagining” their business models and strategies.

TCS’s Sudheer Warrier, VP and Global Head, Utilities, explained the structured approach of TCS covering six aspects that capture the idea of re-imagination:

1.The introduction of new products or services

2.A change in the current business model

3.The introduction of new processes or significant variations thereof

4. Introduction of new channels for customers

5.Customer segmentation and taking appropriate actions based on these

6.Creation of a new workplace

According to Sudheer , re-imagination of the business has occurred if one or more of these aspects have occurred, with or without digital technologies which are only enablers of change.

The drivers of re-imagination

Re-imagination of the utility space is being driven by the growing number of new market players in the energy space. These new competitors are offering innovative services and products, and utilities will have to respond with a different (and equally innovative) strategy.

Deregulation of the energy market is also driving the need for change as the market becomes even more competitive.  

Energy consumers’ higher expectations are also driving the need for change. The Utility need to communicate to customers through channel of choice, enable self-service, treat the consumer as per his persona and recognize the new role customer can play in co-creation ,says Sudheer.

Leveraging hyper-connectivity and re-imagination

But how can utilities leverage the hyper-connected world and re-imaginative forces? We asked Sudheer to share a few industry examples to provide more clarity. 

“Process automation, using new technologies, can certainly improve productivity. TCS assisted UK retailers to create a more efficient market data capturing process using Robotics process Automation.”  

But, utilities are also looking into new products and services that do not involve digital technologies. “These include insurance products that insures heat comfort and the safety of the customer. This is much more responsibility for them than only delivering energy. Energy management as a service for businesses and increasing energy efficiency through gamification, are other such avenues that utilities are exploring”.

Hyper-connection can be interestingly used to proactively handle emergency situations such as power scarcity and outages. “TCS assisted UK National Grid to avoid these situations by creating a demand side balance solution through digital technologies. Social and mobile technologies were used to reach out to business customers in real time, encouraging them to either reduce energy consumption or share more of their excess power. Hyper-connection was used to create reserves for emergencies without building a physical connection to the Load Resource.”

A combination of digital technology and hyper-connection can also solve network problems as sensor technology can enable an autonomous network, one which can pinpoint faults and self heal. Network issues can be localized and outages can be avoided.

Preparing for re-imagination and change imperatives

To prepare for the inevitable transformation, utilities need to change culturally, and new products and services have to be introduced in order to meet customer expectations.

“Utilities must realise that they have to change in order to prosper in the new energy future. Hyper-connectedness and reimagination is about the ability to visualize and come up with a blue print plan for execution.  The legacy way of thinking has to change.”

TCS is in the business of helping utilities through this transformation and draws on its established base of cross industry knowledge and experiences. The company is also creating platforms to help utilities harness opportunities when it comes to IoT.

He concludes, “While utilities must think big, encompassing products and services, asset and business operations, enterprise architecture etc, there is big need to work on the organization culture in terms of collaboration, responsiveness and investment approach. The Utilities need to take steps towards that small or big but with a sense of urgency.”