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Just before the holidays, something happened to me that had never happened before.  I lost my voice…for 8 days.  8 very long and frustrating days. 

I had lost my voice before, but just for a couple days, and then it came back.  So I kept thinking “I’ll wake up tomorrow and be able to talk again.”  But that didn’t happen.

On a typical workday (that is to say, when I can speak), I’m on the phone for hours.  Without a voice, I relied primarily on email.  One of my colleagues got creative and kindly offered to run one of my online meetings for me.  I would put up my slide, and then IM her any important points, which she would announce to the others on the call.  Other meetings, I just cancelled because there was no point when no one could hear me.

For home, I bought a notepad, and carried it with me everywhere.  Remember, this was right before the holidays.  So, for Christmas shopping, I would have to communicate with the store clerks this way.  Upon approach, I always feared one of the checkers would think my notepad would read: This is a stick-up. 

I kept my notepad with me at all times:  at the dinner table, at family holiday gatherings, everywhere.  I would try to “keep up” my end of the conversation by slowly penning my response.  Sometimes the conversation topic had completely changed by the time I got my contribution on paper. 

After a few days, I got to the point where it felt like more trouble to write than to just let the conversation go on around me.  Which is when I realized what a great opportunity this was….to just listen. 

In the utilities industry, there seems to be a lot of listening going on.

Utilities are listening to their customers in ways never before possible—through social media monitoring and analysis.  And in the electric T&D side of the house, they are starting to listen to the grid itself through integrated communications, connecting components to open architecture for real-time information and control. Certainly, these are just the kinds of exciting opportunities being discussed at DistribuTECH this week in San Diego. 

SAP is here at DistribuTECH, as are many of our customers and partners.  On Monday afternoon, we took the opportunity to host members of our Smart Grid Co-Innovation Council—a consortium of customers, partners, and SAP developers from the utilities industry team.   It’s a unique and important vehicle through which our customers openly share what they need to ensure a secure, sustainable and efficient Smart Grid.

And we listen.

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