Most Utilities heard the wakeup call in the last few years…Get connected to your customer, get serious about big data and attract a new generation of mobile workforce.

I attended Distributech last week in San Antonio, TX, where over 10,000 Utility professionals assembled to exchange information and network among peers to answer the call. While the weather outside created one of the coldest morning walks I can remember, the heated conversation inside the convention hall created one of the more exciting events in several years – here’s why:

  • Utilities have more data today to make intelligent decisions than ever in the history of the world, but managing that data is becoming a serious issue,
  • Infrastructure that has been around for more than 100 years is being replaced with smarter, more efficient equipment, but the IT/OT convergence is a liability where the mobile workforce will need to have operational as well as business system data to make the right decision at the right time,
  • The Utility world is flat; this is truly a global event where collaboration and best practices are being welcome and where benchmarking is no longer “just in my backyard” but unless Utilities know how to efficiently execute on these best practices, it is nothing more that a nice conversation with a business card stuck in a desk drawer.

I heard from leading industry experts, such as Philip Mezey, CEO of Itron, who talked about “Collaborate, Connect and Invest”.  With the key points mentioned above, this message could not be more appropriate with what is needed now, today to leverage existing technology to manage big data and take Utilities to the next level.

Five Point Partners conducted a recent survey regarding the mobile workforce.  The top initiative from Utilities that responded showed that improved field service response times is the #1 objective for successful mobile workforce implementation.  That means that not only does the mobility platform need to connect to the customer information system (CIS) and back office, but also must have an advanced scheduling engine, be fully integrated with IT/OT and be capable of scaling to every worker in the field.

Doyle Beneby, CEO of CPS Energy, mentioned that they have the largest installation of residential rooftop solar in the state of Texas.  In Germany, 60% of new generation is being provided by non-Utility owned sources.  This means that Utilities are moving from owning the generation supply to a virtual model where Transmission and Distribution will determine if the Utility is profitable or not operating on razor thin margins.  Marty Rosenberg, Editor-in-Chief of EnergyBiz, stated that for the first time, both Republicans as well as Democrats favor renewable energy and 3/4 of Utilities are seeing lower bond ratings due to this shift.  Utilities must collaborate and share best practices from around the world in order to address these game changing business models.

These challenges can only be addressed with advanced technology to manage big data with a real-time, in-memory platform.  Combining the real-time platform with advanced mobility, analytics and cloud solutions, Utilities are now better positioned to handle these game changing business models today to move to the intelligent level of Transmission and Distribution.

Related blogs: The Convergence of Information Technology and Operational Technology is Already Happening – How Can Utilities Best Adapt?

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