I have recently returned from the 8th annual SAP for Utilities conference for North America; held this year in beautiful Huntington Beach, California. This was my 4th year in attendance and as always it was the ideal opportunity for the SAP for Utilities ecosystem to meet and discuss the key topics, market trends and technical developments affecting the industry.
Key themes throughout the conference were digital disruption and the Digital Utility. Digital disruption is the impact that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect the value proposition of existing businesses. As I mentioned in my recent webinar, the modern consumer is connected from the time they wake up to the moment they fall asleep. Driven by their experiences with innovative companies like Amazon, Netflix and Uber, not only do they expect to interact with Utilities through multiple channels, they also want their experiences to be customized to reflect their own preferences. With the balance of power increasingly shifting towards the consumer, Utilities have to find a way to increase levels of customer service and satisfaction.
Utility 2.0 needs to have cohesion across all of the customer journeys, across all channels, underpinned by a strong digital core.
As we heard from SAP America President Jennifer Morgan’s opening keynote, the pace of technology adoption is rapidly advancing. Utilities should not fear disruption, they should embrace it and even create their own. It’s not going to go away, or shift down a gear. The astonishing pace of disruption opens up countless opportunities for innovation.
“Change today has never happened this fast…ever…and it will never happen this slowly again”. Jennifer Morgan, SAP North America President.
In the day one closing keynote, JD Power’s Jeff Conklin outlined the four drivers of high performance brands: Eradicate problems, anywhere/anytime, communicate to engage and personalize interactions. On the subject of anywhere/anytime, he stated that utilities need to ‘Get Ready to Chat’, a message that particularly resonated with me, as I believe this is channel that is currently underused by many utility companies and something that Basis are looking at, to provide tools that can better equip utilities for self service customer engagement.
The unexpected downpour on day two of the conference did not dampen anyone’s spirits. The day started with two excellent keynote sessions. Firstly Steve Lucas, President of Platform Solutions at SAP, continued the discussion on the Digital Utility. He outlined that Utilities facing the digital era should not be ostriches, burying their heads in the sand, or fish following the crowd but rather lemurs because they are adaptable, agile and hyper aware. ‘Leaders are Lemurs’serves as a unique rally cry to senior utilities executives facing the challenges of digital disruption.
For the 2nd keynote, we were privileged to have Lt Commander Rourke Denver, a 13 year veteran of the US Navy SEALs talk to us about the qualities of leadership. In a profession where poor decisions can literally cost lives, there are few people more qualified to talk about the qualities of effective leadership. Commander Denver told us about the advice he received during his SEAL training, that people will mirror, or even amplify, the behaviour of those people they report to. “Calm is contagious” is a management mantra we can all learn from.
The biggest highlight for me was the launch of Basis Technologies’’ Utilities Solutions User Group. This was a tremendous kick off event, mixing established customers American Water, Puget Sound Energy and Tacoma Public Utilities with new customers DTE Energy and TECO. Not only was this a chance for our customers to more closely engage with Basis but an opportunity for the Utilities to share their experiences running our Utilities Solutions.
With the accelerated pace of digital disruption and the transformation opportunities that it affords, there has never been a more exciting time to work in the utilities sector and in particular the SAP ecosystem. The SAP for Utilities conference is a great event to learn more about the upcoming challenges and to see the innovative ways that utilities are leveraging technologies such as SAP HANA. Now is the chance for us all to embrace our inner lemur.