Peter Warren

Peter Warren

Vice-President, Global Industry Lead, Energy & Utilities

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Last November, I shared with you 7 ways utilities can build a digital future that’s better than normal. Those recommendations were based on insights we gathered in our 2020 Voice of Our Clients interviews. Now that our 2021 interviews are underway, I want to update you on what I’ve been seeing in the utilities industry around these 7 topics. I’m pleased to share my excitement about the actions our clients have been taking, in spite of the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.

Increasing business agility

More and more utilities are recognizing they can work in new ways. Gone is the “we don’t do that here” syndrome and, in its place, we see true shifts toward more agile and innovative cultures. Utilities are accelerating change to address near-term challenges. But also, they must plan for large-scale shifts in areas such as talent resourcing, austerity and lengthened recovery, offerings and partnership evolution, and more.

The future of work is a more human, adaptive and resilient organization that puts the customer at the forefront. It also is one that is inclusive and contributes to a more sustainable world. Transitioning to a future workplace reality should be seen as an opportunity, and the pandemic has actually shown us the resilience of our planet when it gets the chance to rebuild itself.

Accelerating the digital journey

When it comes to advancing their digital journey, more utilities are adopting digital technologies, including those pioneered in other industries. Examples are digital twins and sustainability technology used in manufacturing and transportation, not just for the enterprise, but also for the end-to-end supply chain. Utilities also are looking to other industries, such as banking, to learn from others in areas such as customer experience and open data capabilities. All of these activities are in preparation for the accelerated energy transition.

Unlocking insights from data

Increasing use of data in this industry is enabling data-driven decision making. Numerous examples come to mind, including:

  • Two of our UK distribution system operator clients are creating a single view of their network topology using a jointly built Integrated Network Model (INM) solution, laying the foundation for the data-driven decisions necessary for the decarbonized energy future. Today, 6 of 14 UK Networks regions are modeled with the CGI INM solution.
  • European clients of our Central Market Solutions continue to blaze trails in using analytics, high-speed data processing, and low-code development, as illustrated by Fingrid’s progress in synchronizing electricity retail market processes. What’s more, this technology promises benefits for other sectors in areas such as sustainability tracking, new energy trading, and other high-volume and high-speed environments that require auditability on a low-code platform.
  • UK Power Networks is trialing an innovative network fault location algorithm using state- of-the-art analytics resulting from years of research by Hydro-Québec and developed as a software as a service called MILES.

Developing more resilient IT supply chains

Information technology is core to how utilities create value for customers. We see clients moving to modernize their IT supply chains by adopting and harmonizing such technologies as cloud, automation and machine learning, as well as low and no-code platforms and smart managed services.

For example, in the renewable energy sector, cloud technology is enabling more efficient and effective asset management in collaboration with our clients with our Renewables Management System (RMS). Additionally, we see several industry leaders going beyond chatbots and robotic process automation to start using artificial intelligence (AI) in key business and IT processes.

Maximizing innovation ROI

When it comes to improving innovation return on investment, a great example is the efforts of a European utility client which asked us to develop an Inspiration Day with them in November.

They challenged us to share insights on how to adapt and think differently, and to present what’s really happening with key technologies like blockchain and digital twin. Attended by more than 160 business and IT leaders, the 100% digital, interactive agenda was developed side-by-side with this innovative client. It featured CGI experts in utilities, technology and consulting disciplines from around the globe, and generated highly productive discussions and next steps.

“Baking in” cybersecurity

Last but not least from my recommendations in November is to integrate cybersecurity into everything utilities do. We know that cybersecurity and data privacy and protection remain top of mind for our utilities clients. We continue to collaborate with them to address growing challenges by building cybersecurity and data privacy into everything we do, for both the IT and the OT sides of the business. We also are working with partners such as SNC-Lavalin to connect OT security engineering design with OT and IT security operations.

Voice of Our Clients: What’s in it for utilities?

My colleague Jeff Bailey is so right when he says that no innovation happens without collaboration. We welcome the opportunity in this time of change to have an open dialog with our clients. The questions we ask you, we also ask ourselves to drive our business to change, be flexible, and continuously improve as your partner of choice. After all, as the saying goes, “If two people always have the same opinion, then one of them is not necessary.”

Our most effective discussions happen when we plan the meeting together to focus the content on your needs. This allows us to bring relevant data, stories and examples, either from your industry or others that are having success in the areas for discussion. Please contact me to learn more about the 2021 Voice of Our Clients interviews and how we share the resulting insights and perspectives.

About this author

Peter Warren

Peter Warren

Vice-President, Global Industry Lead, Energy & Utilities

Peter Warren is CGI’s global industry lead for energy and utilities. In this role, he works with local business units helping to advance the transformation of oil, gas, and renewables firms, as well as electricity, gas and water utilities across the globe. Peter has 30 ...