The new Win-Win-Win for Utilities, Customers and Regulators

Like all other industries, customer expectations are changing for utilities (as referenced in our prior blog: End of the ”good old” days for utilities).  New technology, increased consumerization of retail services, and real-time availability of information have led customers to expect the same level of service and information availability, no matter the industry sector.  For example, customers can book a “Genius bar” appointment in the Apple store, request an Uber, or track their pizza through Dominos, all with the same level of speed and personalization.  Meeting these increasing customer expectations has been difficult for utilities, as their core mission has traditionally focused on providing safe, secure and reliable service, rather than creating personalized experiences for their customers.

Utilities typically have been quite successful with regulators when it comes to traditional measures of customer service, such as maintaining high levels of customer-related reliability metrics such as CAIDI (customer average interruption duration index) and CAIFI (customer average interruption frequency index).  However, engaging customers and providing a personalized customer experience often has been seen by utilities as a “nice-to-have” rather than a potential source of business differentiation.   

But, what if utilities could leverage advances in field-service related technology to provide outstanding, real-time information to customers while still maintaining safe, reliable service? What if utility field service systems could be empowered to provide the tools and information necessary to actively engage with customers, when and how they prefer, while also providing the information necessary to improve overall operations? 

Well the time has come. With next-generation enterprise workforce mobility solutions, utilities can now break away from focusing on traditional customer service approaches and make exceptional customer engagement a core part of their business―providing a real win-win-win for utilities, customers and regulators.

Legacy utility system challenges

Current workforce systems for utilities typically manage different types of work using different systems. Some utilities still take a manual approach for specialized tasks such as switching plans and GIS network updates. This approach has created silos of information and data, limiting information availability across the organization, increasing data inaccuracy and resulting in slower response times and overall lower customer service. 

In addition, utilities have increasingly relied on external contractors to execute a wide variety of work from construction, meter installs, and tower builds to network maintenance, vegetation management, and inspections. Managing these unknown resources is difficult and creates additional security concerns.

Next-generation solutions

Utility executives realize there is room for improvement.  As the 2018 CGI Client Global Insights revealed, 91% of global utility executives we interviewed see exploiting mobile technologies for customer engagement and enabling a digital workforce as a top IT priority.  However, many are unsure of how to move forward.

The good news is next-generation enterprise workforce mobility solutions offer a single platform with unrestrictive scheduling and mobile capabilities for managing all work and execution.  In effect, they deliver on the vision of one system to provide Total Work, Asset and Resource Management that optimizes reliable operations as well as supports personalized customer experiences―breaking the legacy service paradigms of the past.

Innovations in workforce mobility for utilities have rapidly evolved to accommodate a multitude of automated processes and workflows that deliver immediate visibility and control both in the back-office and in the field. Making use of centralized data sharing empowers the field worker to access a vital trove of information to view, search and update  all in real-time — all at the point of service.  Seamless integration to manage work from multiple systems such as CIS, OMS, EAM, WMS, and GIS provide better collaboration between the field, the back-office, and the customer to transform field operations from reactive to proactive. When executing work, whether installing a meter, conducting an inspection on premises, or resolving a service disruption, higher customer satisfaction with lower operating costs will be the direct benefit when using a unified workforce mobility solution that manages all types of work, assets and resources across the entire enterprise.

Key considerations in evaluating future-proof solutions

As utilities look toward next-generation workforce mobility solutions, they seek mobile platforms that are not only fully capable of meeting the challenges of today, but also are capable of growing with the utilities’ needs of tomorrow. 

Utilities require solutions that are future proof.  Here are some of the key components utility providers need to consider when evaluating future-proof solutions:

  • Contractor management - Managing contractors breaks the traditional utility approach to workforce management by introducing unknown resources. Solutions must ensure resources are easily managed from the control center, allowing work to be assigned, supporting accurate field data collection and enforcing companywide operational processes and standards.
  • Asset management - Visibility is needed into the asset directly being work on as well as the surrounding assets. Understanding previous work histories and outstanding conditions provides the flexibility to raise issues outside of the assigned work, reduce duplication of effort and optimize the workforce by taking remediation actions on the asset, if the business process allows.
  • Security models - Strong yet flexible security models should control data access for resources both inside and outside of the organization. As an example, contractors should not be able to see other contractor details, and should only be able to work with their specifically assigned data.  This principle also applies for mutual aid crews that temporarily join the team during special events.
  • Regulatory compliance - Growing regulatory compliance needs must be considered, and use real-time operational data and as well as data captured in the field.
  • Ensuring qualification of field resources - Solutions should track and ensure the required skills and compliance of field crews interacting with critical assets when assigning work.
  • Integration of GIS-based solutions - To aid in situational awareness, solutions should use the strength of spatial data capture and analysis as it applies to assets, work and resources.  
  • Usability - The mobile solution should be intuitive and easy-to-use and encompass the ever-expanding capabilities of mobile data automation at the point of service, including the sharing and collection of data with field crews.
  • Powerful open mobile platforms - An open mobile platform should have defined API’s for easy integration and handle the complexity of all types of work, supporting both manual and automated interactions between the control center and field crew, the control center and the customer, and the field crew and the customer.

To learn more about how utilities can leverage next-generation enterprise workforce mobility solutions and total work, asset and resource management, connect with CGI utilities experts at DistribuTECH 2019.

About this author

Picture of Philip Grauer

Philip Grauer

Director, Product Management - Mobility Network & Operations

Philip has been a director of product management with CGI for over 3 years. During this time, he has led numerous product initiatives within the mobile and scheduling products team at CGI. He is based in Montreal, and travels as needed to meet with customers, ...

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