Digital Utilities of the Future – OzWater 2017

Digital technologies are impacting consumer experience and expectations of service – transforming the client focused landscape. Adjacent markets such as Retail, Telecommunications and Banking are refining, enhancing and improving how services are consumed through the use of these digital technologies. Everything from connecting water, electricity and gas services, to ordering meals and booking travel and accommodation, is being revolutionised with digital technology.

Beyond technology, however, the water industry is being impacted by more than digital. We are seeing population growth, environmental changes, greater diversity of culture and changes in the way we live and commute. All these factors are driving us to rethink how we deliver services and develop our assets and infrastructure for the future, with the client always front and centre stage.

Harnessing the new opportunities

For leading organisations it’s no longer just about providing reliable customer services through existing channels such as the call centre and online platforms. Digital is forcing companies to be more agile and support customers’ needs and expectations across a diversity of channels, including social, digital self-service and virtual assistants. We are seeing large water and energy utilities such as South East Water, Sydney Water and Energy Australia trialling and investing into online and voice based conversational AI technologies that enable instantaneous response to customer queries, service requests and incidents.

Digital also enables learning, new ways of working and data centricity for better insights. It also encourages the creation of new job opportunities, innovative products and renewed services for customers. Technologies such as telematics, AI, robotic process automation, Internet of Things (IoT) and Enterprise Analytics enable us to focus more on value adding tasks leveraging real time information and powerful insights.

A spotlight on digital case studies

It’s always imperative that we look to what’s happening across the sector from a best practice perspective. A number of organisations are on the journey and have already started to realise tangible benefits.

Water Utilities

Victoria’s largest water utilities Yarra Valley Water, South East Water and City West Water are exploring through market research and trial applications of digital water meters in every day consumer lives.

The purpose? Digital meters help detect and prevent leaks within the water network and on the customer property – with a valuable outcome of saving water and money. Digital water meters, through the application of IoT, Big Data, Analytics and Mobility can help customers see real time usage, billing information and make informed choices about the diversity of ways to reduce water consumption.

Broader application of IoT is also being explored by the three water utilities, in particular how IoT can make their networks more efficient, resilient and cost effective. This involves reducing network water leaks and helping extract maximum value from its assets with timely and proactive asset maintenance and replacement.

Large Fleet Operator

This Australian operator invested in Telematics technology to help right size its fleet, optimise field jobs and improve safety. Devices were deployed across large vehicles and integrated with an IoT platform that provided real time information to its monitoring team about response to incidents and completion of jobs. Safety and compliance was another benefit realised through monitoring and alerting the driver about speed and other various vehicle operation breaches.

How can organisations take advantage of digital?

As business leaders tackle the challenges and opportunities around digital, there are three fundamental steps to consider:

#1 Identify areas of your business and customer services that could benefit from digital by assessing customer interactions and identifying areas of the business that could benefit from process automation and greater use of self-service.

#2 Explore ways to implement digital technology to improve services, customer experience or inject greater efficiency and productivity into operations. Start to learn from others. It’s important to explore how technologies such as IoT, Data, Analytics, Process Automation and AI have been applied by other organisations in industries such as Retail, Banking and Telecommunications that are moving at a faster pace. Explore ways to leverage Cloud computing and SaaS to accelerate technology trials and implementation, driving shorter implementation cycles and realisation of quicker returns.

#3 Implement digital technologies through a clear organisational strategy, involving the business and key customer representatives, bringing them all in at an early stage of business planning and discussions. Prototype and trial digital technologies, quickly iterating and testing its applicability and value against the benefits. Maximise adoption of digital technologies through appropriate change management mechanisms.

Ready to harness the power of digital?

Based in Melbourne, Alexander Setchin is a Consulting Director in Deloitte Utilities team.

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