Ninety-five percent of power sector respondents agreed that “Digital transformation is a top strategic priority at my organization,” according to research by Deloitte.
Whatever the reason you’re considering (or reconsidering) your tech stack, it can be difficult to figure out what tools to use and how they fit into your organization. So we talked with utility experts to outline where opportunities for improvement might lie, how to evaluate new technology, and how to ensure smooth integration into your existing technology.
Step 2 Recap: Study Your Workflows
Once you’ve gotten the 10,000-foot view of your operations, home in on each process to find the weak spots that might be shored up with technology solutions. For each workflow, consider your current tech stack, to illustrate, let’s use a workflow that incorporates outsourced processes, in-house human resources, and automation. In this example, we’ll say that one of the main challenges for your organization is that a lack of speed causes delays in maintenance and repairs, which in turn decreases customer satisfaction. We’ll focus on the asset inspection workflow, but, of course, this can be extrapolated to any process within your organization.
Step 3: Evaluate Solutions
It seems like there’s a tech solution for every utility challenge—but which ones are the best for your unique workflows, company culture, existing technology, and budget?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a simple rubric for assessing new tools or technologies that can apply to any kind of organization. Using a five-point scale, the rubric grades the technology on:
- Ease of use, including how well the tool will integrate into your existing technologies and your company culture.
- Usefulness, which judges whether the tool can improve upon your existing processes, improve efficiencies, or save money.
- Safety and security risks.
- Hard costs, such as the technology itself, training, and subscription fees.
- Soft costs, like the cost of tech support and upgrades and the time spent on training and continuing education.
Now that you know, in general, what problems you're trying to solve for—and have ideas for tools that might help—get an outside perspective to help you think through other areas of impact, how to best solve them, and how it can all fit together with the right tech stack. “The vendor will look at your process and advise on ways to improve it,” says Kristen Ellerbe, Vice President of Technology at PrecisionHawk. “The options are endless...they’re only as limited as your desire to change.”
Large utilities test out new solutions in a production environment, often called a Center for Excellence, to determine if the new solution will bring them efficiencies such as cost savings. Once the Center for Excellence finds a potential solution, they present it to key stakeholders in order to move forward with the RFP process.
But what if you’re not a large utility with a Center for Excellence? “NRECA [the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association] offers recommendations and solutions to their members,” says Kristi Perry, Vice President of Enterprise Software at PrecisionHawk. “Co-ops can leverage what the NRECA is recommending, and they often have bulk purchasing set up as a benefit of being a member of that program.” This means that not only can cooperatives learn about technology solutions without having to do all the research themselves, they can also take advantage of reduced pricing.
Learn the five steps to Evaluate and Integrate Your Tech Stack; to pinpoint gaps in your tech stack, evaluate new solutions, and work with vendors to integrate the tools into your existing technology.