Call them challenges or opportunities, the utilities industry is defined by disruptive changes. The demand for newer and smarter capabilities, business models, product and service options in an increasingly digital environment could not be louder.
This is where the tremendous value of optimized business process systems makes its presence felt. An integrated business process optimized across strategic, operational, regulatory and financial functions can significantly enhance outcomes. This requires a consistent and proactive approach involving automation and analytics, underpinned by digitization across the utilities value chain.
For example, let’s consider workforce optimization. Generally, front office operations are more mature than back office processes. Hence, steps must be taken to optimize operations across both functions. It is essential to have optimized processes across the utilities value chain. This can be achieved through increased and improved visibility and forecasting for various work categories. Automating processes that are staff-intensive, manual and involve multi-level handoffs is another way to create efficiencies without losing effectiveness. An improved knowledge management portal and cross-skilling can further enhance all the functions.
It is critical to realize that for any business process optimization initiative to achieve the desired state, it must be linked to qualitative and quantitative business outcomes. Closing the loop by measuring the business performance of the pre- and post-optimization scenarios (through scorecards, balance sheets and other relevant performance indicators) further smartens the initiative.
The ‘Business Intelligent’ Route to Process Optimization
The utility industry’s customer-centricity rests on efficient collaboration among its data, assets and field-force effectiveness. Real-time business intelligence will play a game-changing role in optimizing day-to-day decision-making across business functions and processes.
By leveraging data analytics, utilities can unravel tremendous value in their process optimization efforts. Analytical insights can identify trends and optimize customer-centric processes across various touch points such as consumption, home movement, metering, billing, payments and collections, and credit risk management.
From distribution to demand response, from transmission to delivery, optimized business processes are vital for utilities to develop the right customer-focused capabilities. Business intelligence helps provide the right information to the right people in the right format at the right time. Result? Better decisions and improved operational efficiencies that help satisfied consumers better manage their energy experiences.
A Systematic Approach to Business Process Optimization
To achieve sustained business process optimization, a systematic approach is required and not mere one-time improvements. It calls for re-engineering processes to realize enduring business benefits. Metrics around time, quality, cost and productivity should be measured by asking the following questions:
How long does it take to issue a service/work order?
What percent of transactions need manual intervention?
How much do contract/order cancellations cost?
What percent of confirmed customer orders are actioned within a defined period?
When the above metrics are defined, it enables structural changes. This, in turn, leads to innovation and successful business outcomes. It realizes the goals of business agility and continuous transformation in a predictable, flexible and responsible manner.
With intelligent process optimization, utilities can improve asset performance, create visibility and enhance operational efficiencies. The resulting transformation will extend across a comprehensive world of productivity and revenue improvements, enhanced customer engagement, retention and new business opportunities.