The energy industry operates in a challenging environment. Lower fuel prices, excess supply and an accelerating demand for efficiency and innovation has put market leaders at a crossroads. Current business practices are clearly insufficient, yet the pace of change makes many companies hesitant to commit to new strategies.
In my view, there are three macro trends presenting challenges to the industry: the drive to digital; the raised expectations of empowered and increasingly mobile customers; and the constant push for more environmentally friendly and efficient sources of energy.
Let’s take a look at each:
1 Drive to Digital
Digitisation is, of course, a broad trend affecting every industry. The changes it drives are on par with the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries (an idea my colleague has explored here.)
For energy companies, digitisation affects both the business and the underlying infrastructure.
Increasingly, applications, rather than mechanical systems, are directing and managing the generation and distribution of energy. At the same time, infrastructure is getting more intelligent, giving rise to terms such as Smart Grid.
This infrastructure produces far more data related to how, where and when energy is consumed, allowing for companies to drive business insights. The challenge now is in gathering, analysing and leveraging all of that data for better decisions. Extracting value from data has become as important as extracting energy from raw materials.
2 Customer Expectations
Customers today have high expectations that don’t recognise or respect business verticals. When dealing with energy or utility companies, they expect the same type of immediate, omnichannel service as they get when dealing with a Google or Amazon. They want to manage bills online; they want apps that add convenience and save them time and they want it now.
But energy is not Amazon. The industry is heavily regulated and often has constraints – such as critical national infrastructure mandates – that other industries do not bear. It has a reputation for being slow to innovate in part because change does not always come easy in this regulated environment.
But as consumer demands shift, it’s clear big changes are needed, both in the reality of business operations and in customer interactions. And those “customers” include municipalities looking to build the “smart cities” of tomorrow.
The need to become more efficient, more “green,” is not going away – and that’s a good thing. Driven by factors such as global urbanisation, public sentiment and policy, energy companies must constantly be on the lookout to conserve non-renewables and optimise their business processes.
There is a cultural element to this change, as well as technological. Energy companies need to foster a culture that inspires innovation. Digital approaches to IT can help by giving employees the tools to collaborate, communicate and develop new products quickly. But leadership also plays a role.
While these three macro trends have caused disruption in many industries, it’s energy’s turn to deal with the challenges. Best practices are emerging. And partners are out there to help map the way to enterprise-level transformation.
In a series of blog posts to come, our energy experts will offer opinions, insights and real-world examples of how energy companies can address these challenges and gain market advantage. Follow along, and offer your own thoughts here and in social media.
Kavi Pelpola is an Energy Industry CTO at CSC.