Oracle Utilities today unveiled a new research paper, titled ‘Utility Innovation Blueprint: How to Manage the Challenge of Dual Transformation,’ which explores how utilities can approach innovation across their people, processes and technology. Commissioned from Navigant Research, the paper combines short case studies with an action-oriented framework that offers a global perspective from executives interviewed in the United States, Europe, and Asia/Australia, across electric, gas, and water utilities. Participants included executives from Avista, Exelon, National Grid, UK Power Networks, Eesti Energia and Yarra Valley Water, and in total, 16 electric, water and gas utilities on three continents, serving 42 million customers with 162,000 employees, were represented.
Historically, utilities have focused on core business objectives around safety, security, reliability and shareholder returns. However, massive disruption is currently occurring within the industry, with the advancement of distributed energy resources, IoT, big data and increasing customer expectations. These factors and more are signaling fundamental changes to business as usual. The new paper explains that simply knowing that disruption is coming is not enough. A blueprint for a new innovation path is required, one that needs to be agile and pragmatic.
The research takes a close look at a Dual Innovation Blueprint, a practice whereby a utility pursues two tracks simultaneously: one focuses on increasing the efficiency and resiliency of the core business, while the second centers around increasing agility to enable the iteration of new business models.
While many industries have been faced with similar challenges, the approach detailed in the Navigant Research paper is a platform for innovation specific to the utilities industry, one that encompasses not only technology, but also the people and processes within the utility’s organization. According to the report, utilities looking to address innovation challenges should:
- Adopt a set of processes that will optimize the success of innovation projects by evaluating accountability by project type, balancing finance with risk, and constantly monitoring progress.
- Understand which technologies will enable innovation by digitizing then automating, deploying cloud analytics and iterating on new services.
- Create a culture in which innovation can flourish by securing executive sponsorship, embracing new organizational perspectives and empowering employees.
“Changing business culture to incorporate innovation is one of the hardest things to do,” said Ian Cameron, Head of Innovation, UK Power Networks. “Innovation teams must influence the business, but this can be very difficult to achieve. Increased communication around innovation is critical.”