1 VIEW POINT Mobility Fuels Growth for Utility Companies Abstract Mobile has radically changed the face of customer service and utilities companies are not unaffected by this trend. As more and more users turn to their mobiles for apps and services, employees are expecting their companies to become mobile-enabled and issue tablets and smartphones for work functions. Customers in-turn expect their utilities to be mobile friendly as it is their primary mode of communication. With mobile based technologies like smart metering and smart-grid becoming more mainstream, the need for utility companies have a comprehensive mobile strategy has never been more important. This paper presents our view on what utility companies need to do to leverage this tsunami of technological change driving the IT industry.
2 Introduction In today s marketplace utility companies are battling several dynamic economic forces such as smart-grid initiatives, smart metering, high energy prices, product consolidation etc. Staying ahead of the competition requires overcoming herculean challenges of improving service delivery and reducing critical response time. For instance, the violent wind storm that hit Southern California in 2011 left over 200,000 residents without electricity. Faced with the aftermath of the storm, utility companies were unable to respond in time leading to extended outages and extremely dissatisfied customers. The influx of new technological trends is creating a dynamic shift in the business and Information Technology (IT) landscape of utilities. Enterprises are seeking ways to revamp their business models and enable technology to deliver flexibility, visibility, engagement. For instance, preventing disruption of services from natural disasters requires improved communication whereby critical information is streamed from the field to ensure instant visibility and quick responses from emergency operations and teams. Further, technological innovation has led to consumers leveraging new channels to engage with service providers. Disruptive trends such as cloud, social and mobile has led to consumers demanding quality customer service. These trends are creating a larger demand for customer-focused business processes and making existing application architecture obsolete (2). Rising customer expectations are forcing utility companies to leverage new trends if they are to retain their competitive edge and infuse innovation into their offerings. As more and more users turn to their mobiles for apps and services, employees are expecting their companies to become mobile-enabled and issue tablets and smartphones for work functions. Enterprise mobility solutions can enable employees to access enterprise data onthe-go. According to Gartner, several CIOs already recognize that mobility increases productivity and enable quick decisionmaking, particularly for sales and field teams (1). With green initiatives taking greater precedence among consumers, utility companies are already seeking newer and better business models that can drive sustainability. According to a report, 13.4% of the meters used in the US were smart meters and an additional 65 million smart meters are expected to be deployed by 2015 (2). These indicate a significant change in consumer behavior that is being driven by the need to know more about energy consumption and how to optimize usage. Thus, the utility sector is at the threshold of change driven by changing consumer mindsets and newer technologies. With the benefits of instant communication and prompt response, mobility is the way forward for utility companies seeking to retain their edge.
3 The Need for Mobility To succeed in today s digital age, it is imperative for utility and energy companies to create a successful IT strategy that is based on an understanding of new business trends (3). For instance, user demand from consumers and employees as well as the need for a business strategy that enables agility through mobile is driving higher adoption of mobility solutions across several enterprises (1). The power of mobility in the utilities sector can help enterprises better manage their work force, equipment and tools, run field operations efficiently, maintain service and equipment reliability, ensure regulatory compliance, and adhere to health and safety. To enable these benefits, enterprises need certain mechanisms that can monitor and analyze various types of data to ensure smooth workflows. When combined with technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), location-based services and Business Intelligence (BI)/ analytics, mobility can play a critical role in driving process optimization and business productivity. At the outset, it is important for enterprises seeking to adopt mobility to consider a futuristic approach. In fact, Mobile Device Management (MDM) is already becoming a key focus area whereby enterprises are looking for ways to introduce MDM into their device management strategies (1). As the utilities sector moves into a new age, companies that are able to adopt mobility and implement robust technology-based solutions will be ones that benefit from higher business success and value. The most important area where mobility can make a difference is the way it empowers field teams. According to reports, the two main reasons for utilities enterprises to adopt mobile and wireless technologies is to lower service costs and improve the accuracy and effectiveness of the field force (4). For instance, current mobile and location technologies are including the delivery of field service work and asset information through maps, equipment specifications and maintenance history between field workers (3). When armed with such technology with real-time capabilities, field technicians will be able to perform a wide range of business functions on-the-go. Further, as smart-grid initiatives make critical headway, more utility companies are looking for ways to drive adoption and engagement among consumers and governments. One way to do is to enable customer access to data on energy usage by forming partnerships with application developers and providing utility-branded applications to forge stronger customer relationships. In fact, market reports predict that by 2016, half of the utility consumers in U.S will have access to energy-use data (2). Some utility companies are already leveraging mobile technology to support machineto-machine communications owing to deployment of smart grid devices (3). Currently, several utility companies are already considering the implications of moving to mobile-enabled solutions. They are seeking ways to optimize technology platforms to support mobile applications. This requires establishing a balance between various operating systems available for ios-based tablets and Android devices in order to ensure they meet enterprise needs as well as the pressing needs of field teams. With the introduction of consumer mobile apps in the utility sector, enterprises are turning to Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions to maintain control of application security and data. While MDM products such as Mobile Iron, Afaria etc help manage mobile devices owned by enterprise, Mobile Application Management (MAM) is used in Business-to- Consumer (B2C) contexts where consumers use their own devices. Further, implementing mobility solutions requires enterprise-wide training to ensure that all employees become adept in leveraging the power of mobility. Audio/ video tutorials are being employed to remotely assist teams that are already on the field. Energy services companies
4 are already leveraging 3D rendering of images to conduct diagnostic services. For instance, a three dimensional view of a wellbore trajectory that contains survey and log data can be used by field operators to accurately monitor operational risk and ensure safety of rig operations. To ensure smooth operations, enterprises need systems that can conduct complex data processing to obtain actionable insights. This requires robust analytics that can periodically survey data related to weather, water elevation, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and maps and provide business intelligence in different layers in a mobile app with the ability to scroll and drill down. Such complex analytics become crucial in providing vital information during major events and reducing field response time. Challenges for Utilities Going Mobile While the benefits of mobility are vast, utility companies must be aware of the challenges involved in adopting mobility. To implement mobility at an enterprise level, companies should first create a strategic roadmap. They need an integrated strategy that can monitor their workforce, improve operational efficiency and meet customer expectations of quicker and better service. Most companies struggle with how to prioritize their mobility initiatives, which requires collaboration across management and departments. As part of this, enterprises need to create a decision tree that selects candidates for mobile enablement and assessment and identifies the optimum development architecture for mobility. This also requires developing several proof-of-concepts to secure applications from future risk as technologies evolve. Enterprises should consider the data synchronization challenges between legacy systems and newer applications. Besides the technology challenges of such integration, they also need to consider establishing process groups to assess the impact of mobilization on various business processes. In such a scenario, companies need to choose their adoption strategy whether it will be a phased solution rollout or a big bang approach. Companies need to devise a sound plan for integrating mobile applications with existing enterprise systems. Lack of a sound integration strategy can lead to service failures and gaps in response time that adversely affects service quality. In today s digitally connected world, such failures in utility reliability are receiving more publicity owing to social media (4). Thus, it is critical for enterprises to maintain service standards when migrating to mobile applications to ensure customer satisfaction. The issue of security in a mobile world is also a pressing concern for enterprises. According to a report, managing security is the key inhibitor to adopting mobility solutions as mobile platforms are not as evolved as desktop ones and are prone to security attacks (1). Enterprises also need to be mindful of the challenges in establishing a stable regulatory environment. Further, device ownership presents additional challenges of liability and service costs (1). Thus, enterprises need a strategy that addresses security and compliance for the enterprise and its customers during the mobile application planning and design phase. For most companies adopting enterprise mobility requires critical decisions about expanding the existing IT infrastructure in order to support mobile applications. This puts additional strain on IT departments that need to manage the underlying infrastructure for mobility implementation. Managing such infrastructure expansion with tight budgets, or gaining access to funding for the same is a significant challenge and a key deterrent in enabling mobility initiatives to move forward. For most IT organizations, the solution to such funding challenges is to support the basic infrastructure and platforms by later delivering it as a Cloud-based service to the business units i.e., Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). IT organizations funding to stand up this basic infrastructure and platform is later providing this as PaaS (Platform as a service) to the business units. (please clarify what this means) Mobility presents a new avenue for delivering better user experience. However, enterprises should be careful to ensure that the user interface design is in sync with the needs of the enterprise. These interfaces should have optimum number of screens that can simplify workflows without compromising user requirements. Thus, adopting mobility solutions is riddled with several challenges for utilities enterprises. They need to choose the right mobility solution that can become a business enabler. To do this, it is important to understand the business environment and align corporate IT strategy with business requirements (3). As field service is mainly targeted by technology-based vendors, enterprises may be tempted to adopt packaged or market-ready solutions. However, such solutions have generic out-of-the-box features that need to be customized and extended to provide the expected business value. Utility companies need to engage a platform-agnostic mobile solution architect that can drive specification, design and delivery of the mobile components while creating their platform of choice.
5 How Mobility Can Pave the Way Forward A well-integrated mobility solution strategy can deliver significant value for utility companies provided that enterprises adopt a holistic approach to solution implementation. Piecemeal solutions across the enterprise cannot deliver promised benefits as it compromises the basic tenets of collaboration and visibility that are driven by mobility. Enterprises that leverage the right solution approach can benefit from the right competitive advantage: Drive efficiency by enabling mobile technology for field teams Mobile-enabled field service teams can perform a wider range of business functions thereby improving service quality and increasing customer satisfaction. For instance, a leading Scandinavian-based utility company had a large field force for servicing energy meters and field equipment. The company implemented a mobile-based solution for real-time dispatch of critical information and real-time field response that included full local capability when out of wireless coverage. The mobility solution helped to increase overall productivity of field technicians leading to higher turnaround of completed work orders. Optimize functions and drive engagement Mobility can optimize corporate functions such as Human Resources (HR) and finance by increasing approval rates and reducing processing time. For instance, a utility company leveraged a mobility solution to optimize their Purchase Requisition (PR) workflow resulting in a 25% reduction in the overall cycle time for the PR approvals. Similarly a mobile application for Accounts Payable (AP) workflow approval allowed approval members to browse through workflow items that are pending for approval and take necessary action from their Blackberry and ios mobile devices. The application required minimal support and became an invaluable tool in providing users with just-in-time information on pending approvals. Further, the key success lever of mobility is its ability to drive personal and versatile engagement. Through mobile applications that are delivered on mobile devices and tablets, utility companies can ensure personal engagement and prompt communication with employees. Mobile-based engagement also extends to consumers through the use of customercentric apps that allow consumers to instantly access information and connect with their utility service providers. For instance, a power outage mobile application opens up a new channel for two-way communication on power outages. Not only can utility companies provide vital information to the public, but users themselves can inform the company about unannounced outages through their mobile devices. Ensure compliance with mobility Compliance and regulations such as Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) requires utility companies to enable real-time damage assessment and outage restoration data from field crews. By establishing a robust mobile environment that equips the mobile field force with a suite of tools, companies can derive higher value from their mobility solutions. Several utility companies make outage information publically available through consumer-facing mobile applications that provide consumers with critical insight into their outage range along with map of the current outages. Some of these common mobility apps are outage maps that provide a map of recent outages, outage search apps that determine outage status etc. Enhance reliability of processes and equipment Reliability of the equipment in the field is necessary for timely repair, maintenance and asset tracking. Mobility can enhance operational reliability in the field and effectively manage customer escalations thereby improving customer satisfaction. Some companies are already leveraging mobility along with RFID for asset/ equipment tracking that captures equipment information, locates equipment and reports equipment status for better visibility into performance. For instance, an energy company was facing challenges in optimizing their equipment distribution across various locations. Field personnel were unable to get hold of the exact physical location of the assets owing to difficulties in identifying parameters such as the part number and serial number of the equipment. The inability to locate the assets and, therefore, complete preset maintenance routines in time led to reduced asset utilization rate. An RFID solution was employed to locate repair equipment within the plant and update its status in the SAP system through mobile devices used in the field. The solution increased the accuracy of tracking, thereby enabling a 50% increase in the asset utilization rate and improving productivity by nearly 15%. Improve operational productivity With mobility solutions driving efficiency across the board irrespective of industry, the utilities sector is witnessing a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4.3% in (1). Mobile applications increase employee productivity by improving business process management and executing workflow processes such as instantly checking inventory and reporting quality issues. As platform vendors such as SAP develop generic mobile apps for executing such workflows, utility companies have begun integrating these mobile applications with back-end processes that already run on SAP.
6 Enable value added services for customers Companies are creating a suite of mobile applications for their end customers as the best and quickest way to deliver value aside from core services. These mobile applications can be targeted to residential customers or industrial retailers. For instance, a leading utilities company deployed a mobile-based energy management system to track energy consumption and demand and provide this information to their customer a large retailer. This has helped the retailer monitor energy usage and effectively reduce energy utility costs. Further, several utility companies are leveraging mobile interfaces and customer portals as new channels to report repair status. Customers can utilize such portals to report damage and street lighting outages thereby ensuring real-time response. Conclusion As utility companies contend with ongoing challenges such as implementing green energy initiatives, devising new and sustainable business models and meeting rising consumer expectations, they are undergoing significant changes in their IT landscape. The pervasiveness of mobile devices, tablets and smartphones is creating a dynamic shift whereby utility companies are keen to on-board mobility solutions to drive engagement, efficiency, responsiveness and service quality. Companies seeking to deploy mobility across their enterprise need to ensure they adopt a strategic implementation roadmap. The role of an experienced IT partner with expertise in consulting is critical to ensure that the mobility solution meets the business requirements, thereby delivering the promised value of mobility. About the Author Manoj Narayan is a Senior Practice Engagement Manager with the Infosys mobility unit. He leads the mobility practice client services group for the industry vertical of Energy, Utilities, Communications and Services. He is responsible for strategy, sales and solutions for mobility service for this vertical. Manoj has over 17 years experience in IT across industry segments and diverse background in mobile strategy, testing and emerging trends in IT. References 1. Market Trends: Mobility Solutions in Vertical Markets, Gartner, October Predicts 2013: Energy and Utilities Challenged by Nexus of IT Forces and Technology Market Convergence, Gartner, November Top 10 Technology Trends Impacting the Energy and Utility Industry in 2013, Gartner, March Top 10 Business Trends Impacting the Utility Industry in 2013, Gartner, March 2013.
7 About Infosys Infosys is a global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing solutions. As a proven partner focused on building tomorrow s enterprise, Infosys enables clients in more than 30 countries to outperform the competition and stay ahead of the innovation curve. Ranked in the top tier of Forbes 100 most innovative companies, Infosys with $7.4B in annual revenues and 155,000+ employees provides enterprises with strategic insights on what lies ahead. We help enterprises transform and thrive in a changing world through strategic consulting, operational leadership and the co-creation of breakthrough solutions, including those in mobility, sustainability, big data and cloud computing. Visit to see how Infosys (NYSE: INFY) is Building Tomorrow s Enterprise today. For more information, contact Infosys Limited, Bangalore, India. All Rights Reserved. Infosys believes the information in this document is accurate as of its publication date; such information is subject to change without notice. Infosys acknowledges the proprietary rights of other companies to the trademarks, product names and such other intellectual property rights mentioned in this document. Except as expressly permitted, neither this documentation nor any part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, printing, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of Infosys Limited and/ or any named intellectual property rights holders under this document.
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