Companies in the energy utility industry face a number of critical trends that impact operational excellence, financial performance, and overall customer experience. With the deployment of smart meters and smart grid technology, utilities capture a tremendous amount of data that they must manage in real time. Having that information presents an opportunity to anticipate and avoid service issues, and proactively respond to failures and outages before they occur. The rising environmental awareness and active energy concerns forces utilities to offer new energy efficiency programs alternative technologies (e.g., solar, wind, etc.). Additionally, many utilities face an aging infrastructure with an aging workforce. These factors present challenges utility companies trying to achieve ongoing cost reductions in operations and increasing flexibility of field workers while managing reduced headcount.
When a non-regulated private or publicly held company wants to invest in technology they develop a business case and conduct an ROI analysis. If the investment leads to cost savings and/or profitability gains then they can usually justify the expenditure. In the energy utility industry, capital investments also require a rate change increase. This is because as a regulated entity they are obligated to achieve a specified rate of return for their shareholders. The rate increase enables utilities to fund the investment by amortizing the cost over a period of time and then using the rate increase to pay for the investment over time. In other words, they can offset the amortization cost through the rate increase.
Investing in cloud based mobile solutions represents a challenge for utilities. While the use of cloud based mobile solutions have proven to have led to advantages in other industries, the cost related to deploying these solutions are incurred over time making it an operating expense. Thus requiring the utilities to rethink how they justify these type of investments.
Given the difficulties the energy utility companies face, why is it so important to overcome these challenges and make a change to operations? The benefits of using a cloud based mobile solution to manage service in the energy utility industry are wide ranging. Many utilities operate aging infrastructures. This means that they not only need to respond to emergencies, but must also have a plan for maintenance to try to avoid the need for extensive disruptive emergencies services. The world is becoming increasingly concerned about alternative and “greener” energy. Whether that means investing in newer technologies like solar and wind or finding ways to improve existing energy solutions, the utilities have their hands full with all different types of needs for field service. Inefficiency leads to higher costs and lower customer satisfaction. With so many moving pieces, field service needs to be managed closely. According to industry analysts, approximately 25% of an average utilities operation and management budget is spent on inefficient, un-optimized work due to this lack of operational visibility.
So how can utility companies be both responsive and cost conscious? By using tools which allow them to know what is needed and what is available for dispatch. By using resources and man power efficiently and having an easy to use yet effective system to manage those resources makes this outcome achievable. Cloud-based, Mobile Workforce Management Systems (MWFM) automate the complex decision making involved in building an optimal schedule. By taking into account the extensive amount of information (e.g., resource details, work data, scheduling policies, etc.) as input, these tools aid in calculations leading to decisions. State of the art MWFM (a.k.a. Field Service Management, FSM) solutions can produce scheduling scenarios that minimize costs and simultaneously maximize both productivity and customer satisfaction. Studies show that companies who implement these types of solutions are likely to experience a 20% to 30% increase in field worker utilization and productivity.
Additionally, using cloud based, MWFM offers the following benefits:
- Strategic agility
- Continuous upgrades at no additional cost
- Built for user adoption
- Offers rapid time to value
- Greater security over on-premises
When choosing a MWFM, utilities should consider a solution that offers best-in-class feature functionality:
- Schedule and Dispatch
- Enterprise Mobility
- Shift Management
- Planning and Forecasting
- Performance Measures
- Contractor Management
Choosing a vendor for cloud based MWFM who can offer these features and who has extensive knowledge in utility services provides the best possible opportunity to achieve the full benefits of using this trend setting field service management solution. This will provide the energy utility company the ability to achieve the greatest improvement in efficiency and cost savings that cloud-based mobile workforce management has to offer.