Transformative effects of proactive strategy in Utilities business using Lean + Digital + Analytics

Goal

My goal here has genesis in my very recent experience (is elaborated below), it has made me think whether the approach

A) Where we start with the problem statement first and progress towards a viable solution or

B) Where we have a solution/strategy in our mind and keep looking for issues proactively so that the existing vision/solution fits into the overall objective of the situations we are faced with (I apologize for a self- conflicting goal here; we have a remedy below).

The honest answer is, it depends on how much we are leading or trailing against the issues/problems/risks around us (we are not in search of luck here, let us see below)

How proactive vision and strategy got us here?

Very recently, my team and I have been addressing tough business problems for our customers on the other business segments (like Supply Chain, Insurance, Health, Transport, finance, Construction etc.), where we have successfully addressed business problems with solutions underpinned with the proactive strategy (please find the link below), meaning, the solutions were focused and plugged at a very early stages of the business cycle (nipped in the bud) rather than allowing issues flowing through the stages leading to massive efforts and chaos to fix them (this happens when errors have become a mistake, we will see below). While we live and breathe proactive strategy, this led us further extend the idea pf proactivity, where we stepped up to address a risk which otherwise be totally neglected (relying on old reactive strategies), meaning, we had a solution (in the form of a proactive strategy) much earlier than the genesis of a problem (you will see some great action down here). In this instance my team’s proactive behaviors improved the current situation, in a way where excellent work done in one scenario of business was giving birth to more proactive tendencies, meaning, for all great reasons we were beating the speed at which issues might get created and thrown at us,

Promise

I repeat my promise of keeping this discussion simple and jargon free to help us allow creative thinking without digressing from the core issue/goal here

For new readers – those who want to see more proactive strategies in action, follow through our case study on how Proactive Strategy comes to play in Transforming the Supply Chain in the era of Industry 4.0.

Those friends who have come across me just now and interested to know about what I mean by proactive strategies please follow this link. Regardless of the profession/ business you are in, I am sure we have something to share with each other.

A Real situation!

Any Utilities business, regardless of the size and complexity of the business (based on number of energy consumers), there could be many moving parts which contribute to its success. One factor of perpetual importance is how accurately the consumer’s energy consumption information is being moved between various stages that might sit under different organizations across the utilities sector landscape (we will land on the ground soon 😊)

During my recent exploratory conversation with John (Not revealing the real name) who is a CTO and Victor (COO) at Utilities Meter supply and installation company. They serve residential, commercial & industrial customers who are in constant need of gas, electricity (including solar) and water. We met to share our understanding around transformation program underway. While part of transformation program, most of the business risks are assumed to be addressed during the development of the solution and will be tested out.

Success of this transformation will be defined by how accurately (the energy usage by the end consumer) the moving parts would come together and generate this data and deliver it to the subsequent stages. This is some serious business as it is directly correlated to the revenue (supply of the data which is growing tremendously fast) and cost (efforts and penalties charged for inaccuracies/failures), low customer satisfaction due to SLA breaches. While it sounded so great that everything is in shape, I zoomed-in my attention to the fact that most of the risks will be addressed (which are limited by human imagination in the first place). What about those risks to the data which no one imagined? Is there a way to address a risk which is not even born yet? My mind was loaded with all these questions and filled with massive curiosity which was coming from a proactive frame of mind.

How a strategy is done today (combination of preventive and reactive approach)?

By all standards, and earlier proven experiences, the preventive strategy where the imagined risks would have been taken care of, which is good, the unimagined part would reach the end stages of the Utilities action which gets offloaded to no one else, but the customer. To put into perspective, initial stages = consumer consumes the energy, during stages= energy consumption is being sorted and late stages= energy consumption is being sent for billing the consumer

Symptoms

This preventive strategy also resulted in manual efforts to sort the consumer energy consumption information. Due to inherent reactiveness of the approach towards its end consumer’s needs, this will only be discovered during the late stages of the Utilities business cycle action, of course with lots of back and forth efforts around every inaccuracy further pulling down their relationships with customers and eroding end consumers’ confidence in the business.

Let us visualize this!

You can easily picture this whole situation where you are entering a new building which is under construction without a helmet or safety boots (OfCourse, the roof is not going to come falling on you), meaning, one does not know what exactly will hurt him the most (unimagined unknowns) in the absence of safety PPE; all we know is that risks that surrounds us could be very creative and our innovative response is that little yellow helmet sitting on your head (you are right, helmet held in a hand does not help here which could potentially lead to a life threating mistake in this picture).

Realization?

It is an obvious realization that we need a strategy which proactively captures risks from both it should early in the stages plus much ahead of its birth timeline standpoint. Those risks are unimagined yet (in this case) at initial stages of the Utilities action, addressing this, would result in positive relationship with end customer (they are teams who bill the end consumers for the energy consumed) and the consumers down the line.

How to bring Proactive strategy in action?

two-dimensional strategy is proposed which is proactive (fact that unknown risks are addressed during initial stages), predictive (separating good vs bad information). These two strategies combined are supported by solid foundation of Lean, Design Thinking, Digital technology, Robotics and Analytics

Where, we cut down the efforts while doing back and forth of the inaccurate consumer energy consumption (Thanks to the Lean for ideas of waste of defects) and supplement up the human efficiency using powerful assistive Digital-Bots designed and developed to proactively tasked to do all the heavy lifting (repetitive steps) at a very faster speed without a need to put any human intervention (you are left with plenty of time to think about your future customers at a beach). This helps create success to the utilities business (winning hearts) by not passing the inaccurate information downstream (by preventing errors becoming a mistake) and opens a door for never ending pursuit of converting unknown into a known risk (what a great feeling), thereby increasing confidence in your transformation initiatives almost immediately (trust me as easy as wearing that yellow helmet)

This strategy resulted in an innovative solution called as I-ProVisualizer designed and developed by Aurion Systems (you can start now without the technology as well), which is a plug-in-and play type solution tailored-to-fit the needs of proactive prediction and separation of unfit information related to consumer usage information. This solution does all that plus communicates via a dashboard the unknown risks (We know how they look like)

How to start and not stop at the end of this article piece?

I would recommend starting simply by just taking this approach, which has negligible risk, simple and yet an amazingly effective positive step towards our goal of a proactive strategy

A) Take pen -paper or manual method (start now)

Start checking the energy consumption information manually (I know this causes efforts, but this will pave the way for better clarity around unknown risks) randomly selected from pool of information and note down what both good and bad information looks like.

B) Take help from technology 

Work towards making it unattended, assisted by using Super-fast digital solution such that your it works autonomously without losing its efficacy by engaging a solid, affordable solution partner