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January 4, 2017

Given the fiercely competitive markets and rigorous regulatory scenario, digital is no longer an option, but a strategic priority for driving operational excellence. Utilities CIOs today are approaching digital with confidence, and actively pursuing its enterprise-wide adoption, and as a result, utilities IT landscapes are witnessing digital deployments (read disruptions) like never before – the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, mobility, social media tools, artificial intelligence, and even robotics.

But is mere deployment enough? Or are utilities businesses missing out on more? Going much beyond tools deployment, Digital Transformation is an ethos change. Just like any other enterprise transformation initiative, digital transformation too, requires awareness, enthusiastic acceptance, and adoption not just by top management, but all stakeholders internal and external. Before embarking on the digital bandwagon, and approving million dollar budgets, utilities CIOs must examine with a set of pertinent questions.

The first and most important question are we poised and well positioned to take advantage of digital developments? Simply put, its about assessing your companys readiness for adopting digital, and coping with its implications. Lets consider security risks, for instance. With digital devices controlling data exchange between intelligent grids, smart meters and enterprise systems, threats and vulnerabilities must be proactively addressed with adequate security controls. That brings me to another question have you carefully evaluated security risks and concerns, and thought out mitigation actions and controls? From a security standpoint, besides a nimble security structure, utilities companies also need robust device management systems, data integration processes, and information classification policies. Data must be classified according to its sensitivity and importance to the enterprise. Before deploying digital interventions in live scenarios, security teams must address flaws in security infrastructure, and deploy proactive security controls that protect enterprise systems and data.

Getting ready for digital is just the beginning. Listing strategic priorities is as important as readiness assessment. While operational efficiency and improved productivity are given benefits of digital deployments, CIOs must look beyond these stated benefits, and explore how digital transformation can enable them to enter new markets, make new inroads into market segments, scale up operations, and grow the client base with specialized offerings. For example, with insightful analytics, utilities companies can drive surge pricing, location and usage based billing, better energy distribution, and even customer loyalty and rewards programs. With markets becoming fiercely competitive, CIOs must evaluate how digital transformation can be used to out-smart, out-perform and pre-empt competition. Keeping a check on how your competitors are doing with respect to digital is also a good idea.

Boosted by IoT and robotic process automation (RPA), utilities companies can optimize grid management, and reduce risks to grid operations in challenging terrains and adverse weather conditions. When combined with other digital forces such as mobility, analytics, and social media, RPA and IoT can enable utilities companies to achieve process and brand uniformity, while ensuring consistency in corporate and regulatory reporting. Its also a great way to be in a state of continuous compliance, improve governance efficiency, deal with stringent corporate and government regulations, and minimize business risks.

Utilities CIOs cannot simply discard their legacy systems, and embark on the digital journey with a clean IT slate. The cloud, with its zero upfront, pay-per-use pricing model, enables IT harmonization and platform standardization, by facilitating incremental adoption of new technology, and gradual decommissioning of legacy systems. Armed with clouds scalability and on-demand resource provisioning, utilities IT teams can deliver unmatched levels of development and operational agility and flexibility.

Final, and most important, is the impact of utilities CIOs digital investments on customer experience. The goal of any enterprise transformation initiative, digital included, is to delight customers. And with its two most popular forces mobility and social media, digital is enabling utilities businesses to gain closer access to its customers, than ever before. Mobile phones are no longer communication tools, but transaction enablers. With applied applications such as social sentiment listening, social media has matured from an information dissemination tool, to a customer engagement platform.

Clearly, the digital evolution has set in, and utilities companies must adapt and adopt. To gear up for the transformation, your business needs much more than just staffing, competency and technology. It needs a supporting ecosystem that facilitates enterprise-wide deployment a guiding force that ensures always-on, audit-ready systems, continuous compliance, and most importantly, first time right deployments. This guiding force, in my view, is your companys Quality Assurance (QA) function. Acting as a guardian of risk management and compliance, and custodian of enterprise data, systems and processes, the utilities QA function is the single, most critical factor for ensuring success with digital, and driving digital-driven linear and sustainable business growth.

Dr. Debadatta Sahoo is working as Business Development Manager in TCS' Assurance Services Unit. He has 16+ years of experience in TCS, spanning across various leadership roles including Customer Relationship Management, Account Management and Project Management areas in Energy & Utilities, Retail, Manufacturing, BFS, Media & Entertainment industry sectors. He holds a Doctoral Degree in Strategic Management, MBA in Marketing & Finance and graduation degree in Computer science. He has completed TOGAF, ITIL v3, MCSD, SCP, RUP, BEC III certifications.


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