Today, utility leaders are not just business leaders, but they are also technology leaders. Business and technological objectives and strategies have become one. Like with much of the world, and every other sector out there, the future of the utilities sector will be defined by digital, and the ability of organisations to step into the digital age. Those organisations that will still be around in 10 years’ time will be characterised as digital businesses that have learnt to transform their culture and their operations to meet the call to digital arms.
With the world now operating at digital speed, decisions made today will be key in defining the success or failure of a business in the future. However, with time of the essence, and more technologies to choose from than ever before, making the right decision is not going to be easy. With AI, cloud technologies, Big Data, and advanced analytics to name a few becoming increasingly abundant, knowing where to start and how to progress in the upcoming years will be one of the biggest challenges leaders will face in the next decade.
Success will be recognised as efficiently transitioning legacy infrastructure with a new digitised, integrated design whilst minimising technical debt. Efforts will be focused on consolidating onto a single architecture and a single data model that integrates different areas of the business. This will set the business up for long-term success by giving it the agility to develop on top of that foundation such as developing applications that enable it to scale services or take them in new directions in the future.
Creating an effective technology strategy
The challenge for many utilities companies is to navigate how to move their existing processes to the cloud. This will involve merging and aligning legacy processes with new digitised processes. This is essential for success because it is very easy for operational siloes to creep in as this new technology starts to be integrated.
Creating a holistic plan of how these legacy processes are going to be replaced piece by piece is going to make or break how well the organisation transforms. This plan needs to have a clear enablement focus, defining how legacy and cloud are going to work together in the meantime and what the integration architecture is going to look like to ensure business processes are affected as little as possible.
Leadership is going to play an important role at defining which business models should be prioritised and how aggressively to roll out new technology based on its ability to integrate with legacy processes.
Creating an effective roadmap
The roadmap is not just essential for strategically defining technology rollout, it’s also a valuable cultural tool. Your employees will be feeling the uncertainty and the pressure but also the opportunity technological advancement is bringing too. This is a factor that is often underestimated by leadership. A key human motivator is having a purpose and every individual within the business should have a clear view of how they directly or indirectly contribute to the achievement of that roadmap. In addition, almost more importantly yet, it is essential that everyone knows where that road is heading – what is the company vision?
This vision has the power to become a common purpose that fosters more collaboration and innovation because there’s clarity of action. Any doubt is eliminated and with it the friction that often slows or blocks change initiatives.
How should a leader go about communicating this vision?
Research finds that the most effective leaders use a lot of image-based language as they communicate their vision. We want an image that is unequivocal and provokes the same image in your imagination as it does in the person next to you. This is where that doubt and friction is eliminated. A common problem with the way utility companies currently define their digital roadmaps, is that they talk in very abstract terms. This makes the vision very subjective; no two people are seeing the same thing.
A crucial differentiator between those that succeed and those that fail is their ability to engage their employees. It doesn’t matter how good the technology rollout plan is if the people within your business are not bought in to the change it will bring with it.