Distribution utilities are undergoing rapid digital transformation, replacing outdated service models and ad-hoc business processes with adaptive, data-driven processes. In this blog, we’ll dive into three software capabilities that are driving the change and helping utility companies advance their operations.
In the long-proposed digital transformation of distribution utilities, the rubber will truly meet the road on the business operations side. Taming the mountains of AMI data and triaging the salient events is only half the battle. That real-time AMI data must then inform and trigger intelligent workflows that result in better service delivery.
To do this, distribution utilities must empower their teams with a software solution that is highly flexible, augments their work, and liberates them from past constraints.
In previous blogs and white papers, we’ve addressed the gap between IoT data and smarter, more impactful business processes. In this blog, we investigate the capabilities required in a software solution designed to bring about better business processes in the utilities use case. We’ll also talk about the effects those will have on utilities organizations.
3 Critical Software Capabilities
To meet tomorrow’s challenges while leveraging their AMI investment, distribution utilities must pursue intelligent operations. These intelligent operations should in effect, replace the more ambiguous workflows built around manual processes powered by institutional knowledge.
A software solution with these three capabilities is the key to unlocking adaptive and efficient workflows leading to new streams of value.
#1. Case Management
Case management software tools serve a variety of functions across many different industries, from law enforcement to healthcare. Any software solution reactive to an IoT data stream must have case management capabilities.
These capabilities allow users to prioritize problems, track status, log time, identify severity, and collaborate across organizational and system silos. Case management systems also serve to provide the current state of the grid, as seen through the IoT data stream.
#2. Workflow Engines
Perhaps most important as it relates to advancing towards the future, any distribution utilities software solution needs to have a robust workflow engine that works in concert with companion anomaly detection and problem diagnosis software capabilities.
What is meant by “workflow engine”?
The concept of workflow, a sequenced set of actions, is intrinsic to most business software applications. In software terminology “workflow” is synonymous with “business process”. More often than not, the actual workflow is invisible to the organization, accessible only by the software vendor and changeable through minimal configuration parameters or customization.
A workflow engine, with a visual workflow designer (like the one from our software solution, GridOps pictured above), flips the typical software application paradigm and puts process design and control in the hands of the organization, without requiring software development. This software capability avoids the typical customization constraint of legacy applications, leading to a true focus on business process design that is reactive to real-time grid conditions.
It is inevitable that in an above-referenced workflow, there will exist actions that are currently performed within the context of existing software applications. Therefore, a useful workflow engine must embody “system of system” capabilities, or “orchestration” features.
Simply stated, orchestration conveys the ability of one software application to trigger and track work performed in another software application. That work can be automated (e.g., pinging a meter through a head-end system) or manual (e.g., a work order leading to a truck roll). The importance of this “system of systems” software capability is that when it is lacking, this management of the current state of work across multiple software applications remains a manual activity that we see too many utility personnel engaged in.
The entire point of a more intelligent and digitized utility business process is to break down data silos and inefficiencies. Workflow with orchestration leads to efficiencies that allow for better service delivery and a more effective organization overall.
How These Features Lead to Better Business Processes
Case management, workflow, and orchestration are software capabilities that help utilities break away from current constraints where business processes are kept as institutional knowledge and teams work in their own silos. That leads to improved stakeholder/member satisfaction and better business KPIs. Here’s how.
Accelerated Advancement in Service Delivery Innovations
Given the constraints of prevalent software tools, the ability to innovate has existed mostly within the realm of manual processes. A solution that embodies case management, workflow, and orchestration that is also complemented by IoT data management features (e.g., stream processing and event detection) allows for ideas to be implemented, tested, and changed at a velocity that even manual change cannot match.
Once innovations are then well-proven, the same capabilities aid in supporting the standardization of best practices across the organization.
Better Collaboration Across Teams
Consistency makes collaboration across teams easier. As a workflow travels down the line to each team, you can be sure that each step was completed the same way. This cuts down on mistakes and time when employees are deciphering what has and hasn’t been done on any given project.
Greater Visibility into Impactful Analytics
With consistency and collaboration comes greater visibility and measurability. Standardized workflows and a common source of truth allow a distribution utilities organization to better measure the efficacy of new processes.
This gives decision-makers greater insights as to where improvements can be made. With a flexible software solution, an organization can track relevant metrics, make changes as necessary, and roll out those changes easily across the entire organization without any hiccups.
People and processes will play an essential role in the coming years as utilities onboard new software solutions to improve their service delivery and workflows.
As distribution utilities continues its digital revolution, it’s paramount that decision makers and stakeholders begin to look for software solutions that can help the business become more efficient. A software solution like GridOps from Trynzic can help your utility organization take the next step into the event and data-driven workflows of the future.
At Trynzic, we’re obsessed with unlocking the business processes of the future for utilities. Talk to us today to see how GridOps can power better service delivery in your utility.