The acceleration of the digital world demands the adoption of the latest innovations by the organizations; as failing to do will result in loss of business. Enterprises of various industries have realized the same and that is why 88 percent of companies are working toward digital transformation. What is digital transformation, is known by everyone today. Still here is a short description of digital transformation – It is the process of using digital technologies in a strategic manner that streamlines and accelerates any businesses’ operations, including business model to in-house processes. Digital transformation is also known as digital business transformation or digitization. Adopting digital transformation can offer various benefits to a business, which includes increment in revenue, enhancement of customer experience and gaining a competitive edge in the industry.
In the current era industries are embracing digital transformation. Digital transformation is the force that’s changing the world. Today, the integrated chip that we have in our smartphone has more computing power than the first rocket ships that landed on the moon. Digital Transformation means switching from manual processes to autonomous processes and using data insights for business decision making. Out of all the several industries that are leveraging the benefits of digital transformation, one industry that is utilizing it not just to manage the operational hurdles but to grow and flourish as an industry is the power and utilities sector of India. Last year the unexpected occurrence of the deadly coronavirus pandemic brought unprecedented financial and operational challenges with it. In order to deal with this scenario, the power and utilities sector of India adopted different digital technologies and platforms for the betterment of everything including workforce, stakeholder collaboration, and increase enterprise robustness while keeping business continuity at the forefront.
Let’s see how the digital transformation has been reframing the power sector
Tech innovation is no longer associated only with the replacement of paperwork with automated electronic systems. The next step is the reinvention of the ways that power and utilities companies do business, engage their customers and interact with them. And let us not forget about Energy 4.0, a buzzword used to denote the digital revolution in this industry. Industry 4.0 is a notion that is known well in the world of manufacturing. This ‘fourth industrial revolution’ incorporates automation and data that is used for the optimization of production, enhanced flexibility and efficiency within a smart factory environment. Being adopter of digital technologies, the power and utilities sector is embracing such emerging innovations as the Internet of Things (IoT), Data Science, Machine Learning and cloud computing. The digital revolution - referred to as Energy 4.0 - involves these advances to build smart grids, manage renewable energy and distributed generation.
Evolution of workplaces is another facet of digital transformation. Due to pandemic, we learnt how to work from home or remotely. Many private and public sector utilities across the power sector value chain have been investing in collaboration platforms for video and audio conferencing, chat messenger and file exchange to communicate and collaborate as a single unit across the organization. Nowadays, utilities are also adopting remote working devices and tools, limiting the manual way of working to perform critical day-to-day operations and deliver services like never before. The use of mobile applications increases the efficiency of inspection and maintenance work. The connected workforce gets real-time access to information to serve the utility customers in an efficient way.
Adoption of digital payments and communication channels is one crucial option that digital transformation offers. Utilities in the power sector have adopted digital payments or customer communication platforms to overcome revenue losses, engage customers and increase customer satisfaction in the era of social distancing. Some of the leading power utilities have seen significant adoption (about 90 percent) in digital payments via various modes of payments, e-wallets or digital wallets, which has emerged as the most preferred choice followed by net banking. Consumers are also engaging with utilities through digital platforms like website, mobile App, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, SMS & call centres to maintain social distancing.
In order to increase operational efficiency and ensure effective network planning, distribution companies are also undertaking several digitization and grid modernization initiatives. The discoms are also focusing on enhancing its consumer service experience by implementing information technology solutions. Digitization and modernization have become the buzzwords for grid up-gradation of advance IT solutions with business operations and planning. This has gained momentum as IT infrastructure in the country has improved by leaps and bounds and is becoming competitive day by day.
Technologies like ERP and cloud have also been imperative for utilities to increase efficiency, productivity and collaboration among customers, employees and stakeholders. Cybersecurity solutions have also played a key role to enhance cloud security further.
In the Transmission segment, there is continuous advancement of transmission equipment’s with the application of digitalization and automation and make it suitable for smart grid operation and that is more compact, reliable, environment friendly and requires the minimum installation and commissioning time.
The coronavirus pandemic crisis has taught utilities to leverage digital technologies for meter reading and bill payments or collection. Smart meters with advanced payment methods like e-wallets are expected to be deployed for remote meter reading and accurate billing, thus preventing revenue loss. Utilities must leverage digital payment options and facilitate top-up payments through IVR or webchat channels for payment collection. Last year during the lockdown period, mobile-based photometer reading was implemented by some of the utilities which shall be the ‘next to normal’ for all the utilities for enhanced revenue protection.
Just like several other industries, the power and utility industry can leverage the potential of chatbots to improve customer experience. The power and utilities sector is characterized by 24X7 operations. Customer service success for utilities is closely tied to operational performance as well as the ability to create engaging experiences for the customer. Chatbots were introduced to improve customer service operations, and they’re doing their job well. By 2021, it’s expected that an average person will converse more with chatbots than with their spouse. It can be used by utilities in multiple ways from responding to customer queries, updating customers on the status of a service outage and responding to other service requests.
To summarize, the future of almost all the industry is digital, including the power sector. Whether it is marketing, operations, security, research, all aspects of running a business are highly benefitted with digital transformation. The power and utility industry has already realized the same and started adopting digital transformation. Above that, the pandemic has made the sector to rethink and embrace digital transformation as an organization-wide priority. The aforementioned facets and expectations are just the beginning. There are much awaiting for the power sector of India.