Modernize or Get Left Behind: Revolutionizing our Utilities Future (Part Two)

Three Insights into Why Data Visualization is Critical to Grid Modernization

Electricity is the driving force behind the intricate tapestry of our lives – it ignites a powerful spark that illuminates our homes, workplaces, schools, hospitals, and smart technologies -- dramatically influencing the way we live, work, play, and connect.

While our nation’s electric grid was an engineering marvel of the past century, the rapid pace of technological and socio-economic innovation has caused the existing electrical infrastructure to age with increased velocity. It was not designed to meet the demands of our digitally-driven world.

How can utilities keep the lights on and pioneer our modernized, digitized future? By transitioning away from conventional operating models and acquiring a new technology-savvy mindset (e.g., digitally-enabled and sustainable energy provisioning strategies, data visualizations, smart meters, microgrids, advanced analytics, product innovations, etc.), while galvanizing resources to swiftly adapt to evolving consumer expectations in order to survive and thrive amongst industry disruption. They must make strategic investments to modernize the electric grid today or risk getting left in the dark tomorrow.

In this installment of our utilities series, we'll outline how a successfully implemented data visualization strategy will empower utilities organizations to transform customer insights into evidence-based strategic decision-making.

Analyzing the Data Deluge

In the digital transformation age, consumers crave continuous connectivity. They are shifting their energies away from conventional channels and embracing a diverse array of mediums to fuel their desire for instant access and insight. This change becomes compounded by the proliferation and widespread prevalence of technological disruptions (social media, augmented analytics, voice and touch technologies, virtual assistants, machine learning, and artificial intelligence), which are generating a massive influx of consumer data. More data than traditional asset-intensive utilities are equipped to manage.

In order to successfully collect, digest, and measure this data deluge, utilities must re-evaluate business priorities and invest in advanced data visualization strategies. They must redesign their infrastructure to derive meaningful benefits from consumer energy consumption habits and ignite insights-driven decision-making, in alignment with consumer demands and overarching organizational objectives.

As part of this, utilities are increasingly encouraged to adopt agile ways of working by designing their analytics systems to maximize speed to implementation and innovation. Gartner suggests that “the size, complexity, distributed nature of data, speed of action and the continuous intelligence required by a digital business means that rigid and centralized architectures and tools break down. The continued survival of any business will depend upon an agile, data-centric architecture that responds to the constant rate of change.”

Recognizing this business imperative, many companies have embraced the realities of a data-driven future. The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that revenues for D&A (data and analytics) solutions will reach $260 billion in 2022, with the United States leading the pack, “delivering nearly $88 billion in 2018 and more than half of the worldwide total throughout the five-year forecast.” The study indicates that “organizations have increasingly turned to D&A to navigate the convergence of their physical and digital worlds.” A recent survey by MIT Technology Review confirms this trend, with 87 percent of global business and IT leaders championing data as the foundation for business growth.

So how can utilities leaders harness and implement digital insights at scale and create differentiating consumer experiences to drive lasting results amidst market disruption? They need a trusted partner to analyze and derive actionable insights from distribution data, and ultimately design grid modernization projects with these human-centric insights in mind.

Unearthing Actionable Insights

At North Highland, data is in our D&A. We thrive at the intersection of business intelligence and transformation, fueling grid modernization in three ways:

  • People-Centric. Massive D&A implementations require a multitude of vendors and internal resources working in harmony. We assemble a team of like-minded professionals needed to achieve shared objectives and automate data pipeline tasks for optimal business efficiency.
  • Bias for Action. Equipped with a proactive, “get it done” mindset, we identify the dedicated experts needed to wrangle insights from disparate sources, enable real-time data monitoring to ensure availability at scale, detect anomalies in overall system health, analyze, measure, and preserve program effectiveness, and transform data into usable formats for visualization.
  • Capability Building. We work hand-in-hand with utilities to build their existing D&A capabilities and empower them with the tools needed to manage data visualization projects from inception to implementation.

With a unique blend of project management, managed services, and change management expertise, North Highland partners with utilities leaders to analyze and visualize massive data sets, design data governance platforms, and provide actionable recommendations to communicate these insights to customers effectively.

Putting this strategy into practice, a global renewable energy leader recently engaged our team to design an automated, scalable, and extensible big data analytics system to drive operational performance. Given that consumers traditionally spend an exorbitant amount of time acquiring, crunching, and improving data before use, this automated process strengthened the quality and accuracy of insights to fuel business transformation.

Transforming Utilities from Laggards into Data-Driven Leaders

Data is arguably the only resource that’s intensifying every day. Instead of drowning in information overload and oversaturation, utilities organizations hold the keys to convert data into valuable insights and ultimately fuel evidence-based strategic decision-making. They alone have the power to drive significant business growth and ignite grid modernization on a global scale.

Now, more than ever, an analytical mindset is the key to our digitally-centric future. If companies fail to establish a strategy for data intelligence today, the opportunity for competitive advantage will go out like a light.

Watch for our next blog in this series, where we’ll take a closer look at the role of product and service innovation in the era of grid modernization.