More than 60 senior executives and experts from 16 different countries and four continents gathered in May 2017 in Rome, Italy for PwC’s roundtable on delivering operational excellence in a digital world.
“The utility sector is at a historic inflection point in its technological evolution”, observed Norbert Schwieters, PwC’s Global Power & Utilities Leader. Introducing the roundtable event, he pointed out: “The range of business models is expanding with corresponding implications for business alignment, core capabilities and profitability. This new business environment means operational excellence is more important than ever. It must serve a new set of business demands and provide a new set of business capabilities.”
Key messages of the discussion paper
- Digital business strategy and delivery: The digital promise for utility companies is immense. As David Etheridge, Global Power & Utilities Advisory Leader, PwC US, explained: “It’s a world where companies can say ‘I know what I need to do and I know it real-time’. They’re able to reach out with 360 degree vision and make the best choices available without the impediment of estimation risk, prediction risk and without the impediment of ‘less than the best’ information.” But getting to that point is difficult: “If you get it wrong, you can be disappointed by the results. Do it right and you get to realise the potential of technologies such as machine learning, robotics, drones, additives and blockchain.”
- Moving to a new level: digital platforms and blockchain: Developments such as digital platforms and blockchain are becoming very real for many power utility companies. The power of platform communities and marketplaces has been evident for some time in the consumer internet. For industrial companies and sectors such as power utilities the potential is perhaps even greater with the opportunity that arises to create digital networks capable of transforming both operational efficiencies and market possibilities.
- Addressing operational challenges: A range of major issues affects the daily life of utilities – from workforce demographics, commodities prices and infrastructure integrity to tariff reviews, grid modernisation and new types of competition. Regulation plays a huge role and the way companies work is strongly influenced by both their regulatory and historical contexts. This is the reality against which technological and digital transformation is being played out.
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