Building the Utility of the Future: Modernizing Processes and Tools While Preserving Your Best Practices
October 31, 2023
With numerous emerging challenges and an ever-evolving landscape to contend with, it’s never been more important for utilities to invest in operational innovation. Taking steps to modernize by integrating new tools and processes is essential for utilities to future-proof themselves in the face of this changing landscape. We sat down with Brandon Harris, Field Work Management Business Lead at Madison Gas & Electric to explore the successful strategies that leading utilities have employed to drive innovation across their field service and asset management operations.
Current Challenges Facing the Utility Industry
New regulations, aging infrastructure, a changing workforce, increased climate volatility, and new technologies are some of the many challenges that utility companies are facing today. Customer expectations around service and reliability have also evolved; today’s customers expect to be serviced quickly, and to have good communication and transparency around the process while work is being completed.
Weather events also add complexity for utility companies. The increasing volatility and unpredictability of temperatures, storms, floods and wildfires across the country means that organizations need to be equipped to handle unexpected emergencies with agility and ease. Changing regulations also necessitate utility companies to implement operational change where required – for example, the recent legislation around PFAS and lead in pipes and the water supply.
Some challenges, like aging infrastructure, have been foreseeable, but others have been more sudden. All of them emphasize the importance of having modern tools and processes in place to allow flexibility and adaptability in the midst of change – and to do so in a way which amplifies their existing processes and best practices.
Best Practices for Building a Future-Proof Utility Company
Prioritization When it comes to modernizing a utility organization’s operations, it’s imperative to define and prioritize where to start. Every organization is unique – from its geographic location to the demographic of its customers to the makeup of its workforce – and will require its own evaluation of and criteria for approaches, technologies and partnerships. In the case of MGE, they faced a challenge that they needed to tackle across their organization. As Brandon describes: “We let our infrastructure age so much that […] we just kind of said as a whole, we need to get better. That was really where we were – we wanted to increase our field services […] we wanted to increase our asset management, our customer experience. And it was a larger project that we had to take on.”
By centralizing and streamlining their field work management and enterprise asset management, MGE was subsequently able to improve their customer experience and increase satisfaction levels, another priority of the organization. But to build excellent service for their customers meant that MGE needed to have good relationships with their field workers foremost, and equip them with the best tools and processes in order to do their jobs well.
Managing a Changing Workforce It’s increasingly important for utility companies to align with the different ends of the generational spectrum of the current workforce. This includes both older workers who are aging out, as well as the younger generation who are seeking more instruction and guidance in their daily tasks. Integrating new software or tools into a utility company’s operations requires close interaction with the end users, taking their feedback into account to facilitate worker adoption and utilization. And taking existing tribal knowledge and disseminating it via tools and platforms that proactively guide newer workers is essential for carrying forward the operational efficiencies of the organization.
Impactful Tools to Support Modernization for Utilities
The right software that’s designed with field workers in mind can make all the difference in helping an organization modernize its processes and workflows. Field service management and asset management software needs to take into consideration the expectations and abilities of its end users – many of whom may never have needed to use a computer during their career. A user interface which is intuitive and easy to use, mobile-native, and which enhances workers’ day to day experience can be hugely impactful in helping utility companies integrate modern tools into their organization.
KloudGin’s platform has helped MGE integrate modern technology into their organization, working closely with their internal management as well as end users to custom-tailor the software to the unique needs of their business. By unifying their assets and workforce, they’ve achieved operational efficiency and improved the worker experience.
MGE has also been able to reduce their technical debt and IT resource constraints through KloudGin’s cloud-based technology, helping keep their costs manageable and rates low. Another benefit is the ease of improvement and iteration across time, as Brandon describes: “Technology evolves, and [with] the cloud products that we have these days you stay on the updated version. You don’t have to worry about getting behind. I think […] continuous improvement is to get them out there and show the end users that just because we gave you a process today doesn’t mean that’s the process forever.”
The integration of these new technologies has also had the added benefit of improving MGE customers’ service experience as well, by providing tools that improved customer communication and visibility. Ultimately, the impact of integrating these new tools at MGE has been a win for their business, their employees, and their customers alike.
KloudGin is a trusted provider of the only combined, cloud-based field and asset management solution that connects customers, employees, and assets using AI-powered access to information, on any device. KloudGin understands the unique challenges being faced by utility companies around the world, and has successfully helped leading utilities build operational innovation into their organization.
Built for the workers who use it most, KloudGin eliminates traditional information and process silos to enable clients to transform the customer experience and improve work order productivity through a single face of work that also unifies siloed processes and systems so they can effectively meet the challenges of today—and the demands of tomorrow.
Tanya brings expertise driving growth for small and mid-sized businesses and managing successful marketing programs. Her experience includes leading marketing teams at SaaS start-ups and private equity companies like Bigleaf Networks, Innovyze, and NAVEX. Tanya received her Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix. In her spare time, she enjoys scuba diving and traveling with her husband Mike, riding horses competitively and nature walks with her Labrador Chesney.