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Unleashing Optimisation by Democratising Expertise for your Utility

Recently the Gartner Symposium 2019 was held on the Gold Coast in Australia and last week Gartner released the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020. I felt it would be of value to look at how this can help utilities.

Gartner identifies a strategic technology trend as “one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which is rapidly growing with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years”

The key strategic technology trend we want to focus on this week is the “Democratisation of Expertise”. This is defined by Gartner the following 2 areas:

  1. Providing people, with access to technical expertise such as Machine Learning or Application Development tools
  2. Business Domain expertise such as sales process and economic analysis via a radically simplified experience without requiring extensive and costly training

Digging deeper within democratisation, there are 4 key aspects:

  1. Data and Analytics
  2. Development
  3. Design
  4. Knowledge

Today we will be focusing on the last two – Design and Knowledge.

Design

This aspect covers ‘Low code’ and ‘No code’ solutions, with automation of additional application development functions to empower the citizen developer.

While the terms low code and no code are often used together, they are targeted at very different end users. Low code is still targeted at developers and can have complexity to using it. Low code is intended to make development faster but some software engineering skills are still needed. The tools provide for agility in the development and deployment lifecycle, and are designed to simplify life for software engineers.

No code end users are intended to be business users within your utility functions outside of IT, who know what problem they want to solve and what features their apps should have, but don’t have the necessary development skills to create a solution from scratch. A common misconception is that no code products are for building simple apps. With the tools available to software vendors today, highly capable and sophisticated products are being built with no code solutions – providing utility business users an array of easy to use features to build, easily, out their business processes.

Drag and drop fields allow users to quickly design interfaces that suit their requirements and render them automatically based on the device form factor – regardless of smart phone, tablet, mac or PC – to provide a consistent experience.

Knowledge

This aspect covers non IT professionals gaining access to tools and expert systems that empower them to use and apply specalised skills.

Historically there has been a “them and us” relationship between IT and the utility business users. Stemming from the highly specialist skills required to deliver IT capability into the business. We’ve seen the last decade or so provide us with much more consumer-friendly technology solutions in our personal lives – from smart phones to in home entertainment. Once the domain of the local geek, these can now be easily configured by a much broader demographic. The constant improvement to ‘just-in-time’ and ‘step-by-step’ user guides integrated into the devices themselves, and coupled with reference material for troubleshooting and a plethora of online support, mean that the knowledge to set up and modify these devices is now (quite literally) in the hands of the end user, even field technicians themselves.

That simplicity has progressively made its way into the business environment through different software solutions. This started with configurable products that were a hybrid of low code or a simple ‘logic-centric’ approach (still very much aimed at software engineers) but is rapidly progressing to the dawn of a new era  – one in which the utility solutions of choice utilize a ‘no-code-first’ approach to allow for internally driven optimization and scaling.

How can this help you?

Gartner has published their strategic technology trends based on their discussions with business and technology leaders across their wealth of networks. These technologies are already available and in use across many industries.

To be truly scalable, that modular platform should be a no code solution that – beyond bringing together these areas of your business – also empowers your teams to take action and deliver their own capability for the future.

Takeaway Tip

Look to implement solutions that offer no code development functionality to your utility. This will dramatically improve the flexibility of any initial implementation, ‘future-proof’ your utility against challenges presented by changing requirements and evolving processes, and reduce the overall cost of maintaining the solution moving forward.

When presented with a no code solution, delve into the limits of it’s scope and flexibility to uncover how broad this functionality is – and if there’s a ‘threshold’ after which a low code (or even full code) functionality is required to achieve what your utility needs.

The difference in cost between a robust and scalable no code solution, and that of a low, or even full code option is often far less significant than you might think – so always look for the solution that gives you the most control over the future of your utility.

Best Wishes of the season and the year ahead to all Energy Central staff, contributors and members!

References

What-no-code-software-really-looks-like

Gartner-identifies-the-top-10-strategic-technology-trends-for-2020

Alan King's picture

Thank Alan for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 23, 2019 11:36 pm GMT

The democratization of expertise is a really interesting concept at first glance. Are there specific examples where this type of approach has been found to work in the world of utilities so far, or is it new ground in the era of the digital utility?

Alan King's picture
Alan King on Dec 29, 2019 11:16 pm GMT

That's a good question Matt. I've certainly seen it work successfully, more so in recent years and specifically with the digital utility. A simple one, leveraging smart meter data to identify neutral issues with the supply point and dispatching a crew to attend. I worked with a fault crew recently and attended a site to see how data was making a difference. Pre smart meter was a very reactive process with potentially huge inconvenience to the customer, especially close to Christmas with frozen meat etc.

 

BI Tools are another area that I see more domain experts in the business units "slicing/dicing" data for their requirements without having to join the queue to have IT build the reports of years gone by.

 

Good question!

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