Welcome Deepak Parameswaran, New Expert in the Digital Utility Community- [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Expert Interview]
- Jan 9, 2023 2:13 pm GMT
The power sector is at a crossroads, as the digital technologies advance far beyond what we previously thought possible and at the same time the ‘role’ played by the customers is evolving. Thanks to modern tools, utilities and customers are interacting more than just once per month, and in fact many proactive consumers are looking to engage with their utility as much as possible to save money, to help the grid become cleaner and more reliable, and sometimes even to add their own generation to the mix.
Given these changes, the power companies of today have completely different tools and priorities compared with even just a decade or two ago, a revolution that requires agile thinking and a modern approach from utility leadership. But given the utilities had previously been some of the more inertia-filled businesses, this situation has presented business leaders with the opportunity to break new ground. Those changes are not just from the utility CEOs, but also integral experts in the advisory, consulting, and solutions space. That’s where the latest addition to Energy Central’s Network of Experts comes into the story. Deepak Parameswaran is the Head of Energy, Utilities & EC&O at Wipro, a leading position where he guides not only Wipro but critical utility executives in navigating this new landscape. Deepak is a Business & Technology leader with over two decades of experience across Business Development, Solutions, Delivery and P&L management. He brings with him strong credentials in helping clients navigate the digital shift across Cloud, Application Value Management, Product/Business aligned operating models, and Industry 4.0. He has experience spanning multiple industries including Energy & Utilities, Manufacturing, Retail, CPG, Travel/Hospitality, Logistics, Healthcare, and Insurance.
As we welcome Deepak as an esteemed expert in the Digital Utility Group on Energy Central, we’re grateful for his willingness to sit and participate in our Energy Central Power Perspectives ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’
Matt Chester: Deepak, it’s great to have you as an expert in the Energy Central Community. This interview is the first ‘introduction’ of you and your experiences to the Community, so please give us the quick rundown. What is your role at Wipro and how did you first get involved in the energy sector?
Deepak Parameswaran: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to contribute to the Energy Central community. I lead the Energy, Utilities, and EC&O sector at Wipro. I first got involved with the Utilities segment in North America and was involved in consulting and helping several U.S. utilities transform their technology and operations areas. Utilities tend to be slower in terms of adopting digital transformation compared to other industries due to the regulatory constraints they face. A lot of the early work I was involved with included organizational transformation of their IT and allied groups because of continued pressures on capital and O&M spending.
Prior to joining Wipro, I was involved in establishing an IoT startup for a large global EPC firm where we commercialized the IP and assets that were developed for the firm’s own businesses, which included solutions for their hydrocarbon, transmission and distribution, utility, and construction businesses. During this stint, I was actively involved with a number of global energy and utilities companies, driving IT/OT transformation.
MC: Digitalization in the utility space sometimes risks becoming a buzz word. Let’s cut through that and put it in real terms: what do you see as the real definition of the ‘digital utility’ and why is it so important in today’s energy landscape?
DP: In our definition, it’s not about doing digital but being digital. A truly digital utility leverages digital technologies while operating, creating products and services, generating revenue, delivering customer value, and at the same time is investing in new business models to become utility of the future. This helps them become efficient, nimble, and dynamic, while also gaining a competitive advantage in deregulated markets/scenarios.
The amount of disruption we are seeing in today’s energy landscape is unprecedented. We are witnessing an energy trilemma, which is the interplay between sustainability, the security of supply, and affordability of energy. To drive forward on all these fronts can be challenging. Sometimes even when you excel in two, the third can emerge as a significant challenge. And you have to keep in mind that the industry continues to face competition and the threat of new entrants from outside.
Utilities have no choice but to leverage digital transformation as a key strategy to combat these challenges — from core operations to capital investments, building new capabilities to handle and integrate distributed energy resources, or driving net-zero initiatives to support broader energy transitions and commitments.
MC: What do you think are going to be the biggest hurdles for utilities in the coming 5-10 years, and what is the role that you hope to play in overcoming those challenges?
DP: What first comes to mind is competing customer service imperatives. Utilities will continue to operate with competing forces as they seek to raise their customer service game and improve customer satisfaction. The pressure to lower costs to the customer, reduce cost of debt, work within price caps, capital refactoring, and continued strain on O&M spending are all competing for the utility’s attention.
We partner with utilities to dramatically improve their performance across key parameters in customer service and cost effectiveness using data, analytics, customer experience and service redesign, and upgraded digital and call-center capabilities. For example, we are helping customers deploy advanced analytics to anticipate customer needs, reduce customer call volumes, improve efficacy of outbound calling, reduce bad debt, and improve customer experience, while also redesigning digital CX and call center performance. As a strategy, we are focusing on cloud-native customer platforms for utilities so that we are ready with the solutions for next-generation customer service and meter-to-cash value chain.
Another key reality to note is that distributed energy is here to stay. The rapid penetration of renewables, storage, and distributed energy resources (DER) is challenging the traditional operating rhythm of transmission and distribution companies and system operators. These companies now need more versatile and sophisticated capabilities for supply and demand forecasting, grid inertia assessments, network modelling and optimization, fluid market messaging and collaboration, automated demand response, situational awareness, and advanced training tools.
Wipro will leverage and deploy its data management and data science capabilities, and work with partners to develop these types of advanced operational capabilities for electric operators. We’ve also invested in our own platform named Cognitive Energy Intelligence. It is an energy platform that integrates behind-the-meter assets, aggregates nuclear entities, and provides opportunities to offer new services in a federated marketplace.
Lastly, we see a need to focus on operationalizing digital capabilities. Utilities have, in recent years, developed islands of digital and data capabilities within their organizations. Piecemeal and disjointed digital solutions have not driven adoption nor adequately delivered business outcomes. We will actively deploy approaches to drive platform-based and orchestrated enterprise digital architectures and capabilities that ensure availability and access to reliable data, prioritized development of outcome-aligned use cases, integration of digital solutions with business processes using automation, and zero-touch change management.
Our belief system to enable this change has 5 core tenets:
- Customer-centric over system-centric: Transformation influenced and enabled by customer-centric, outside-in approaches
- Agility over agile: Blur and work across organizational boundaries
- Velocity over certainty: Time arbitrage over cost arbitrage
- X-shaped talent over I-shaped talent: Talent at the intersection of design, strategy, and technology
- Ecosystem capability over intrinsic capability only: Rely on partners and crowd for talent and execution speed
MC: What is the first piece of advice you’d give to a utility CEO you meet for the first time that is looking to modernize their operations?
DP: The first piece of advice would be to develop a big-picture view, and to work backwards, focusing on an incremental approach to success. This approach should have digital transformation and innovation as key tenets, and promote agility and nimbleness with the dynamic environment which is going to be the norm. Many utilities still run a piecemeal or best-of-breed approach, which does not allow them to take the full advantage of the technology options they have now, which includes cloud, IoT, data and analytics, and niche SaaS platforms which can be scaled very rapidly. All of these require a culture shift and mindset change, which should be in the topmost agenda while these initiatives are developed.
MC: Why did you feel compelled to get more involved in the Energy Central Community? And what value do you hope to bring to your peers on the platform?
DP: We are on the cusp of significant changes in the very nature of the energy and utility businesses. It’s important for this community to come together to share and spearhead these changes for the betterment of society as a whole. I believe we will become the vanguard of changes over the next few decades that will touch every fabric of society and it’s important for the energy community to come together to lead these changes in the right direction. I strongly believe that the Energy Central community is a fantastic forum to share and drive these changes.
Thanks to Deepak Parameswaran for joining me for this interview and for providing a wealth of insights and expertise to the Energy Central Community. You can trust that Deepak will be available for you to reach out and connect, ask questions, and more as an Energy Central member, so be sure to make him feel welcome when you see her across the platform.
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