No-Regret Strategies for Digitally Advancing Utilities

Posted to Esri in the Digital Utility Group
image credit: ID 167984798 © David Burke |
Pat  Hohl's picture
Director - Electric Industry Solutions Esri

Pat Hohl, PE, is Esri's director of electric industry solutions. He was a pioneer in the use of GIS for electric utilities. He has over 35 years of experience in utility engineering, technology...

  • Member since 2018
  • 136 items added with 193,005 views
  • Jan 27, 2021

Where should you, as a leader, focus in the face of uncertainty? It is difficult to prioritize competing issues. Utilities must respect risks before they escalate. However, you can't overinvest in worst-case scenarios or ignore other priorities. New capabilities and flexibility are central to long-term success.

No-regret strategies achieve value regardless of how things unfold. Why? Because they produce benefits whether things turn out good, bad, or somewhere in between.

Reinforce Data

In customer care, asset management, operations, safety, and engineering data underpin every utility workflow. Separate digital systems evolved to address specific problems and model certain items. Sometimes these are called digital twin representations of reality. Most of the time, these models are incomplete.

Find the weaknesses in your data. Correct errors and omissions by capturing them as part of a normal workflow. (Example in New Smyrna Beach, Florida) Give employees purpose-built apps to strengthen data as they use it rather than kicking the can down the road toward a costly big bang cleanup project.

Moreover, bits of data from separate parts of the company generally don't relate that well. For example, tree trimming information doesn't readily tie in to customer satisfaction surveys. A primary insight is the awareness that proximity helps interconnect the digital twins of the modern world. Relating disparate data through the lens of where it happens brings information together—reinforcing it in obvious ways and colorful displays.

Connect People

People matter, so make a commitment to focus on people. Just look at the number of retail packages delivered to doorsteps everywhere—most people today are living, going to school, and working differently than they did before. It's an ideal time to reinforce remote workflows. Eliminate movement of paper forms between employees and customers and replace them with more convenient apps to retrieve and update information.

Most people enjoy working with apps. Plus, remote workflows hold the promise of increased efficiency for routine work like inspections, new connections, or damage assessment. Bolstering remote and field activities is truly a no-regret approach. And these tasks are not difficult because app templates exist for most common workflows and run on any device, anywhere, anytime.

"You don't need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment."—Seth Godin

Expand Access to Information

Put information in front of people by using a visual dashboard. (Example in Lakeland, Florida) Create a forum for sharing it beyond its current silo. Consider adding free or affordable data from external or real-time sources to your collection. Going further, explore your data—find out what it's trying to tell you.

Invest in analytical tools to support your desired outcomes. Examining raw data opens the door to greater insights, more meaningful visualization, and better business intelligence.


In the future, we want to be able to look back and say, "That was a smart move." No-regret strategies position digital utility efforts to handle anything from day-to-day work to worst-case scenarios more effectively. When you don't know what to expect, solid data, easy access, and analytics add value regardless of the challenges you face. A pivotal discovery is the realization that location technology relates utility workflows, data, and people with the one thing they have in common—their location.

For more information about how digitally advanced utilities use ArcGIS as the cornerstone of their no-regret strategies visit our utility web site.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 27, 2021

Eliminate movement of paper forms between employees and customers and replace them with more convenient apps to retrieve and update information.

No doubt there will still be the old school employees who cling to the way they've always done things, so I imagine part of that journey is convincing them to just give it a try-- dip a toe in to see that it's not so bad! What about the stubborn holdouts who do so, though, and still try to dig there heels in and clutch their comfortable paper methods?

Pat  Hohl's picture
Pat Hohl on Jan 27, 2021

With the right app, the end-user should walk away thinking "I HAVE to have this!" 

Pat  Hohl's picture
Thank Pat for the Post!
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