Posted to Esri in the Digital Utility Group
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Bill Meehan's picture
Director, Utility Solutions, Esri

William (Bill) Meehan is the Director of Utility Solutions for Esri. He is responsible for business development and marketing Esri’s geospatial technology to global electric and gas utilities.A...

  • Member since 2002
  • 205 items added with 247,023 views
  • Oct 12, 2021

My 18-month-old granddaughter, Charlotte, has this habit. She’s able to hold her sippy cup herself and drink from it. But then she whips it on the floor. Luckily it is plastic, and by some miracle of modern science, it doesn’t break or even spill a drop. However, the dog had a few near misses. So, what’s a parent to do? Sure, pick it up, give it back to her? Only for her to repeat? How do you change her behavior?

Child psychologists suggest that yelling “no” to her is an exercise in futility. Instead, they argue you have to create a situation for learning. Show her positive results. Reward her for the one time she forgets to attempt to clobber the dog with her sippy cup.

Digital Transformation vs. Digital Transition

Digital transformation is about two things. The first is the introduction of new digital technology. Think the iPhone. The second is creating new behavior patterns – not ones that punish. Instead, ones that reward. Streaming video is a prime example. Remember having to return the old VHS tapes to the video store? And forgetting to rewind them? Streaming video rewards you by getting rid of those cabinets chock full of DVDs. Then not having to hunt for the copy of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, that someone put in the wrong box. Unfortunately, people confuse digital transformation with digital transition (I coined that term). Digital transition happens when you introduce new technology but keep the same behavior.

ArcGIS’s location technology is transformational. If you use it to create rewarding behavior. For example, many utilities converted their old paper operating maps to GIS. But instead of creating new rewarding behavior, they used the new digital maps the same way they used the paper maps. They plotted them out, stuck them on the wall, or laid them out on the floor and taped them together. They fretted over making the GIS maps look exactly like the old paper maps. Maybe even adding coffee stain symbols? Using GIS, the same old way did not create new rewarding behavior.

I remember pitching the new GIS to our mappers. They spent their entire careers using pencils and erasers to update the old maps. They were good at it. They knew exactly how it all worked for better or for worse. Parachuting in a new system without giving them insight into its reward would have resulted in snide remarks, complaints, and moaning. It would have been a recipe for failure. So instead, I pitched that their careers would be enhanced, their frustrations would be eased, and their work would be more interesting. It worked.

And I reminded management that the GIS could improve operations, produce better decisions about restoration, and pinpoint areas of potential network failures.

Create Rewarding Behavior

I remember during a brutal April Nor’easter walking into the Emergency Operations Center. There was paper everywhere. Printers were spitting out spreadsheets. GIS maps were hanging on the wall with marked-up notes and arrows all over them. There were TV’s blasting stories of flooding and people seeking shelter. And, of course, pundits clamoring for a faster outage response from me.

I didn’t have a business intelligence system then. It would have performed analytics on the data to pinpoint the exact actions that I needed to take. In those days, my managers and I had to assimilate all that data in our heads to make decisions. We are just not capable of processing that much information. That’s what traditional business intelligence systems do.

However, what they don’t do is fully leverage the insights gained from location. Organizing all this data by location adds yet another way to provide rewarding information. Location technology, aka ArcGIS, provides not only content, like where the wires are down or customer out of power, but context. I now will coin a new term: spatial business intelligence. It reveals patterns. Ah ha. So, that’s where to marshal crews. It shows relationships. Oh, look. Floodwaters are approaching the substations. Get out the sandbags!

Spatial business intelligence rewards us because it shows us what hitherto has been hidden. It organizes all that BI data by location, giving clear direction for where to go and what to do. It provides priorities and predictions. It lets us see what we couldn’t see before. It changes our thinking for the better.

Changing Behavior Requires a Reward.

Spatial business intelligence gives decision-makers the tools that make them successful – that’s the reward.

So, I’m not sure if the dog will survive being attacked by the sippy cup, but rewarding my granddaughter for doing the right thing will surely change her behavior over time.

A reward is always necessary to change behavior. GIS, if taken advantage of, will do just that.

For more information on how GIS provides greater insight for utilities register to our webinar.

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Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Oct 12, 2021

Bill, I love this story - and for our community, if you want to hear Bill and Pat Hohl talk about Digital Transformation vs. Digital Transition tune into their short 6-minute video episode on Digital Transformation - Utility Lessons Learned with Pat Hohl and Bill Meehan - Episode #1.

Bill Meehan's picture
Thank Bill for the Post!
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