European Energy CIOs Reap Benefit of Digital Transformation – and That’s Just the Start

According to new research from IDG and OpenText, over 90% of Energy companies in the UK and Nordic region have Digital Transformation programs in place. These companies are beginning to realize significant benefits from their digitization effort. But, Energy CIOs say, there’s much more to come.

Pricing instability places focus on operational efficiency

Our research showed that pricing affects energy businesses in two ways. First, the volatility in oil prices makes it difficult to properly manage supply and demand. As one UK Energy CIO put it: “Much of the sector’s focus has been on the oil price dynamics of supply and demand, and the implications for capital efficiency.”

A Finnish CIO explained the flip side of pricing: “To thrive in the market amid increasing competition, we are forced to decrease our prices regularly … To add to our worries about pricing, as we are a customer-centric company we need to invest heavily on customer satisfaction measures. We also have to provide a fair price to customers along with transparent customer services.”

The results of pricing pressures were neatly summed up by another UK Energy CIO: “Profit maximization is the top business concern of energy producers as they work to change the cost and process efficiency of their operations.”

Digitization advanced in operations

The responses to our survey from Energy CIOs suggest that early Digital Transformation efforts have focused on operations and customer experience. Managing supply and demand is a huge issue for the Energy companies surveyed, with them placing load balancing as both one of the largest industry challenges and the second biggest opportunity for digitization.

It appears that many companies have made good progress in this direction. One Nordic CIO expressed a feeling common to many of the CIOs questioned: “With the help of digitization, we have connected our physical assets with the virtual environment, which helps to provide efficient output and can be monitored from different locations. Demand and supply can easily be handled, and all operations can be controlled from one location with the help of centralization of data.”

The results of these efforts can be impressive. One CIO reported: “Digitization has helped us to improve operations and increase flexibility available throughout the value chain. Digital Transformation has boosted profitability by 20 to 30 percent.”

Big Data ties operations to customer experience

Without a doubt, one of the main benefits of Digital Transformation lies in the ability to effectively exploit Big Data. It was seen as the largest opportunity for digitization and a staggered 98% of companies surveyed said they already drew on data analytics and predictive data to make decisions.

One Swedish CIO said: “We have noticed the positive outcomes of digitization through increases in productivity and can easily monitor the supply and demand processes of our organization. With the help of digitization, we can easily interact with our customers and understand their needs and receive feedback on a regular basis.”

An UK CIO put a figure on this ability: “We are using advanced analytics to enhance service quality, lower costs, and preserve and deepen customer relationships. By digitizing a single core process, we can cut process costs by 20 percent in the first year while also improving customer satisfaction.”

Analytics drives customer experience

It’s clear from our research that all CIOs understand the power of data analytics and most are already applying the insight to improve customer services. The drive is towards delivering a highly personalized, highly individual service to boost customer loyalty and retention.

“We have been adopting integrated customer services and this has helped us move from being ‘energy-centric’ to ‘customer-centric’. We have been using increasing volumes of customer data to better understand consumer behavior. A tremendous opportunity exists to develop innovative, digitally-enabled products and services, bundled to provide an integrated customer service,” said one UK CIO.

Another spoke for most others when they commented: “We have been offering consumers the ability to view, monitor and purchase electricity online, on mobile and via social media. From this we have been able to offer a differentiated, modern service by providing convenient, cost-effective and personalized access to Energy packages at a range of price points.”

In fact, personalized product and service development allied to personalized pricing was a common theme in this research. As a Swedish CIO stated: “In our organization we already provide various options for customers to choose from. These rates can be modified according to customers’ needs and usage. We continually work on launching new packages for customers’ requirements.”

Smart Grids will make customers into partners

Continually improving the experience delivered to customers will be a focus for investment for European CIOs, according to our research. A major part of this will be down to the effects of Smart Grid implementations.

An UK CIO commented: “The electrical grid will underpin the future Energy network. It will enable bi-directional flows of electricity, transmit information and price signals, and ensure the optimal balance of supply and demand. This will enhance grid reliability, reduce losses, and integrate distributed resources that can help decarbonize the system. The digital grid will generate a continuous flow of data on consumption behaviors, load variations, revisions to price signals and supply response data that will help raise the efficiency of the entire system.

Another CIO explained the benefits to customers and suppliers: “Power grid helps customers to make it possible to monitor and adjust their energy use through smart meters and home energy management systems that offer 24/7 usage readings. Power grid allows direct communication with end-user equipment to reduce consumption during these peak periods, lowering the need for costly standby power plants.”

In effect, Energy CIOs expected that Smart Grids will help form a partnership-like relationship with customers where customers take more control of the demand side – encouraged by personalized incentive pricing – enabling the Energy company to more efficiently and cost-effectively manage supply.

This may still be a few years away and the environment will be further complicated by the decentralization of power production and distributed energy resources but it seems like the direction of travel for the CIOs surveyed is already fixed.

Want to find out more about how Digital Transformation is affecting UK and Nordic Energy companies? Attend the OpenText Innovation Tour taking place in London (March 21) and Stockholm (March 29). Book your place today.

Martin Richards

Martin Richards is a Senior Director for Energy Industry Solutions at OpenText. For over twenty years, he has worked with ECM technology, delivering professional services and solutions for the energy and engineering industry.

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