The utility industry has achieved a “moderate” level of digitization, but unfortunately that is still behind many other industries. This means there’s an opportunity for increasing efficiencies and reducing damages. Tellingly, physical assets are where utilities have the most room for digital growth. 60% of digital investments typically go toward products and services, while the amount directed for supply chain modernization, is only 43%. This pattern is also seen in utilities where infrastructure (pipelines, underground utilities etc) are the least digitized elements.

The main roadblock to digital transformation is dispersed infrastructure, much of which is underground.  Fortunately I’ve come up with a plan to help you implement digital solutions to your real world problems:



Step 1: Define your goals

Don’t try to address everything at once. Digital transformation is a long process and diving in too fast can lead to burnout and mistakes. Setting priorities - both short and long term - is extremely important. You can do this by choosing an aspect of your workflow - assets, customer experience, special projects, etc - and focus initial efforts there. For example if you wanted to improve utility locating, look at the various software solutions in the marketplace, schedule demos, look at pricing and compatibility with your systems in place and go from there. Breaking down what you need now and in the future will help you make the decision.

Step 2: Duplicate success

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Find out what other companies are doing, what solutions are already in place in your industry and adopt those technologies. We see it time and time again in the utility locate industry when LSPs try to make their own locate ticket software and then find out that they’re not best suited to developing and maintaining a complicated software solution. At Competers we have a development team of 10 people who keep Utilocate and UExcavate up to date working - are you going to commit to hiring developers full time? 

Look at the leaders in your industry and learn from their mistakes and successes. Many times you can get ROIs from technology providers too which will give you a better idea of the money & time you’ll save

Step 3: Build Support

Meaningful change must have strong support from leadership and the message must carry to the field! Depending on your current company set up you may want to hire a technology focused executive. This creates a focal point for any large-scale decisions and signals that digital transformation is a priority.

Communicating this message to the field and office workers is important though as they can make or break any technology adoption. Be transparent and include them in decisions. When we are demonstrating Utilocate or UExcavate we like to make sure that we build a consensus with the locators and dispatchers who will use our software. It’s not enough to just sell to the executives and expect the locators to catch on - it also helps us improve our products!

Step 4: Integrate

Integrating new technology into your company can be tricky. Fortunately there are a few solutions to help ease the pain. With Utilocate we offer several methods of integrating with legacy systems to ensure the data you need is still making it into your system, whether that’s Excel,, Netsuite or whatever you’ve got. It’s also smart to build with this in mind, so ask yourself, “does this [new technology] work with this other [new technology] I’m looking at? The apple ecosystem is so successful because everything integrates together seamlessly. Let’s strive for that ease of use.

Training is also another aspect of integration. My role here at Competers includes a lot of training clients and new hires to use our technology. If your staff don’t know how to use the technology you're implementing they either won’t use it or won’t use it correctly! Integration is really the key to successfully adopting new technologies.

Step 5: Keep moving

As I said in step 1, digital transformation can be a long process. You need to celebrate the wins as they come in. Now is the time to identify opportunities most likely to produce a quick win and start there. Embrace innovation in the form of “build-assess-learn” cycles. Identify something you can change or influence and build out a minimal viable product prototype, and then evaluate for efficacy. When you're on the road towards digital transformation, good is good enough. 

Let me know if you need any help digitizing your locates process or adopting new technologies. I'm always here to help


Thanks for reading, Kyle 

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