The energy & utilities sector is having to work hard on a number of different fronts to meet customer and legislative expectations, while still maintaining profitability.
Most recently, the cost of living crisis has led to steep rises in wholesale energy costs, which have been covered by a combination of higher retail prices and governmental support. Firms in the sector have had to strike a difficult balance between helping customers at a time of need and safeguarding public perception without sacrificing profitability.
In this context, boosting profitability through operational efficiencies that don’t affect customers directly represents an easy win in the current climate. Given the relatively long and complex value chain involved in the sector – generation, market operations, transmission, distribution and metering, marketing and retail – there are plenty of opportunities to find these efficiencies. This blog highlights the difference they can make, and technology-driven areas where the biggest savings can be made.
The advantages of streamlined operations
If a business improves the efficiency of their value chain, they will be able to deliver a better product and customer experience. And one of the areas with the most potential to generate efficiencies through streamlining is in IT.
That’s because IT moves on so quickly that there are always new ways coming on stream to make certain processes quicker, easier and more cost-effective. These benefits can be maximised when using automation to take care of otherwise labour-intensive tasks, and/or outsourcing services to an expert third-party provider.
For the energy & utilities sector specifically, streamlining IT can help in these three ways in particular:
- Increased efficiency and productivity: easier and quicker processes can free up vital time for employees to get more done in their days, and devote their efforts to tasks that can add more value to an organisation. For example, predictive analytics can be used to forecast future energy demand with accuracy, and automated anomaly detection can identify cases of energy fraud and power theft, without needing laborious human analysis of data.
- Better communication: if paper documents can be transferred quickly, and updated versions of digital files can be synchronised in real time, the speed and accuracy of document-based communications can be significantly improved. A good example of this is automated comms with customers that immediately connect them with information they need, such as billing, outages, contract renewals and so on.
The same principle can also be applied internally for the likes of payroll and Human Resources documentation. Paper HR forms can be digitised and employees can upload information securely, so that processes can be streamlined, data processing times can be reduced, and employee experiences can be improved.
- Minimised risk: any process involving human endeavour is always at the risk of simple errors creeping in. These errors can be eliminated through the use of automation, especially for repetitive tasks like data entry where employees can easily lose concentration.
This can be applied in areas such as annual leave booking and management, training and development communications. and in removing mistakes from billing and meter reading. In the case of the latter, an intelligence platform can proactively monitor devices and deliver up-to-date information and communications through an online portal. Collectively, these make business processes more transparent, consistent, secure and conducive to right-sizing resource allocation.
Key areas for potential efficiencies
There are a number of different technologies and solutions that can be deployed to unlock these benefits. Which ones are right for your organisation will depend on your specific needs and characteristics, but in more general terms, we recommend the following:
- Saas Print Management solutions: by better managing all the devices and resources required, printing operations can be run far more efficiently. Understanding print demand can help reduce the number of tickets generated for the help desk to resolve, and help you right-size your budget and resources to support print. Taken further, it can also help you find ways to cut back on print and reduce its environmental footprint
- Cloud Print Solutions: when print management is conducted on-premise, businesses can easily find themselves held back. This is due to a lack of flexibility, access to scalability budgets; and costly servers and data centres that need space, cooling and maintenance – for example, a typical print server costs around £3000 per year to run. Moving this towards the cloud can help drastically cut infrastructure costs, improve resilience and ease the process of scaling print resources up or down in the future.
- Business process automation: alongside many of the sector-specific use cases listed above, there are also many more general business processes that are ripe for streamlining through automation. This can be achieved through automated contract management such as account renewals; intelligent finance automation which can assist with data verification and improved reporting; hybrid mail for customer communications; and scanning of internal paper-based documents like employee onboarding and timesheet management.
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SCC’s suite of Document Services can give you all the technology you need to embrace automation and streamline your day-to-day IT.
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