This is our fourth and final blog post in the IFS series, where we explore the Market Guide for Mobile Workforce Management (MWM) Software for Utilities (published by Gartner in May 2022). We end with a deep dive into the composable utility.
Gartner notes this as a key finding in the guide, illustrating how composability and the reuse of existing capabilities support business alignment across personnel management, service parts and tools deployment, field service activity, and customer service.
The insights provided are incredibly constructive at a time when utilities must respond with greater agility to fundamental changes in the market. These include adjusting to a sustainable energy model, omnichannel customer support, shifting operational components to the cloud, and other initiatives.
The past: A daisy chain effect
The concept of composable technology infrastructure is not new to utilities. Previously, this meant implementing different solutions from different vendors, each with a specific capability, that the utility would daisy chain together for a “best fit.”
Since most of these solutions came with supporting backend applications, many utilities ended up with multiple mobility, dispatch, and scheduling apps. This led to data siloing and other disconnected outcomes that disrupted the operation.
Moreover, to create an end-to-end business model, system integrators were utilized. Or utilities had internal IT teams cobble together an acceptable solution. When these stitched-together solutions fell short, paper-driven processes were often introduced to fill in the gaps.
End users had to interact with multiple applications to complete a single workflow. Hence, resulting in data integrity issues and resource inefficiencies. Maintenance only added to the high cost. Every time a core enterprise system was upgraded, its plug-in had to be rebuilt to ensure functionality.
Evidently, IT spent a lot of time on repetitious tasks to make things work, and employees spent a lot of time doing the work.
The compromise: One vendor
It didn’t take long for utilities to pivot from the multiple vendor model to a single vendor. Rather than deal with the pain of so many moving pieces, the business wanted all the pieces to live under one roof.
Unfortunately, large, established vendors provided generic applications that didn’t go deep enough to satisfy the unique needs of the utility.
Failing to find the golden vendor capable of doing everything, utilities settled for a single vendor that could provide most of what they needed. Once again, workarounds and manual processes were used to fill the gaps.
Instead of evolving the operation, technology was holding it back.
The fix: Enterprise-grade composable platforms
Today successful utilities rely upon a composable technology stack for a more agile business model.
For example, a utility can begin its digital transformation at any point within its infrastructure. Instead of focusing on more significant, enterprise-wide change, the project can start by solving a specific business case. Perhaps a single application is replaced by a more effective point solution.
From here, the process is repeated, replacing different pieces over time and thoughtfully exchanging old for new. Each phase solves a specific (and usually urgent) problem.
Hence, with a composable technology model, utilities select solutions that support a business process (versus a function). In this context, the business needs of the utility drive timing and implementation, which is a sensible approach that delivers incremental ROI.
The benefits of a composable utility
A cloud strategy for utilities is complex, especially when you consider that utilities often have systems that must be on-premises and behind a firewall, such as an outage management system (OMS).
In a major blackout or other event, the utility needs the OMS to access backup power supplies and other capabilities. If the internet is not accessible (a common occurrence during an emergency), the utility would not function.
But juggling a hybrid model is expensive. Already strapped for resources and budget, the utility must continue to support on-premises infrastructure such as servers, hardware, staffing for database administrators, specialists, and other IT overhead.
Composability supports the flexibility of choice these hybrid environments require, allowing utilities to shift to the cloud strategically, introducing efficiencies over time. As the cloud journey progresses, utilities will benefit from greater scalability, bandwidth, and security.
Utilities are fed up with complexity. Today the emphasis is on standardization, from APIs, and web services, down to peripherals and hardware used in day-to-day operations.
Protocols and other methodologies are shifting to open, common, and interoperable frameworks, allowing systems to talk and work together seamlessly.
A composable technology model makes it easy to replace legacy and customized components with solutions that support a common framework.
Composable business strategies and processes
The shift to composability is also influencing the business processes that support the work, providing greater flexibility and scale versus a traditional model.
For example, a large IFS customer in Asia found themselves faced with issuing nine different RFPs to meet their mobility requirements. Recognizing the sprawling scope and complexity of the initiative, the client decided to bundle all of their requirements into one RFP, seeking a single enterprise-grade partner able to meet all of their mobile workforce management needs. This strategy provides the client with greater agility, efficiency, and less complexity for the overall initiative.
The utility recognized IFS as the vendor capable of going the distance with them. The project plan reflects the client’s composable business strategy, with the project broken down into the original nine planned phases. Thus, the broad capabilities of IFS will be leveraged to manage each phase, with ROI achieved incrementally throughout the duration of the work.
Succeeding with a composable technology strategy
In the Gartner Market Guide, CIOs are advised to rationalize their current portfolio of mobile field service products by assessing the contribution of each product within the context of a broader technology strategy. These leaders are encouraged to compare business requirements with current capabilities and use cases, mapping these to anticipated future scenarios.
Gartner provides additional insights for CIOs on MWM market directions and vendor offerings. Read the full report.
You can read the other posts in this series on our website:
- The Evolving Utility: Keeping pace with market and technology trends
- The Intelligent Utility: Empowering field workers, optimizing productivity
- The Resilient Utility: Managing operational risks and workforce limitations
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