Fast, accurate data is the lifeblood of utilities. It ensures their ability to run efficiently, control costs, maintain compliance, and provide a high level of customer service. But while trends toward digital transformation have grown in the industry, a critical component has continued to lag behind, hindering utilities’ efforts to fully digitize. One missing piece has left a gap in the push towards full automation.
That missing piece? Service providers. Despite the risks, most service providers continue to rely on manual processes to conduct business.
63 percent of utilities said that their service providers are still using manual processes to share data with them.
These manual processes include paper forms, Word and Excel documents, and email to collect data, share information, and provide reporting. Even workflows for approvals and sign-offs for work completion are still managed manually with paper-based signatures, which leaves important work open to costly and frustrating delays.
These manual processes threaten the timeliness and accuracy of the information provided to utilities, impacting their outage response, customer service, and safety and compliance.
When utility executives were surveyed about the issues created by service providers’ manual processes, one of the top challenges cited was a lack of timely data caused by the lag between receiving the data from the service provider and inputting it into their systems. In fact, 68 percent said when they receive data and reports manually from their service providers, they spend one or more hours each day inputting the data and reports into their systems, and nearly a third (29 percent) said they spend over 3 hours each day on data input.
Compounding the problem, when data and workflows are captured manually, accuracy is compromised. Over a third of utilities (35 percent) said that the asset information coming from their service providers is only sometimes accurate, and one of the greatest challenges cited as a result of manual data sharing was the risk of error.
Then, there's the not-so-small matter of safety and compliance. Utilities reported that quickly and accurately reporting on compliance is another top challenge created by manual processes.
44 percent of utilities said it takes their service providers days or even weeks to respond with needed information on safety and compliance.
Given the impacts of manual processes to utilities, it’s not surprising that they plan to turn up the pressure for digitization going forward. In fact, 61 percent of utilities said that it’s very important that their service providers automate data collection, processes and reporting, and that it will be required to do business with them. Additionally, 54 percent of utilities said they plan to reduce their costs by requiring service providers to digitize data collection, workflows, and reporting.
The need for digitization is no longer something that can be ignored by utility service providers. Service providers must prioritize digitization to create a competitive advantage for themselves by improving worker safety, optimizing workflows, and increasing transparency and accuracy across their end-to-end processes.
This may seem like a daunting task, but a new generation of cloud-based software has emerged to make it faster, easier, and more cost-effective than ever to digitize data collection and workflows. Low-code application platforms enable service providers and utilities alike to build custom applications that digitize their operations from the office to the plant to the field and back—all tying all that data into those critical systems of record.
Read the full report that surveyed 200 utility companies.