Utilities are under high pressure to take action, as a new report by Accenture explains: While there is less and less “for the taking” in the old utilities’ business areas, a huge market for sustainable energy solutions is emerging and there is shortage of corresponding product solutions. The report of Accenture sums it up: “The energy ecosystem is at a turning point in the transition to a decarbonized future.” What does this specifically mean for Scandinavian utilities?
Eight billion euros by 2030 – that’s how high Accenture estimates the profit opportunities could be for European utilities arising from sustainable energy products and services including energy management, storage, e-mobility and similar. This corresponds to an increase of 25 percent in this segment compared to today, while the traditional commodity business is expected to show only one percent growth by 2030. As Accenture points out in its report “Delivering new energy experiences for future growth” in this context, the starting point is clear: “Utilities must move from experimenting with pilot programs to actually rolling out sustainable energy offerings – and do so quickly and on a large scale.”
Intelligent IT platforms are essential
The question is: How to create these new products as simply as possible and at the same time tailor them (meaning comprehensive customization) to the wishes of the customers? “We are convinced that intelligent platforms are crucial for this purpose,” says Almir Andrade, Senior Manager at Accenture Utilities in Norway, adding: “You have to differentiate three areas of the IT architecture: the front end as the interface to the end customer, the back end with all the functions related to customer management, market news, billing and payments, and the third area with all subsequent interactions connected to smart devices in real time.” In detail, these three building blocks must then meet a whole series of conditions in order to function in the new energy market:
- The front end is all about customer engagement. It encompasses all channels, from the telephone to smartphone apps and web portals to chatbots, while ensuring a holistic customer journey through the interaction of these channels. Advanced customer analysis programs are running in the background. They are crucial for operating new business models and also influence customer journey management. This analysis then helps, for example, in identifying cross-sell and upsell opportunities and facilitating the entire sales process.
- The backend – and this is exactly what powercloud provides – takes care of the digital heavy lifting at every utility, including billing, CRM, market communication, product management and configuration, enterprise resource planning and many more. Overall, this area must become much more flexible in the future compared to the outdated legacy IT systems of many utilities. There are several reasons for this: on the one hand, consumers are becoming “prosumers”, as Accenture explains in its report. They are thus both “consumers” and “producers” as they play a decisive role in the creation of new products. The backend must enable this development while radically simplifying precisely-tailored product development.
- On the other hand, operational technology platforms are driving further development with the help of a variety of smart devices. However, this is not only a matter of managing large numbers of smart devices in practical use at companies and private households, but also coordinating their operation with the help of advanced algorithms. The end result, for example, could be a reduction in operating expenses and improved value creation.
The associated modern IT architecture is cloud-based, modular, and interconnected with microservices. In our experience, leading utilities are increasingly reliant on a meta-architecture consisting of two or three different architectures coupled together. We aim to help companies develop modern architecture, and powercloud is one of the leading building blocks for billing.
Jens Skov Holm, Managing Director at Accenture Consulting in Denmark
powercloud is the leading platform for mid and back-office processes in the energy industry
The advantages of the leading cloud SaaS solution for utilities’ “engine room” becomes apparent as early as the implementation phase, which is very quick thanks to standardized best-practice modules and a modern integration layer that are tailored to the needs of the company using ready-made adapters and apps. The individual elements of this modular system are thoroughly tried and tested. Among other things, utilities then benefit from automated processes for billing, cancellation, start of delivery, etc., as well as free format adjustments based on new regulatory requirements. In addition to this, full automation allows those responsible to design a billable product and publish it ad hoc on the market in just a few clicks. Without the need to involve developers, it is possible to define a non-commodity bundle that goes far beyond the classic electricity-gas bundle for example. These benefits are absolutely key for utilities, and we are now working on also bringing them to the Scandinavian market, for example”, emphasizes Kris Timmermans from Accenture Industry Consulting in Denmark. “The time is more than ripe, with customer switching rates rising sharply in Sweden and Norway, as is the case throughout Europe.”
EWII, the first customer of powercloud in the Nordics
A first customer has already emerged from this successful collaboration: EWII, the digital multipurpose utility company from Denmark. Lukas Winter, Sales Manager Nordics at powercloud, has a very clear vision of the utilities of tomorrow: “Everything will focus on the customer in the very near future. You have to understand this phrase radically in order to prevail in the 21st century. The customer experience will be more important than the product going forward. Utilities thus need an all-round view of their customers and the products that suit them. Every interaction in the energy-industry economic area must be designed with this purpose in mind. And that’s precisely what we ensure with powercloud specifically for the Scandinavian utilities”, he summarizes.