Intelligent automation – an exhilarating opportunity for the energy and utilities sector

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Energy and utilities enterprises can lead the way in intelligent automation – and their businesses, and the world they serve, will be all the better for it.

There are sound commercial reasons for every business in every industry to operate as efficiently as possible. But in energy and utilities, there are other reasons, too. Enterprises in this sector, in particular, need to pay high regard to public opinion. Inefficiency here is seen as especially unwelcome. These organizations carry a burden of duty to the environment. They cannot be seen to fail in that responsibility.

That’s why intelligent automation is so crucial here. Properly developed and implemented, it can help energy and utilities businesses fulfil their commercial and also their social and environmental imperatives.

A recent paper from Capgemini Research Institute assessed the industry’s current levels of readiness. The “Intelligent Automation in Energy and Utilities: The next digital wave” report assesses almost 530 business leaders in sector organizations who are experimenting with or implementing intelligent automation solutions. It also analyzes more than 80 use cases, assessing their maturity, complexity, and the benefits on offer.

The importance of scale…

Nearly half of the respondents, the paper reports, have under-estimated the benefits they derived from their intelligent automation initiatives. Overall, the Capgemini Research Institute estimates, the sector can save between $237 billion and $813 billion at scale.

It’s that word “scale” that’s key. The paper reveals that only 15% of respondents have been able to deploy multiple intelligent automation use cases at scale. This is consistent with Capgemini’s findings in industry at large. In research we conducted for our Intelligent Process Automation offer, we found almost exactly the same number – 16%  – were taking implementations beyond pilot and test projects, and were adopting them on a larger scale across business units, functions, or geographies. Our Intelligent Process Automation offering is the first on the market to address the augmented workforce at scale, focusing on overcoming key barriers and limitations preventing organizations from falling into what we call the “intelligent automation death valley.”

… and of quick wins…

With intelligent automation, the 80:20 rule often applies. For example, developing use cases in forecasting, energy trading, yield optimization, grid behavior interfaces, and complaints management can often be low on delivery complexity, but high in terms of the benefits that accrue. It is therefore surprising to note that in core functions such as these, only 18% of organizations have been deploying quick-win use cases.

Support functions tend to utilize more robotic process automation (RPA) use cases, with quick wins emerging in areas such as order management, contract management, employee data management, and defect detection. Only 11% of organizations are focusing on quick wins in such functions.

… and how to get there

Learning from the best practices followed by high-performing “Automation Frontrunners,” the paper makes five recommendations for assessing the viability of quick wins in intelligent automation and for achieving success at scale:

  • Take a pragmatic approach when evaluating and choosing use cases. Finding and developing viable intelligent automation use cases gives energy and utilities leadership a clear understanding of how they fit in with business strategy, competencies and capabilities
  • Optimize the right processes before trying for scale. Organizations need to have a strong grasp of the impact of re-engineering on processes and on the workforce before proceeding to try and scale. Force-fitting solutions to existing structures will lead to undesirable consequences and/or inadequate gains
  • Put emphasis on breakthrough technology and ensure sufficient resources in place. Combining advanced analytics and deep learning in core functions, organizations can achieve outsized benefits
  • Centralize execution, governance and leadership. Using a dedicated team, along with staff rotated from application areas, can allow energy and utilities enterprises to create and sustain “lighthouse projects”
  • Upskill the existing workforce ensuring an adequate injection of change management. A comprehensive upskilling program will not only give organizations the viable talent pool they need for execution; it will also help with one of the most challenging areas for any digital transformation – and that’s culture. The change management practices will help individuals, teams and overall organizations to scale up and benefit from intelligent automation.

Energy and utilities enterprises are expected to be torchbearers in social and environmental responsibility – and with insight and determination, they can lead the way in intelligent automation, too. Their businesses will be all the better for it, and so will the world they serve. It could be the most exhilarating opportunity they’ve had in many years.

Read the Capgemini Research Institute’s full report entitled “Intelligent Automation in Energy and Utilities: The next digital wave” – based on a survey of 530 business leaders in sector organizations who are experimenting with or implementing intelligent automation solutions.

To learn more about how Capgemini’s Intelligent Process Automation  offering can stimulate the erosion of organizational silos around your front, middle and back-office processes, resulting in the emergence of a new, borderless, highly automated client-centric organization, contact: adam.bujak@capgemini.com

Dr. Adam Bujak is an expert in intelligent automation, business process transformation and strategic management. He heads Capgemini’s Business Services’ Intelligent Automation Practice, helping multinational clients to embrace the future of an augmented workforce in the front, middle, and back office.

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