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Intelligent automation: Powering a new future for energy and utilities

Nancy Manchanda

Change is the new normal in energy and utilities.  As environmental, health, and security concerns increase, and demand for cheap and reliable energy sources mounts, the industry is shifting towards decentralization and innovation. Intelligent automation will be critical if organizations are to capitalize on these shifts and meet the growing demand for clean, cheap, and reliable energy. However, our research shows that many are struggling to implement and reach scale.

Capgemini Research Institute’s new research report, Intelligent Automation in Energy and Utilities: The Next Digital Wave, uncovers two themes. First, that the sector appears to have underestimated intelligent automation’s true potential. Second, that progress towards scaled solutions is slow for many. However, it also shows that there is an elite group of organizations – the “Automation Frontrunners” – that have discovered the recipe of intelligent automation at scale.

By analyzing the best practices of these elite frontrunners, we would recommend five actions for others:

  1. Take a pragmatic approach when evaluating and choosing use cases for intelligent automation: The research shows that intelligent automation’s true worth has been underestimated by many. Around half (47%) say that cost savings were underestimated, and many said the same of customer satisfaction (48%) and revenue gains (45%). This suggests a highly conservative approach to sizing potential benefits and that organizations are struggling to identify the use cases that offer the greatest prize. To identify high-potential use cases, team-members from business functions need to collaborate with the organization’s automation technology experts. Together, they can bottom out the fundamentals such as data accessibility and KPIs. But they can also build a more accurate picture of what impact the solution will have and ensure you focus on the biggest prizes.
  2. Optimize and re-engineer processes before scaling intelligent automation: Implementing automation is not going to miraculously transform business operations. Existing business processes need to be carefully evaluated first. We use a five-step approach, which we have called “ESOAR,” which stands for “Eliminate, Standardize, Optimize, Automate, Robotize.” In the first step, for example, you eliminate unnecessary process steps, activities, approvals, reports, etc., that are either simply not required (in the automated world) or the results of which can be better achieved in other ways.
  3. Emphasize breakthrough technology and commit enough resources: Automation frontrunners focus around one-fifth (19%) of their current IT budget just on intelligent automation. This is expected to increase to around a third (31%) in the next three years, with a strong focus on AI-based solutions. Growth in renewable generation sources, as well as electric vehicles, will lead to highly volatile demand and supply. In these scenarios, AI-based capabilities for weather forecasting, data-driven demand and efficient energy storage will be essential.
  4. Centralize execution, governance, and leadership: The research shows that over half of our frontrunners (51%) take a centralized approach to execution and governance. This top-down approach provides focus and helps to deliver multiple projects, at scale, while achieving significant upside.
  5. Overcome resistance by upskilling your workforce: With employees often concerned about automation, frontrunners build upskilling programs for their teams which arms them with the skills they need and supports adoption. This requires a dedicated change management program.

Intelligent automation will be key to the sector’s future: helping meet climate change goals and the growing demand for clean, cheap, reliable energy. A group of leading organizations are shining a light on what it takes to drive scaled adoption. By learning from them, we can create the smart, augmented utility of the future.

Want to learn more? The new Capgemini Research Institute report, “Intelligent Automation in Energy and Utilities: The Next Digital Wave,” is available here.