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Helping utilities dive into the world of application services

Kristen Banks, managing director – Utilities, Accenture, shares how diving into the world of application services, like scuba diving, requires trust.


There are several advantages for utilities contemplating application services for their business.

In addition to the traditional ERP-related applications, utilities are starting to shift core utility business systems, like outage management and GIS into an application services model. Kristen Banks believes this trend will continue, as utilities start to realize the service improvements that can be achieved with the cost and efficiency benefits, along with the added advantage of refocusing their employees to more value-added activities.


What are the market forces leading Utilities to consider application services?

As the market is changing and becoming more deregulated, utilities are looking to find ways to be more cost competitive in general, and more strategic with their IT investments and decisions.

Application services can help enable that cost efficiency for utilities, while also allowing them to focus their people toward more strategic endeavors.

What are some of the benefits?

The most common benefit is from outsourcing—the consistent, repeatable and quality delivery of services, at competitive costs. Across industries, we see that clients can often realize cost savings in the range of 20 to 50 percent. That means a lot to utilities’ bottom line.

Talent is also a key benefit. Offshore delivery centers have gained an enormous amount of skills over the past 10 years, giving clients access to highly skilled talent for a fraction of the cost.

I recently spent more than two years working in Accenture’s Philippines Delivery Center, and the talent growth I saw just during that short time was incredible. That range of technology knowledge, industry experience and business smarts can provide utilities with a cost-effective way to respond to changing technologies or market demands.

How does innovation fit into the application services model?

As application services mature with the right mindset, innovative ideas surface. Using consistent methods and tools speeds time to delivery, with high-quality results.

Because these teams are always striving for improvement, delivery centers can bring innovation and ideas that a traditional IT shop may not consider. In our own delivery centers, we’ve seen companies across industries increase productivity by up to 30 percent.

Are you seeing any changes in the kinds of application services utilities are investigating?

It’s not just ERP-related applications anymore. We’re starting to see utilities shift core business systems like outage management and GIS into an application services model.

I think we’ll see this trend continue as utilities realize the service improvements that can be achieved with the cost and efficiency benefits, and the added advantage of being able to refocus employees to more value-added work.

What was the most interesting part of living in the Philippines?

I loved the whole experience. Being immersed in a completely different culture was fascinating.

I also enjoyed seeing my three sons adapt and experience life in the Philippines. They had the opportunity to meet children from all over the world, and that’s given them a wider perspective of the world than they might have otherwise had. My youngest son’s first memories are of our house in Manila.

Were there any special initiatives you worked on while in the Philippines?

Right before I moved to the Philippines, I participated in a women’s leadership program. As I was going through the program I realized the skills I was learning in the classes could benefit the women executives I was working with in the Philippines.

I launched an all-women leadership program to help these women executives build skills that would enable them to be more successful in the broader global market and further their careers. Over the past two years more than 50 women have graduated from that program.

I understand you love to go scuba diving. What is your dream dive?

That’s a tough question—I have several on my wish list. My first open water dive was on the Great Barrier Reef, and I would love the opportunity to go back and dive the Nigaloo reef, on the northwest coast of Australia.

Now that I’m based in Houston and have the whole of the Caribbean practically at my doorstep, I would like to dive Bonaire, which is known as a divers paradise.

Out of the “dream” dives I’ve already done, I’d say exploring 11 World War II Japanese warships in Coron, Philippines, ranks at the top.

What advice do you have for utilities diving into application services?

Similar to scuba diving, it’s about trust. To be successful, you need to find a provider that can build a strong trusted relationship, who is transparent and has your best interests in mind.