Placing the power of tech in everyone’s hands

Technology democratization places powerful capabilities with people in operations, maintenance, the contact center, and back-office functions. It augments, not replaces, existing technology approaches to innovation. A new decentralized approach adds a grassroots layer to innovation, where staff are free to innovate on their own, in their own timeframes, without the need for specialized IT resources.

What technologies are being pushed out to employees? There are some defining features. Crucially, the technology must be easily deployed and require little or no specialized skills. It’s a key reason why robotic process automation (RPA) is finding more and more uses across businesses in all industries, automating repetitive tasks to free staff up for more value-creating work. RPA is not alone. Natural language processing, point-and-click analytics, BI tools, and low-code or no-code platforms are all being deployed to put the innovative power of technology into the hands of people.

87%

of utility executives believe technology democratization is becoming critical in their ability to ignite innovation across their organization.

These technologies could feasibly be given to all employees. Other technologies can help more specialized niches. Often, innovation is centralized in a standalone department where projects must go through an approval process. Technology democratization puts new technologies like machine vision, drones, and virtual or augmented reality in the hands of employees and gives them a blank canvas on which to run their own, small-scale innovation projects.

DroneDeploy is an example of this kind of technology. DroneDeploy is a cloud software company that helps various asset-based industries. Its 3D Walkthrough system combines drone images with ground images to create a 3D representation of a site, accurate to one inch. DroneDeploy helps customers create a digital twin for an entire site to understand each remote site and improve processes and safety.1

Grassroots innovation to deliver the energy transition

Technology democratization is as important for utilities as it is for any other industry, enabling many of the strategies that will deliver future success. It’s the fuel igniting enterprise-wide innovation and a vital capability for your workforce and partner ecosystem. It will empower this collective talent to innovate together on the new business models that will deliver the energy transition.

While IT democratization places powerful technology in the hands of everyone, it is far more than simply giving people access to new tools. Harnessing the innovative power of machines allows anyone in the organization to create new technology solutions. It gives people autonomy and puts them at the core of digital transformation.

I, Technologist creates a better future for all

The “I, Technologist” theme is incredibly empowering. When all employees are technologists, they take control of their own work. They can optimize their own processes, apply fixes to problems, smooth process bottlenecks, define their own KPIs and create dashboards to monitor them.

But it’s not just about empowering employees to improve their own processes. It also creates a platform for collaboration, within teams, between teams, and with stakeholders outside the organization. Technology democratization empowers employees to deliver a better future for all to customers, communities, and society. All utility employers are customer-service employees, because all employees deliver the customer outcome of safe, reliable, and clean energy. A technology-enabled workforce better delivers all of these objectives.

Attract the future workforce that will deliver the energy transition

Technology democratization will help utilities make the most out of the talent they have, and make the industry more attractive to new recruits. It will be essential for them to successfully negotiate the energy transition and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

There are few challenges more complex (or more important) than the future of energy generation, distributed resources, and electrified transport systems. However, without access to distributed, democratized data, the industry will find it harder to solve these challenges.

54%

of utility executives report accelerating solution implementation and interconnectivity as a benefit their organization derives from tools of technology democratization.

Future grid management relies on predictive, integrated, intelligent decision-making in transmission and distribution control rooms. The control center of the future is key to total grid transformation. Intelligent technology in the hands of grid operators supports and augments their problem-solving capabilities. Extended reality, RPA, AI and machine learning means crews are safer. Collaboration is easier. More complex problems can be resolved faster. And outage handling times and processing costs are slashed. For example, National Grid is using the AI Dash platform, which analyzes satellite images for vegetation encroachment on its power lines.2

The control center of the future will be staffed by the best brains, using the best technology, to answer the most pressing question facing humanity. Technology democratization has the added benefit of attracting new recruits. What better way to appeal to new talent than give them cutting-edge technology to help perform their jobs? Drones to check infrastructure. VR headsets for training. On-device analytics to identify faults on an asset. Augmented reality to present that data.

Enel’s innovation sub-brand, Enel X, is the perfect example of how to make an organization attractive to the next generation workforce, which cites the opportunity to make a difference and work in an environment that lets them “change the world with energy” as a key reason to join the team.3

Innovation needs an innovative mindset

Tech alone does not foster a fresh wave of innovation within a utility. To achieve results, technology democratization needs an innovative mindset. Giving employees new technology is not the same as empowerment. Instead, they must be equipped to think like technologists, understanding how to optimize processes or fix problems on their own. That’s key. Next, they must feel free to experiment with technology, to explore the art of the possible, and to learn from their mistakes. Innovation is as much about culture as it is about any one technology.

87%

of utility executives agree they must train their people to think like technologists—to use and customize technology solutions at the individual level, but without highly technical skills.

Learning the art of innovation—including how to fail and learn from failure—is crucial. This cultural change will be driven by utility leaders of the future. They’ll be the ones driving the transformation that’s needed to truly democratize technology.

1 DroneDeploy

2 “AiDash Transforming Vegetation Management for National Grid Using Satellite Analytics and AI,” AiDash

3 “Enel X and the Enel Group: Looking Ahead,” Enel X

About the Authors

Paula Clark

Managing Director – Technology Consulting, Resources


Ruari Monahan

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Utilities, North America


Nikoo Delgoshaie

Managing Director – Tech Strategy & Advisory


Nicholas Handcock

Director – Utilities, Offering Development, Customer Innovation


Jason Allen

Research Lead – Accenture Utilities

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