José Rafael Gómez Herrera

Utilities Business Process Services Lead–Accenture Operations


“We build the future with our attitude, behavior and courage.”

José, as the Utilities BPS lead for Accenture Operations, you lead the global offering and therefore have a good feel for trends. What do you see coming?

A lot of upheaval for sure, but it’s more than just things changing. It’s opportunity and it’s risk, too, because the importance of getting it right is enormous. In the next 10 years we will see the utilities industry totally transformed.

How so?

We’re looking at distributed generation, smart grids and retail as the key to the industry value chain, with disruption occurring at speed and at scale. Fortunately, our BPS offerings are evolving to help utilities cope with these changes, which are happening beyond the metering point as consumers become producers, and also upstream in the energy networks—where billions of new active devices are being interconnected, supplying and demanding energy as well as data. It’s very exciting to be building the utilities operating models of the future together with our clients.

You’re leading Accenture’s global Utilities BPS efforts. What was your path?

I started in the energy industry and came to Accenture in 2001. Since 2003, my focus has been utilities and technology. I work on industry strategy, regulation and transformations of operations through innovative services. It’s exciting to be a part of the deployment of large-scale transformational projects and BPS engagements. It’s great to be able to make a difference, and I have enjoyed the variety and the challenges that come with it.

What are some of the specific industry challenges?

It’s not an easy moment for the industry. Utilities are being disrupted from all directions—new entrants, changes in consumer behavior and the need to move away from carbon and nuclear generation. You’re also looking at volatile commodity prices, which makes hedging difficult—and while all this is happening consumers expect and demand more, including becoming digital and self-producing energy. People want to be independent, and that is not the principle used in the design of efficient energy systems. Plus, there are huge pressures on the environmental and regulatory sides.

How does Accenture help?

First, we work with clients to identify and address their most pressing issues. It may be cost reduction, improving the quality of service or setting up new operating models to produce additional revenue. Our solutions include new ways to handle customer, grid and field service functions that we specifically created for utilities. We infuse digital in day-to-day operations and leverage mobility, automation and analytics to drive the desired value to the business. We’ve got more than 35,000 employees across Europe, North America and Asia, and we serve more than 40 regulated utilities, grid companies and retail clients worldwide. That’s a lot of experience and expertise, and every deployment provides us with more knowledge to help clients.

Could you please drill that down?

Bottom line, we help customers deliver better and more consistent customer service, improve their operational performance with established operating models, IT/Application support and delivered “As-a-Service,” and, ultimately, improve key metrics such as cost to serve, top-line revenues and customer satisfaction.

What about results?

We’ve reduced cost to serve by 40 to 50 percent in five years, eliminated more than 40 percent of manual work via automation and robotics, and we’ve moved up to 60 percent of customer interactions to digital channels. Oh, and we’ve also decreased the time it takes to launch new products and services by up to 50 percent.

What about your education, José?

I am a Chemical Engineer and studied at the Universidad Simón Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela, where I was born. I earned my master’s degree in Planning from Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), Germany, and an executive MBA from the IE Business School, Spain.

You’ve led projects in a number of geographies. Which did you enjoy most?

I’m happy wherever there are client challenges to solve. So far I’ve been lucky enough to handle engagements throughout Europe—I’m based in Madrid—as well as the Americas and Africa. We work with clients across the Americas, Europe and Asia, and we deliver from more than 15 locations, with a very strong presence in the South of Europe, North America, India and the Philippines. Diversity runs through our blood.

Is there one solution that looks particularly interesting?

I’d say digitization of grids and customer service, because utilities need to become more data-driven, agile and market-facing. Also, smart grids is where I see technology and infrastructure morphing at speed. In an evolving energy world, utilities really need to generate a lot more than electricity and distribute energy and fluids—they have to be able to generate value for their customers, stakeholders and society. Somehow they need to move away from their traditional and centralized businesses to clean energy, distributed generation and retail-based services.

What do you like most about your job?

Accenture gives you room to think, innovate and execute.

What do you find most rewarding about your role?

People and the future. I am passionate about what I do, the people I work with and forecasting the future. I love to work with enthusiastic, multicultural and multi skilled people; putting together people’s ideas to improve and create new services is key.

How did you become so well versed in so many languages?

I have lived in many places and just enjoy it. I have full professional proficiency in Portuguese and German, and native proficiency in Spanish and English. It’s nice to be able to make things easier for our clients. Communication is everything.

Accenture is a busy place. What do you do to unwind?

I get into my family life. I have three wonderful kids (11, 8 and 1) and a lovely wife. I like to golf and I enjoy art and museums. In Madrid we have great art, artists and tapas, of course.