As we talk to utilities leaders, the conversation often turns to the things keeping them awake at night. And there’s one recurring theme in particular: how to make that shift from commodity provider to connected energy partner, both in their B2B and B2C businesses.  

So what does it mean and why does it matter?   

We know the energy transition is more pressing than ever for utilities, and their C-suites want and need to capitalise on new opportunities around renewables and energy-efficient products and services.  

Meanwhile, customers are looking for new experiences and new relationships with the companies that serve them. As Fjord Trends 2021 show, this “interaction wanderlust”—a thirst for engaging, resonant customer experiences—has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Homeworking at scale has driven many customers to look to upgrade their energy lifestyle, through do-it-yourself-innovation, another one of the trends (think home office in the garden; electric vehicle (EV) charger in the garage; new solar panels on the roof).  

Just consider that 50% of consumers say they’re likely to invest more in energy efficiency today than before the pandemic.  

It all adds up to a new receptiveness on the part of the utilities customer. And a new expectation of connected products and services, engaging, personalised experiences, and seamless “brokering” of services across companies (while you’re changing your energy tariff online, renew your home insurance with the utility’s partner).  

It goes far beyond the meter. So how do utilities deliver all this, here are some reflections on the road ahead.  

As customers’ expectations evolve, so must the utilities that serve them.  

As customers themselves evolve, utilities are planning their own transformation. Key questions we encourage our utilities clients to ask include: 1) What do you want your strategic play to be (and how does this relate to partners and ecosystems), and what are your goals and needs? 2) What does this strategic direction mean for your architecture, i.e., the blueprint for your technology transformation? 3) How fast do you want and need to get there, and what is your state of technology readiness? And as it turns out, there is no single path to success.

And as it turns out, there is no single path to success.  

For instance, some utilities may want to focus upfront on transforming the front office—prioritising digital sales, and intelligent marketing, to drive new sources of revenue in the short term. For others, top of the list may be to first transform the back office, to cut costs by optimising non-differentiating processes, such as order-to-cash.  

Overall, the goal is to move from silos to an integrated approach. And that relies on the right digital platform, with cloud at its core. Why?  

Prioritise the platform  

In short, the digital platform utilities choose, powered by cloud, is what will deliver the seamless customer experience they’re trying to achieve.  

Here’s why: the right platform helps you assemble the pieces you need to bring new business models for your customer. And make those new business ideas reality.

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80% of customers are open to buying additional personalised products and services from utilities. And they aren’t put off by new channels, with 73% open to a digital-only service for a discount on their bill.

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In the most concrete sense, it’s about using digital to overcome silos, and generate a holistic view of the customer experience, across all touchpoints (back office and front office). And provide the intelligence that fuels that personalisation customers are seeking.   

Customers are more than ready. Accenture research suggests 80% of customers are open to buying additional personalised products and services from utilities. And they aren’t put off by new channels, with 73% open to a digital-only service for a discount on their bill.  

Meanwhile, the same research also shows the prosumer shift at play, with 61% of customers interested in an online marketplace to sell they electricity they produce.   

And cloud is essential for this dynamic future. Let’s imagine you want to implement and scale new capabilities to serve your customers (the online electricity marketplace, for instance, or an EV leasing service). Cloud lets you do new things, scale them flexibly and decouple them from core capabilities (e.g., billing) while you get those new things right alongside the essentials.   

And it’s especially important as utilities increasingly operate in an ecosystem of partners (remember the brokerage example, whereby a utility might help you get your insurance too, from a third party).   

There’s a lot to get your arms around at once. But it can be done. Accenture and SAP are partnering to make these aspirations reality through Project Elevate, to bring the best of SAP Cloud for Utilities to bear for clients as they co-create their futures.   

Customers are ready for new energy experiences that drive utilities’ growth and support the energy transition. Contact us to talk more about what comes next. 

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Vincent Nguyen

Managing Director – Utilities, Global SAP

Mateu Munar

Senior Director, Go-to-Market Head, SAP Cloud for Utilities Industry Business Unit Utilities, SAP

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