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Cloud computing: Today’s ‘rainmaker’ for water sector companies

By Dr. Pip Fox, Industry Lead for Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Utilities and Services at Microsoft UK on November 15, 2016

Filed under Power & Utilities

We are living in an exciting year of change, innovation, and learning across the power and water utility industry. One of the most promising opportunities I see today is in how water companies are adopting the cloud to increase customer engagement, to gain efficiencies in how they deliver services and realize smart energy management. Water sector organizations have started their digital transformation journey to keep pace with innovation, reduce IT costs, and increase business agility—but to keep up with evolving customer needs, they must increase their rate of change. In its report, Adapt and Adopt: Digital Transformation for Utilities, Bain & Company underscores the importance of cloud adoption for the utility industry: “Utility executives are accustomed to planning 5, 10 or even 20 years out. But now, many find themselves learning to move at a faster pace to keep up with digital technology. . . . one of the most important aspects of the change will be acquiring the ability to innovate in short cycles and deploy new products and services more rapidly.”

And that’s where the cloud comes in.

 Today most Fortune 500 companies have embraced the cloud and set plans to expand their usage of, and reliance on, cloud solutions. With unlimited computing capacity, security in the cloud and rich data platforms providing real-time information, water sector companies can now build systems of intelligence with digital information to drive transformations in performance and agility across operations, customer engagement, research and development, and even community relations.

water 2_300Cloud benefits for water utility organizations

To explore what the cloud can do for your business, I encourage you to check out our new white paper, which outlines cloud computing trends and key benefits for the water sector industry. Learn how cloud-enabled smart meters can increase customer engagement, improve customer satisfaction, and help water companies achieve water-usage reduction targets. Online and offline app cloud technologies can increase productivity and collaboration with the ability to work anywhere, at any time, on any device. The cloud also offers predictive maintenance and remote monitoring capabilities with the ability to analyse and visualize massive quantities of data collected by sensors and pumps, combined with historical information about assets. This helps to reduce maintenance costs, increase staff productivity, and improve customer satisfaction. The paper also highlights mobility trends and issues as well as Line of Business (LOB) applications, such as billing or customer contact systems in a new cloud environment. Cloud providers have a variety of tools and processes to help with LOB, such as enabling the cloud infrastructure to extend into the customer’s current on-premises physical environment for hybrid cloud that builds on existing IT investments.

A move to the cloud also enables several important benefits that align with the overall business strategy of water sector companies, including the ability to:

  • Make smarter decisions, improve customer service, and uncover new business possibilities from structured, unstructured, and real-time data.
  • Quickly scale services up or down to match demand in order to enable “pay as you go.”
  • Get more done with integration tools, pre-built templates, and managed services that make it easier to build and manage enterprise, mobile, web and apps more quickly.

Forward-thinking water utility companies are already taking advantage of the cloud to build world-class automated management systems that save water, time and reduce costs. Aqaba Water Company, a major Jordanian public sector company, has a new system that both replaces older proprietary technology and delivers a complete, cloud-based, water management system that is unique to the region. Aqaba and Microsoft now offer the system as a SaaS service to other Middle Eastern utilities. Vilnius Water, the largest water company in Lithuania, moved to the cloud to cut operational costs, improve productivity and to provide a platform for a flexible mobile work environment. The company also gained new functionality to enhance field data collection and drive big improvements in operational efficiency. Here in the UK, cloud-based productivity tools like Office 365 and Dynamics 365 have led the way to the cloud and are already making big changes within the AMP6 delivery programme.

The power and water utility industry is in a state of persistent flux, yet a few essential areas remain constant. Cloud computing offers the advantage water utility companies need to quickly deliver on business strategy, improve workforce collaboration and productivity, and ultimately deliver better customer service.

Explore all of these trends and more: download our new white paper today.

LinkedIn: Pip Fox

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