Utility Week

UTILITY Week 13th November 2015

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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UTILITY WEEK | 13TH - 19TH NOVEMBER 2015 | 23 Operations & Assets Market view W hile there is much talk of innova- tion – in a recent survey commis- sioned by Utility Week (see 18th September issue), industry contributors were asked to comment on topics including the levels of investment in innovation, what innovative activities were being focused on, and if skills to support innovation were adequate – making the most of innovation opportunities is reliant on having the right people in place to make best use of them. A useful proxy for innovation is the use of engineering and design soware – technical applications soware tools such as CAD for new structures and GIS for network layout – so having staff with the skills to handle those tools is also a useful proxy for understanding where extra staff or skills are needed. In the utilities sector, engineering depart- ments have been one of the groups that have led innovation. Driven by the need to capital- ise on the asset base and maximise efficiency, engineers have turned to increasingly inno- vative technologies to support their work. Now the time has come for other depart- ments to learn from engineering and to press those technical applications into action in other areas of the business. For years now, engineering has been using geospatial tools to map the location of network assets and the connectivity between those assets, representing the path of elec- tricity, water or gas through the network. These same connections can be used by cus- tomer service departments to follow the path right through to the end user – the customer – and use them to improve notification and communications. As well as improving customer ser- vice, extending use of these soware tools increases the value of the investment in the soware tools and the data that supports them. Using this soware does come with a cost – and not just additional licences. Staff have to be confident using these tools to interrogate the network information they maintain. Providers also need to be aware that the user base is expanding to users beyond traditional engineering depart- ments and to provide appropriate tools and interfaces. Let's look at the costs. Spending on tech- nical applications soware is estimated at around €4.2 billion (£3 billion) in 2015 in northwest Europe. Approximately 8 per cent of that represents spending by utility com- panies. Let's see how that spreads across typical users in utility companies. Chart 1 shows the spend per engineer in 12 countries of northern Europe (data is taken from the Cambashi Market Observatories for 2015). As an aside, it is interesting that France and Germany are spending the least per engineer of all the countries listed. In fact, Germany and France have the greatest num- ber of engineers employed in all industries, as well as the greatest number working in utilities. They also have the highest spend- ing on technical applications – so this low "spend per engineer" could simply be a result of economies of scale and attractive pricing deals. The average spend across the countries in this study is just over €4,000 and, while not every engineer will have the same portfolio of soware on their desk, those with more will balance those with less. If we extend that level of spending to related occupa- tions – say the technicians or customer ser- vice staff that are supporting the engineering activities – then a market opportunity opens up that many soware providers will find hard to ignore. To be successful with this new user group will mean offering targeted applications tools and interfaces, but utility customer service groups are already moving in this direction, so will expect their soware providers to address this market. Expanding the use of technical applica- tions soware to other user groups will need a level of investment from utility leaders to train staff, but equally the utility compa- nies can work with the soware providers to develop appropriate interfaces and tools to make that training as painless as possible. Such expansion in the use of technical appli- cations will leave the utility company with a better-equipped workforce, with access to soware tools that are evolving at every release. With the very tools that can create and adapt to innovative changes accessible to a wider group of users, efficiencies and innovation can even emerge from the work- force itself. Christine Easterfield, principal consultant, utilities, Cambashi Engineered for success Software tools developed for engineering applications can be adapted for use by other business areas to improve customer service. Christine Easterfield analyses the costs and benefits. Austria Belgium Denmark Finland France Germany Ireland Netherlands Norway Sweden Switzerland UK CHART 1: SPENDING ON TECHNICAL APPLICATIONS SOFTWARE PER ENGINEER IN UTILITY COMPANIES 7,500 5,000 2,500 0 € Source: Cambashi 2015

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