Energy companies, which in the past underestimated the implementation of new technologies, have only in the last decade begun to realize their technological "gap." This traditional sector now faces a period of high investment needed to minimize technological debt. We have prepared for you in this article the technological challenges that the energy sector is currently facing.
With the constant pressure to increase efficiency, the topic of process optimization is still relevant. Thanks to a plethora of innovative technological solutions that enable the digitization and automation of processes on the market, even energy companies are exploring possibilities for their use. Moreover, in the past and this year, the need for digitization has been reinforced by closed branches, mandatory work from home, and the need to handle customer requests online from the comfort of home. Suddenly, processes had to be changed and bent to ensure the somewhat smooth operation of companies. Digitalization of processes largely concerns customer processes and accounting, field performance of employees, communication with partners and suppliers, and other key processes.
A related major topic is the automation of processes itself, which is mainly related to internal, often repetitive, and monotonous activities. This has made it essential, for example, to search for OCR solutions, to apply robotics, and to provide much-needed workflow management.
In the constant pursuit of increasing efficiency, mobile applications have become a major topic. In the context of customer applications, they can increase customer engagement and become a new "touchpoint" for the company, which becomes a convenient way to create a self-service zone for customers. This creates opportunities for selling additional products and services, while also increasing the level of automation and digitalization in the company (e.g. fewer paper documents). Unlike financial institutions, for example, creating attractive enough content for mobile applications is a major challenge that would continuously attract customers.
The second main way to use mobile applications is through functionalities that simplify the work of employees in the field. In this way, they can record the current situation, completed tasks, or access the company's internal systems remotely.
In the energy sector, companies are also trying to reduce costs and are launching initiatives to exist in the workplace completely without paper. This is facilitated by a shift towards a hybrid model, where employees combine work in the office and remote work supported by technological solutions. The necessity to work from home and the closure of branches have accelerated an existing trend and created a new one. Topics that were once simple, such as signing contracts at branches and approving internal documents, have suddenly become pressing issues that can be easily handled using accessible software solutions.
Of course, the economic perspective is not the only one shaping paperless initiatives in companies. The ever-growing call for ecological changes from society is at least doubly strong in the energy sector.
In an effort to catch up with technological and architectural debt, companies have realized that it is more than necessary to stop operating in silos and create an IT structure that is able to support the dynamics of business activities while meeting requirements for stability, accuracy, and security in the area of distribution systems. One effective means is the existence of a clearly defined architecture roadmap. This roadmap must be prepared in the context of historical debt, current application environments and infrastructure, ongoing and planned projects and changes, and last but not least, knowledge of current trends in technology, platforms, and software development methodologies.
A well-composed architectural team that supports the life cycle of processing business requirements can actively participate in the process from the early stages of defining business tasks and their alignment with the company's strategy to the final steps of deploying the solution into operation or evaluating pilot activities.
It is becoming apparent that strengthening the ownership of individual architectural inputs, appropriate organizational roles for architects, and transparent architectural process settings are strong factors in prioritizing requirements and setting a sustainable roadmap. This goes hand in hand with reducing the real "Time to Market" and final delivery costs.
The area of using cloud technologies and solutions is specific and strategically diverse. There is a growing trend among major IT players providing comprehensive solutions, platforms, and services to move to the cloud environment. Of course, it is necessary to consider the architecture of existing as well as planned systems and the way they will be deployed in advance.
There is a clear inclination of business companies to use cloud services, as they bring advantages such as simple and shorter environment configuration, solving the problem of acquiring hardware infrastructure, or reducing losses if a decision is made to stop operating solutions that did not meet business expectations.
On the other hand, for distribution companies, external cloud platforms may not be as interesting, as they have their own data center infrastructure, which is necessary for operation. In short, the preferred environment can be a private cloud, where new solutions are increasingly deployed in the form of containers. It is expected that in the coming years, innovations of systems that will use the external cloud environment to a greater extent will also appear in the distribution area.
For the purposes of automating processes, as well as enhancing the online environment of self-service areas, changes are being made to the concept and scope of integration services. The creation of APIs is being supported, which replace manual data transfer between systems and bring new possibilities and functionalities to online channels for customers.
Companies must focus on a better understanding of their own application ecosystem and describe the complex data model in order to design each API effectively and avoid data duplication and subsequent reconciliation. To optimally support frontend applications, it is important to deploy/extend the concept of an Operational Data Store, which will be the source of data for queries through the API and reduce the load on backend systems.
Companies of the size of energy distribution and sales face the problem of either difficult to access data, or too much data that becomes overwhelming. The optimal solution is reporting and Business Intelligence (BI) tools, which process a large amount of data into a clear and visually attractive form. These are usually business and process data, documents for accounting, financial, and capacity planning.
Greyson Consulting has been bringing innovations to companies in Central Europe for 14 years. We have experience with energy projects in energy companies in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, where we help analyze their current position and strategies in the IT field, digitize, and adapt to the latest technologies and trends.