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We Need to Meet Utilities Where They Are

In order to meet customers where they are (with the right message, at the right time via the right channel), many utilities are turning to technology solutions for help. But are the technology providers giving their utility customers the same level of personalization and insight that they are attempting to provide end users?

Quite simply no. The reason? Many tech companies offer utilities point solutions that only solve one particular need, are one-size-fits-all solutions that aren’t flexible, or worse, are solutions that fit both descriptions.

Point solutions may be easy to stand up, but most don’t ‘talk’ to one another and have different user interfaces. Because of this, utilities can’t generate the insights they need across programs, and end-users endure a disjointed experience along their customer journey.

One-size-fits-all solutions offer limited options and minimal, if any, customization. This forces utilities to flex their program design to fit pre-packaged solutions and ultimately sacrifice results.

Technology providers in the energy space have a responsibility to meet their utility customers where they are. And right now, where they are is in need of solutions that analyze significant amounts of data in order to deliver personalized insights that drive meaningful actions. One of the most pressing needs for this kind of functionality is within the demand-side management (DSM) business, as this group is the frontline to engaging customers and growing a utility’s behind-the-meter business.

But in a sea of rigid point solutions, how can this be achieved? The answer lies in an open, scalable, and customizable analytics platform designed specifically for DSM groups. I’m not talking about the ‘we do it all’ transaction-centric ERP systems on the market, such as those provided by large enterprise software vendors. DSM groups need a dedicated software platform that shares data across solutions, provides a consistent, personalized experience for customers, and generates insights that help grow the behind-the-meter business.

Meeting Utilities Where They Are
There are many factors that impact DSM goals and priorities that an  analytics platform will be cognisant of and accommodate to. In the spirit of brevity, I will cover just a few here:

Business Drivers - DSM groups often turn to data analytics platforms in the name of customer engagement, but again one-size does not fit all. Some utilities have ambitious savings targets while others are focused on incentives for raising J.D. Power scores. Many utilities are trying to strategize how to meet today’s customer and market requirements while growing their behind-the-meter business. Third-party analytics platforms that are brought in to help run DSM programs should understand those variances and enable customized utility program designs.

AMI Deployment - While AMI is the way of the future, today only about half of U.S. households have smart meters, so being able to utilize the treasure trove of data that it gives utilities is important, but right now, AMI support satisfies just part of the need. There are some DSM data analytics platforms in the market today whose solutions fully rely on AMI data to be successful. But it is just as important to have analytical support for non-AMI customers, because regardless of meter type, utilities still have energy savings targets to hit, peak load to reduce, and J.D. Power scores to raise. Why rely on a company that can only contribute to those goals with a fraction of the customer base?

Analytics Maturity - Every utility wants to get better with “Big Data.” Understanding where utility partners stand on their analytics journey and helping them achieve their desired trajectory is what makes a true partnership between utilities and third parties. Many utilities are just starting to implement data-driven DSM solutions, so starting small and gradually growing capabilities and services makes the most sense. In doing that, it’s important to build a foundation on an integrated, scalable platform that will easily support future growth. Other utilities may have already developed strong in-house data analytics resources or have worked with various analytics companies for some time, and now need an open, powerful platform to weave their resources together. Taking DSM analytics to the next level can mean different things to different utilities - it’s important to understand and accommodate for what each one is trying to achieve.

Finding the Right DSM Analytics Platform
For utilities looking into DSM data analytics platforms, finding a partner that will learn, adapt and evolve with them is key. Here is our take on what utilities should look for when selecting a DSM analytics platform provider:

Meets utilities’ unique needs today while preparing and innovating for the future - Whether a utility has a strict EE savings target to meet, partial deployment of AMI, or are just starting to experiment with data, a good DSM analytics partner understands and adheres to those needs. If a utility isn’t yet ready for advanced analytics like active learning optimization and IoT integration, that doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future. It’s best to avoid a vendor who tries to implement too much too soon, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, offers limited capabilities and holds a utility back from long-term business growth.

Understands that customer engagement is the means, not the end - Many DSM point solutions are solely focused on customer engagement. That is an important aspect, but it’s only part of the utility evolution. The business driver behind customer engagement is growing a thriving behind-the-meter business for utilities to sell more than just electrons.

Is open, integrated, and supports value-creating partnerships - Utilities who are embracing disruption are leveraging multiple third-party partnerships to advance their role in the new energy ecosystem. DSM platforms should be willing and able to integrate with other utility partners, as well as bring their own strategic partnerships to the table. Closed systems may satisfy immediate needs, but will inevitably hinder long-term business growth.

Helps develop your internal expertise - Partnering with innovative companies is the fastest way to successfully adapt to today’s on-demand energy era. This means more than just buying solutions, but rather information sharing, close collaboration, and pursuing joint projects that leverage the knowledge and capabilities of each organization.

Choosing a DSM analytics platform partnership deserves ample consideration because it will affect the trajectory of the utility’s business. According to Accenture, “Each time an enterprise leverages a third-party platform to support aspects of their business, they are, in fact, choosing the alliance partners they will count on when building their next generation of services.” Not only should DSM platforms meet utilities where they are, they should be prepared to meet them wherever they go next.

Shameless Plug
At Tendril, we’re continually making innovative and strategic upgrades to our data analytics platform. Soon we’ll be announcing major upgrades that include:

  • Cost recovery and revenue generation for home energy reports
  • Additional AMI support
  • Enhanced segmentation
  • Analytics for NWA opportunities

Stay tuned for more information coming mid-November.




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