Leveraging Technology to Future Proof Your Business

It’s hard to approach any 2021 strategy planning session without dipping into the all-too-familiar terms surrounding COVID-19. This 500-lb black swan in the center of the room is the “force majeure” that’s disrupted budgets, marginalized existing investments, and turned business models and daily operations upside down. So, where do we go from here?

With all the talk of how the landscape has changed, many of us are at the biggest change: how we approach resiliency. The global pandemic is an eye-opener. Those mid-horizon transformations many of us were keeping tucked underneath the latest stack of invoices and business responsibilities are now the first cards we’re trying to pull out of our decks. We thought we had more time.

Recently, I presented a webinar entitled “Digital Transformation: Future Proof Your Business.” Today, I want to break down some of the key points covered in that webinar and discuss how your energy company can navigate the ever-changing waters of 2021.

Finding Velocity and Agility in the Chaos

I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that no one reading this predicted that 98% of companies would have at least a few remote workers in 2020. To be fair, this remote explosion wasn’t entirely unpredicted. Remote work, the gig economy, and various verticals of the “work-from-home” space have been steadily growing year-over-year. But COVID-19 put accelerant on that fire. Suddenly, everyone — regardless of preparedness, tech maturity, or familiarity — has adopted remote work, not out of value, but out of necessity.

There are plenty of silver (or even gold) linings behind this chaotic rush-to-remote. Recent Pew surveys show that 83% of employers believe that their remote work implementation has been successful, and over half believe that remote work is more productive than traditional work structures. Of course, there are also challenges. Energy isn’t the only business sector that’s been forced to “re-normalize.” Employees — who traditionally worked in quiet office spaces — are now consumed with childcare and neighborhood noises (52% of employees were already interrupted by noise 5x a day).

By far, the biggest challenge has centered around tech. No one could be fully prepared for what transpired. How do you do your day-to-day activities in this new environment? How are you obtaining supplies, maintaining reliability, balancing your gas or pipeline systems, and processing invoices? What is your new strategy for meeting regulatory compliance — which is increasing in scope and scale at rapid speeds — while also managing assets and inventory from 3rd party suppliers?

It’s tough! We’ve all digitally transformed (to a degree) in the last few months. Worse yet, energy companies and utilities consistently ranked below most other industries in terms of digital transformation, so we’ve all been forced to transform massively in a short span of time. To find velocity (or competitive agility/resilience) during this period of heavy change, it’s important to rethink all aspects of your business, technology, processes and value.

Beyond the “New Normal”

To help illustrate the shift in the gas landscape this year, let’s turn our attention towards the traditional energy company processes and technology that no longer make sense in the context of our current economic, technological, and social work landscape. These include things like:

  • Printing reports
  • Spreadsheets
  • Client-server apps
  • Using different apps to manage each jurisdiction or state rules
  • Using multiple apps across business sections (e.g., separate apps for forecasting and supply, gathering and transportation, customer choice and distribution, etc.)
  • Local installs and a single data center

To be clear, this isn’t your traditional “these are the mid-horizon changes to tech you need to make” wafting around in the air. These business components will cripple your productivity and competitiveness if you continue to approach them as you have in the past. Energy has been through plenty of economic shocks. But this one feels different. There’s this convergence of industry-neutral changes (e.g., remote work, digital transformation, etc.) and gas-specific frictions (e.g., regulatory increases vs. 30-year low prices) that are colliding into everything we think we know about running a gas company.

McKinsey estimates that, without significant (say rather, fundamental) changes, “it will be difficult [for energy companies] to return to the attractive industry performance that has historically prevailed.” We’re entering a new age of energy, and it’s an accelerated, adapt-or-die age that will cause many slow-paced companies to sink.

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: budget. There’s this fog of anxiety surrounding digital transformation mid-crisis. You have to adapt to survive, but the economy is mixed and your capital budgets are looking sparse. You have to put digital investments into perspective. Don’t invest for the sake of trend-chasing. Invest to leverage smart and savvy digital investments that more than pay for themselves, and that usually happens faster than you think.

Digital Transformation Is No Longer a Differentiator

Five years ago, digital transformation was the holy grail. Today, it’s a necessity that prevents your operations from atrophying and your liquidity from sliding off the bottom of the charts. So far, I’ve talked about what doesn’t work—those limiting on-site solutions with single-fail points and a hefty emphasis on in-person interaction. So, what does work?

  • Web-based apps with regulation-forward and security-forward architectures
  • Cloud deployments with regional data centers and around-the-clock availability
  • “Window of Truth” platforms that combine all of your energy resource planning needs, essentially combining multiple legacy systems into one solution
  • Single platforms that capture data across your business and leverage that data intelligently
  • Modern architectures that are sustainable, elastic, and flexible
  • Customer-centricity-driven solution

In other words, old legacy systems, clunky interfaces, and chunky tech stacks are old news. Often, companies think of “digital transformation” as digital investments. That’s the wrong way to go about it. The average employee wastes 32 days every year cycling through the never-ending tornado of apps at their disposal. Focus on the transformation part. How can you use technology to really transform how you think about your day-to-day processes and workflows? You want to increase your cyber security posture, boost productivity, and eliminate wasteful frictions that prevent employees from executing amazing innovations, projects, and requirements.

Trellis Can Help You Get Resilient

The energy resource planning ecosystem is changing. You need a comprehensive, single-platform solution that can help you reconcile data, analyze trends, automate transactions, and manage every touchpoint (from wellhead to end-user consumption) in one easy-to-understand interface. Better yet, you need a solution that’s secure, portable, and remote-ready to accommodate this new-and-improved workforce. We can help. At Trellis, we deliver an industry-leading energy resource planning solution aimed at making your life easier and your company smarter. Contact us to learn more.

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