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Why utilities should embrace a ‘lean start-up mindset’ to succeed with their digital transformation

Take the lead or fall behind

The accelerating digital transformation, ongoing energy revolution, and the ensuing disruption of the industry is propelling utilities at an increasing speed into a new data driven future.

This article first appeared in Metering & Smart Energy International issue 2-2018. Read the full digital magazine here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

Utilities have to make a choice. Either to be the operator of a commoditised infrastructure and face inevitable disruption and neglect in the future energy system; or to be the operator of a platform for innovation and take the driver’s seat position in the energy revolution.

Utilities can either take the lead in the ongoing energy revolution or fall behind!

Capitalise on the snowball effect or drown in the digital avalanche

Utilities’ digitisation is gaining speed and momentum. The Internet of Things (IoT), big data, machine learning or artificial intelligence are maturing quickly. Cloud platform and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings are challenging established systems vendors and operations models. New business models and innovative services are emerging rapidly.

Learning from the most innovative companies in the world or from other industries such as fintech or retail, speed is ‘the new black.’ This means less talk, more action; less analysis, more trials; fewer specifications, more prototyping.

Successful companies capitalise on the snowball effect of digitisation. They embrace a ‘lean start-up mindset’ to drive innovation and disruption. They benefit ‘big’ from going small.

Embracing a lean start-up mindset

A lean start-up has a mindset which fosters innovation with a heavy focus on quick value generation. It’s a kind of ‘success beats discuss’ mindset which understands that the most effective way of using resources is to quickly prototype and validate ideas instead of spending a vast amount of effort in discussions, meetings or analysis work.

Lean start-up is a mindset of going small, centred around the idea of quickly building a minimally viable product (MVP) and then rapidly learning, gaining experience and evolving.

Applying a lean start-up mindset might look scary and strange for utilities. It might require some cultural and organisational change.

It might need a management commitment and willingness to fail to drive innovation.

It might even need a rethink of purchasing processes and financing models to engage with innovative companies and start-ups. But it definitely will need a different approach to IT and especially integration.

Establish an IT platform with speed in mind

Accelerating the digital transformation by embracing a lean start-up mindset requires a modern data driven IT infrastructure enabling utilities to benefit from:

• Short time to value

• Fast innovation cycles

• Low risk implementation and operations • High agility and speed of change

• High ability to scale

Utilities have to invest in a modern IT platform which lowers the integration barriers and simplifies prototype ideas.

Lower integration barriers

The new paradigm for utilities is to lower integration barriers and to speed up development of smart services on domain specific integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) or orchestration-as-a-service (OaaS) offerings. Innovative companies such as Greenbird deliver configurable business integration applications and a low code customisation environment with its Metercloud platform, making it easy for utilities to solve integration challenges and manage a holistic information flow.

OaaS typically features out-of-thebox, yet highly configurable, business integration applications to significantly cut implementation time and risk; a pay-as-yougo subscription model to minimise CAPEX and guarantee predictable OPEX and elastic infrastructure to ensure high availability and reliability for platform operations. Additionally, cloud-native technologies to support hybrid cloud/on-premise deployments and big data and artificial intelligence capabilities to enable smart services for the digital utility Using preconfigured data orchestrations (OaaS) provided by platforms such as Metercloud empowers utilities to embrace a lean start-up mindset and to take the lead in the ongoing energy revolution.

About the author

Thorsten Heller is CEO and co-founder of Greenbird Integration Technology. He has extensive international experience in advanced cloud-based software solutions for utilities, with a focus on IoT, big data, real-time analytics and machine learning to empower the smart grid and smart utility of the future.

About the company

Greenbird is a Norwegian software and solutions company headquartered in Oslo and expanding globally. The company is an established leader for integration and data management solutions and has served utilities representing more than 80% of the market in Norway. Metercloud from Greenbird, a state-of-the-art integration solution, supports the transformation towards digital utilities by enabling advanced smart metering.