Dash discusses how utility enterprises can navigate the business landscape while managing the expectations of digital natives.
UMC: Tell us about Infosys, a leading Indian IT company and a technology partner to global business enterprises.
Ashiss Dash: Infosys pioneered the Global Delivery Model in the IT services industry. The model paved the way to implement business software solutions from a location and time zone that made maximum business sense. We are credited with several firsts in the IT industry. Notably, Infosys was the first Indian IT services company to be listed on Nasdaq, as well as the first to offer an ESOP program to employees. In 2014, Vishal Sikka became the first non-founder CEO of the company. Vishal unveiled a ‘New and Renew’ strategy focused on effecting a business transformation based on a Software and Services approach. As part of this strategy, the company partners with clients to explore new business models, while at the same time reinvigorating the core business. To realize this vision, Infosys has launched new solutions and products such as Skava, a digital experience platform; Panaya, an ERP change analytics solution with cloud-based enterprise testing capabilities; and Mana, a knowledge-based, purposeful AI platform.
UMC: What differentiates Infosys from its peers and how do you ensure that the company is the most preferred technology partner in the industry?
Dash: Infosys focuses on how global enterprises can renew their current business to better compete in today’s market, while helping them acquire new capabilities to compete in the future. We partner with clients to renew their enterprise at critical endpoints. These endpoints such as generation, distribution and customer service need to transcend beyond maximizing enterprise efficiency to differentiate the company’s offerings in the market. In addition to renewing endpoints, Infosys helps companies make informed decisions to re-establish their business using big data and machine learning.
Infosys embraces Design Thinking for finding the right problems and addressing some of the big, yet unidentified, business issues of clients. For example, we adopt a strategic approach to advise enterprises with systems that are facing obsolescence going beyond the renewal of legacy systems to explore new and disruptive technologies that would prepare the company for future challenges. This client engagement strategy is an ongoing journey, rather than a one-time event.
UMC: How are utility companies responding to the digital revolution? Specifically, how are these companies engaging with digital natives and the millennials?
Dash: The digital revolution is disrupting electric, gas and water utilities. Every aspect of generation, transmission, and distribution/supply is being transformed by digital and IoT technologies. It is a compelling concept for customers to be able to understand where the energy comes from, how it was generated, where it was generated, how it came to their homes, how energy is consumed, when to anticipate disruptions, how to conserve energy and more.
Customers now have the opportunity to mine data and understand the upstream effects of their energy consumption. Customers can access such information instantly and make prompt changes as to how they want to engage with their utility and manage their energy consumption. Perhaps, customers will share information and make recommendations to their friends via social networks.
From the utility’s perspective, the use of UX, bots, and AI can resolve customer issues before they become problems. By adopting smart technologies, utility companies can better serve customers by automatically identifying customer requirements, presenting the bill in a manner tailored to usage, sharing billing information in the customer’s preferred medium (visual, written, audio), adjusting customer’s energy consumption threshold, automatically scheduling maintenance for critical issues and so on.
Significantly, the digital revolution will accelerate the disintermediation of the energy value chain – moving producers and consumers closer together.
UMC: What are the major shifts in the utility industry? How are utility companies responding to the needs and expectations of a predominantly digital demographic?
Dash: Customers of utility companies are expecting an experience that is similar to their interaction with the retail and service industries. Utility companies are therefore compelled to make the shift from a rate-payer view of customers to that of a customer advocacy and empowerment point of view in order to attract and retain the digital generation.In order to do this, utility companies are currently focusing on the role of the Chief Customer Officer who is hiring professionals from digital and customer experience domains in service industries.
Utility enterprises are adopting digital engagement platforms so that they can better understand and interact with consumers. In this day and age, self service capabilities are not enough. Customers view their interactions with a utility company on social media, mobile phone, web portals, IVR systems and CSRs interchangeably. Utilities need visibility into a customer’s interactions across touch points to offer a unified customer experience.
Another aspect of customer engagement is the ability to recommend and make decisions for the customer proactively based on the repository of customer information. Data from sensors, devices and the interactions of customers with other services provides a utility company with a wealth of information to deliver a superior customer experience.
Infosys helps utility enterprises adopt digital platforms such as these to transform business. Skava, our mobile first digital experience platform offers a wealth of pre-built resources to accelerate the utility company’s digital journey and anticipate the requirements of digital natives.
UMC: What is the backstory of Geographic Information System (GIS)?
Dash: GIS is omnipresent in the utility industry as a robust backend system. Let me use the analogy of using a cell phone to shine a light on the importance of GIS in the utility industry. When we use our cell phones, we don’t think about different systems working in clockwork precision to allow us make phone calls, receive data and take pictures on our phone. It just works seamlessly.
GIS is used by utility companies to manage their assets. It helps utility enterprises understand the location of their assets, their inter-relationships, their condition and more. Basically, GIS allows a utility company to monitor their networks and undertake predictive maintenance before problems arise.
For example, New York City has a pipeline network of more than 6,000 miles for transporting natural gas. The age of the pipes range from around 100 years old to those newly placed. How do you manage the complexity of such a pipeline network? GIS. It is a catalyst to help utility enterprises manage their assets safely, reliably and efficiently. GIS is also used for vehicles, generation and transmission plants.
UMC: How does Infosys differentiate itself from peers in its offerings to utility enterprises?
Dash: We adopt a ‘Zero Distance’ business philosophy, a ground-up approach to ensure that every developer, project manager, analyst and architect is at Zero Distance to the end user, underlying technology and consequently, to business value. Zero Distance is a framework which enables Infosys to focus on problem and solution identification, business value and technological feasibility.
Let me explain Zero Distance at Infosys in the Utility context. When a leading utility company in the US partnered with Infosys for a CIS transformation, our project team identified a novel approach to develop a sustainability program while independently testing a new product release without affecting the ongoing implementation. This program saved millions of dollars and prepared the utility to meet customer needs without disruption.
In another instance, a utility company engaged Infosys to support their metering and billing systems. Our project team delivered significant savings by identifying and automating system synchronization between meter and billing systems.
The Zero Distance framework can enhance the ability of utility enterprises to address customer engagement, reliability, safety and efficiency needs by identifying opportunities to build incremental value.