The annual DistribuTECH conference (Feb. 9-11) in Orlando was the place to be for utilities organizations and the technology companies who are teaming to build a more modern and sustainable 21st century grid for delivering electricity to consumers and businesses. Discussions around other weighty issues such as cybersecurity threats and the looming talent shortage echoed throughout the halls as well. Here are several observations from the conference.
- The rise of the ‘SMAC Stack’. Technology is igniting a digital transformation across the utilities sector and it’s being led by SMAC - social, mobile, analytics and cloud. The SMAC Stack, according to Michael Brander who leads energy and utilities sales for Verizon’s wireless business group is, “becoming an essential technology tool kit for energy and utility organizations that want to drive efficiencies and enhance the customer experience.” The need to innovate is forcing cultural change within a historically conservative industry noted Brander, and SMAC is helping organizations pioneer more reliable and efficient processes while navigating a complex regulatory landscape.
- The ripple effect of the Internet of Things (IoT). In addition to aiding in core imperatives such as grid modernization, the demand for IoT expertise is helping to address the industry’s looming talent shortage created partly by an aging workforce and reputation for slow change. An increase in the use of IoT and predictive analytics is redefining what it means to have a career in the utilities sector. IoT for example is enabling utilities organizations to automate more processes, saving the more sophisticated job functions for a higher skilled labor pool seeking out dynamic career opportunities.
- Where the ‘girls’ aren’t and need to be. A look around DistribuTECH revealed a lack of gender diversity which can be remedied by emphasizing a STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics – approach to education for women and girls, in addition to fostering more inclusive workplaces. According to Janet Schijns, vice president of marketing for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, “Better problem solving and innovation can be sparked when a diverse mix of perspectives and market insights are part of the workplace.”
- The growing importance of social engagement. Leading utilities organizations are successfully leveraging social networking platforms such as Twitter to give their customers more ways to communicate in the event of service issues, in addition to a platform for education. Long perceived as monopolies without a competitive threat, this level of transparency by utilities is helping to build goodwill and more favorable public opinion among their customer base.
Interested in additional insights from DistribuTECH 2016? Join our #FutureMaker Tweet Chat – ‘Powering the future’ - hosted via @VZEnterprise on Tues., February 16 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Eastern. Join the conversation with Janet Schijns (@channelsmart), Michael Brander (@brander8222) and Tamara McCleary (@tamaramccleary) by using the #FutureMaker hashtag.