Among the many immediately noticeable features of the landscape at European Utility Week is the presence of a growing number of telco application providers of which, though DigitalRoute technology is fundamentally industry agnostic, we might be seen as one.
This comes as no surprise. The maxim that “if it works in telco, it’ll work anywhere” is a long held tenet when it comes to considering infrastructure applications besides which, as utilities and other industries transform to become digital/IoT businesses, connectivity is a central issue. Experience matters.
But outside of having a telco provenance and the abilty to adapt a proven technology to a new vertical a more interesting question might be “what can utilities learn from the telco data experience?” Here’s one possible answer.
When it comes to issues of data, we can roughly divide the utilities interest in integration and management technologies into two sets of Use Cases; those that relate to trading and those that relate to distribution. In a very general way, we might draw a parallell with teco Use Cases, dividing the latter into BSS Mediation and OSS Mediation.
Trading (and BSS) Use Cases generally have an immediate commercial impact and those who drive or manage them tend to be market-focused and minded. They are in the business of service innovation. Distribution and OSS Mediation Use Cases can also have an immediate financial impact but they tend to be a “slower burn”. They’re the responsibility of those who are network-focussed and who perhaps don’t have commerce at the front of their minds.
In telco, we’ve seen the proof of this pudding over the 17 plus year history of DigitalRoute and it’s why at least some people still think of us, mistakenly, as a billing mediation vendor. Through an accident of history and the reality of the demand curve, billing mediation happens to be the Use Case for which, historically, we’ve most often been deployed. But also in telco, that is changing.
In the first six months of this year two Tier 1 Carrier Groups on two different continents have deployed OSS Mediation. Why? Because they foresee that using data to drive operational Use Cases and thus upgrade customer experience will be incredibly profitable in a variety of ways. Why the realisation of this now? Because network generation change (with the new elements that come with LTE and 5G to the fore) make the value of a horizontal data platform to drive performance indispensible.
Something similar is happening in the energy and utility industry. The change here is from traditional, static grids to smart grids. So while the trading and monetization Use Cases might have the most obvious immediate appeal, there’s reason to doubt that it will take too long (certainly not seventeen years) before the value of distribution (operational) Use Cases is recognized too. The lesson for forward-thinking utilities now is to see a data technology for what it is and to recognise the areas of your business in which it can be impactful quickly, while the opportunity to become a market-leader remains. In that regard, trading and distribution Use Cases should be arguably already be equal partners.
Another reason this is the case is the huge appetite for bringin in innovative technologies that drive new business models (I mentioned Blockchain in my last blog) that going on the evidence at EUW utilities are now demonstrating. Answering questions of data management and integration first is likely to make deployment of Blockchain and other new technologies (and networks) far easier and more successful as they are onboarded. There’s an opportunity here to put the horse and the cart the right way round from the start.