In a world where technology is playing an increasingly pivotal role in both the delivery of high-quality products and services, and in influencing business strategy, the utilities sector, and indeed, the non-household (NHH) water market are no different.
Across the utilities sector, organisations are increasingly focused on:
- Harnessing the power of the data and deriving benefit from improved analytics and insight
- Optimising operations through digitisation initiatives and wider IT modernisation, driving both service innovation and improvement and reduced operating costs
- Improving their customer experience, providing greater flexibility and leveraging digital and mobile technologies
- Protecting themselves from the increasing cyber security threats
There is also recognition that individual teams within an organisation or even the organisation itself won’t have all the answers. As a result, we are seeing an increasing appetite to collaborate within, and across sectors, to drive improved customer outcomes.
Interestingly, with data in particular, whilst there is a broad acceptance of the need to leverage better insight from data, and indeed to derive value from combining data sets within and across sectors, it is an area that remains relatively immature in the utilities sector, with most organisations in the explore and design stages. The current COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly sharpened focus on data analysis and insight, with organisations working harder than ever to better understand the impact of the pandemic on their business and their customers and to more effectively prioritise their efforts as and when business begins to return to normal.
With much of MOSL's 2020/21 Business Plan being enabled and supported by technology change, it is crucial, as the central market operator, that we have a clear and overarching target architecture for the market systems. With that in mind, we have been working hard to define a concise three year+ horizon architecture, based on moving towards a "market-place" ecosystem.
This is a path that many commercial organisations have already started on and as we start to socialise our intent within the NHH market, it is clear that there is strong alignment with wider technology strategies and roadmaps within the industry.
We operate a market which, currently, has a finite value for trading parties and modest margins. It is essential, therefore, that we leverage technology to maximise the accessible value to better enable a profitable and prosperous market that has the capacity to innovate to deliver better customer outcomes.
Technology has the potential to both improve efficiency (thus reducing indirect costs) and enable innovation. Whilst a number of the most significant challenges facing the market are well-understood, for example, the need for accurate and reliable asset and consumption data, the solutions are often difficult to pin down. This is no different to any other industry or market, so I strongly believe one of the critical roles we play is to create an environment that can cope and respond to this uncertainty – an uncertainty which has been made more profound in the current COVID-19 climate.
Our overarching objective is to make it easier to do business in the NHH market. Whilst we are aiming to tackle this in a number of ways, there are two very tangible opportunities to make this a reality through technology.
The first is by adopting a "single front door" into MOSL for stakeholders to access our services, recognising that there are currently many routes into MOSL. Simplifying this and building towards an integrated user experience will not only improve efficiency, but also reduce any barriers to engaging with us and, in turn, the market.
To enable this simplicity, we will start to move towards a microservice architecture, providing discreet functions and capabilities that can be combined and reused intelligently to better enable the business services we provide. This will allow market participants to integrate their wider technology estates and, potentially create an opportunity for other third parties to integrate new and innovative services, subject to the required code changes in parallel. This will be underpinned by the appropriate access to data and the ability to drive valuable data insight.
It is no secret that customers are becoming more and more engaged in the services they consume. Not only are customers more aware and engaged, many also have the knowledge and the desire to be more in control of the services provided to them. You can see many examples of this through smart home technology and apps. This type of service-enabled architecture we are driving towards, will also create the opportunity to open up self-service functionalities – with the aim of creating incremental value in the market and improving overall customer outcomes.
To do this, it is crucial that we look beyond our own market and our own industry to learn from others and find opportunities to foster cross-industry collaborations that are mutually beneficial.
As we continue to drive a number of technology programmes in 2020/21 and beyond, we will purposely build towards this target architecture. The first significant examples being the delivery of the Bilateral Transactions Programme and the evolution of our Channel Management Strategy.
As CIO of MOSL, I'm very excited to have the reins on much of this work as we look to drive real change in the non-household water market at this pivotal time. In doing so, I am looking forward to working closely with all parties in coming weeks and months as we share and evolve our technology roadmap.