Benjamin Stanford, Associate Vice President at Hazen and Sawyer
Utility leadership is confronting many challenges in the water/wastewater sector including staff shortages, siloed data within the utility, aging infrastructure, financial pressures, and public pressure for more transparency, among others. At this point the promise of digital technology to solve these problemsoften exceeds tangible proofs of game-changing solutions. With leadership teams awash in vendors and approaches that are often overwhelming, complex, and expensive, many wonder where to start on this journey.
The mistake made by many new innovations teams is to start by combing the world of digital options to try to figure out how they can be used to solve the challenges at a given utility. Rather than trying to find the job for the tool, start with a clear definition of problem statements and use cases for a specific utility or sub-group within the utility that identify priorities and expected outcomes.
When developed collaboratively, problem statements can be brainstormed and prioritized to help leadership understand what key issues need to be solved in a given sector of the enterprise. Once a problem statement is created, developing user stories helps crystalize the vision for how people expect a given technology or set of technologies to perform.
As a simple example, a utility could identify the following problem statement and user story related to enterprise risk management: The problem statement may look something like “We are unable to demonstrate clearly how our efforts to replace aging infrastructure over time impact our risk profile and whether we are focusing on the right order of replacements in the community”. Then, an asset manager may create one of many user stories such as “I would like to be able to input condition assessment scores and criticality scores into a digital system that can show graphically where our highest risk areas are, and then track how risk is changed over time under various capital improvement strategies”.
With problem statements and user stories in place, an evaluation of existing technologies at the utility as well as other commercially available digital technologies can be conducted against their ability to address each of the user stories and problem statements.The use of those statements and stories helps avoid investment in unnecessary bells and whistles while focusing on exactly what the utility desires to achieve with this new technology. This process also provides an easy checklist to look back and ask the question, “did this implementation help address the needs and challenges of our utility?”
"When developed collaboratively, problem statements can be brainstormed and prioritized to help leadership understand what key issues need to be solved in a given sector of the enterprise"
The final aspect of digital transformation is that leadership needs to be able to provide an outcome-focused discussion of what the technology does and how it has improved the utility. This should happen both early in the process and after the implementation. Being able to identify and articulate outcomes associated with the problem statement and user stories will be key to communicating success to board members and stakeholders.
In short, utilizing a defined process for digital transformation can help focus efforts, provide early wins, involve stakeholders and end-users throughout the process, and avoid creating stranded assets from solutions that were too complex, too expensive, or didn’t solve the problem statement that was identified.
Jaša Žižek Fuis, Product Manager, Wastewater Treatment & Andreja Peternelj, Wastewater Treatment Development Manager, Treatment Plant & Tomaž Ružič, Product Manager, DISNet WS - Water systems, Petrol d.d., Ljubljana, Petrol Group
This content is copyright protected
However, if you would like to share the information in this article, you may use the link below: