Utilities Seek a Lasting Advantage in the Cloud

By Eric Gargiulo

Software-as-a-service solutions have witnessed significant growth over the last five to seven years, as cloud computing providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft have emerged as market mainstays, veterans such as Salesforce continue to capture increasing market share, and traditional on-premise providers such as Oracle and Cisco make strategic acquisitions to bolster their cloud strategy.

The utility sector may have been slower to adopt cloud-based solutions than other sectors, but two recent reports from Navigant Research and IDC Energy Insights show that they’re not far behind. The surveys covered utility executives in both North American investor-owned utility and competitive retailer markets abroad. They centered on utility customer engagement capabilities, specifically what capabilities utility executives feel they need to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving energy landscape, and how confident they are in their ability to perform them.

The resounding response across both markets is an acknowledgement that utilities have to work on customer engagement. Less than 30 percent of respondents said that they are “very confident” in any of the 15 capabilities. What’s more, some utilities are least confident in areas deemed most important, such as cross-channel consistency and customer analytics.

To bridge their customer engagement “capabilities gap,” utility executives are deploying near-term IT investment strategies with a growing focus on advanced solutions that complement their existing customer service tools, most notably the customer information system (CIS). In both surveys, over two-thirds of respondents indicated their largest IT investments in the next three years will include technologies outside of the CIS, with nearly three-quarters of respondents saying they are either using or are interested in making these investments in cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions.

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