There is no doubt that utilities have begun adopting process automation solutions at an accelerating rate. Much commentary on this trend, however, suggests that “Robotic Process Automation” is the only type being harnessed today, with “Intelligent Process Automation” still mostly theoretical for the utility industry (we explain the difference below).
However, based on HEXstream’s experience working with some of the largest utilities in North America, this simple dichotomy is inaccurate. Utilities are already applying intelligent process automation today and doing so across a variety of core operational use cases. In this blog, we explore some of the most important. While IPA solutions will require more extensive investment and organizational change than RPA, “the future is now,” when it comes to intelligent process automation for utilities.
Process automation can refer to any technology used to automate a business process. The advent of more accessible, economical, and flexible AI/ML solutions has driven the rapid maturation of process automation across a wide variety of workflows that have been dominated by human labor in the past. Process automation solutions are commonly divided into two high-level categories:
We provide a more in-depth summary of process automation and its impact in our blog here. Both methods can help utilities improve the customer experience, streamline operations, gain a competitive edge, and ultimately focus human professionals on the workflows where they can provide the most value compared to automated systems. In customer service, for example, automated systems can easily handle routine requests like changes in billing information, balance checks, address changes, etc., freeing up human customer support staff to focus on more complex cases.
While there is little doubt that both approaches will be critical to the future of utility operations, RPA is often presented as the more realistic, proven, and commonplace solution at present. Many utility professionals have the perception that while IPA solutions may have potential value, RPA solutions are the only low-hanging fruit at this time. This conventional wisdom is aging fast, however. Today, utilities should recognize that the adoption of IPA solutions has already begun.
While not every experiment will be successful, intelligent automation is already being deployed across a broad set of use cases including:
IPA is not the final frontier for utility automation. RPA/IPA solutions seek to automate existing, discrete workflows throughout the organization. As a utility’s automation strategy reaches maturity, its focus may broaden to leveraging automation to completely transform day-to-operations. For a deeper look at the strategic possibilities of true operational automation, please see our blog here. Greater adoption of any tier of automation will depend on the foundation of data infrastructure needed to reliably provide timely data to automated systems. Data pipelines must be integrated with a broad variety of different business units, source systems, and customer communication channels.
HEXstream has the proven ability to deliver automation solutions that are founded on enterprise-quality data infrastructure. We take pride in not only offering deep technical expertise but extensive ground-level experience working in the utility industry. If you are interested in learning more about using process automation to unlock new efficiencies at your utility, please connect with our team.