Survey: For utilities to go digital, utility suppliers must be digital too

Utility survey reveals data issues hinders customer service and outage response 

A new survey of 200 utility providers found that 65 percent lack timely, accurate information from their service providers that impacts outage management and customer service. This is attributed to the continued reliance on error-prone manual data collection, reporting, and workflows with less than a quarter (23 percent) reporting their service providers are fully digitized.

In the report, Manual Processes Amid Utility Service Providers released by TrackVia and PA Consulting, sixty-three percent of the utilities said that their service providers use manual processes to collect and share data and reporting, including paper forms and Word and Excel documents.

As a result, 61 percent said they would require service providers to digitize their processes and cite the importance of automation moving forward.

When manual processes are used by service providers, utilities heighten their risks for errors and timeliness because the data must be inputted manually (33 percent). In fact, only 35 percent said the asset/as-built information from their service providers is only sometimes accurate.

Utility providers are looking for ways to increase efficiency – digitizing is a key strategy to accomplish this. More than half (54 percent) of utility providers said they plan to control their costs by requiring service providers to digitize data collection, workflows, and reporting.

“Having immediate access to accurate, reliable data from service providers is critical for utilities,” said Ross Smith, digital utility expert at PA Consulting. “But manual processes inevitably introduce quality issues, thus creating problems for outage and crew management, customer service, as well as finance and accounting. Providing uninterrupted, cost-effective service is a main priority for utilities, and manual processes are inhibiting their ability to do so.”

“As utilities digitize their own processes, they are increasingly looking outward to see what investments their service providers are making,” said Smith.

A shift to digital solutions would dramatically reduce the time it takes for service providers to capture and relay critical data – whether that be internally or to the utility. This helps ensure that all parties can act in minutes instead of hours or even days, and do so based on accurate, up-to-date information. 

Other findings from the report include

  • 44% said it would take service providers days or weeks to respond with information for audits on safety and compliance. 
  • 53% said when data is received manually from service providers, it must be manually inputted into 2-3 systems. 
  • 29% said it requires more than 3 hours per day to input data and reports into their systems when data is received manually from service providers.

Digitalization is a key theme at DISTRIBUTECH every year. The 2020 event takes place January 28-30, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. Mark your calendars!
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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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