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Feb 07 2020

About Mom’s birthday party—and the role of digital utility operations in its success

A few weeks ago, one of my leading utility customers asked me a question during our monthly review meeting: “What is the public perception of the role of utilities and how do you think digital transformation will positively impact that view ?”

So, I decided to do a little primary research by approaching my best sounding board, who has been knocking sense into me for close to four decades. “Mom, what do you think Utility ABC does for us? What more could it do?”, I asked. I was met with a familiar dry response: “Keep the lights on and don’t make me suffer from power outages. Last year my birthday party turned into a disaster when the lights suddenly went out and the guests were forced to eat in the dark! So embarrassing!”

Maslow 101: Address the basic needs first, and then those higher up the pyramid.

That’s exactly the way leading utilities are approaching digital transformation: use digital to ensure grid availability anytime, anywhere, while creating a massive web of sensors and systems to monitor and drive efficiency gains across power generation, transmission and distribution to create a highly productive, vertically integrated utility business. It’s no secret that mission-critical communication networks are essential to realize the benefits, and progressive utilities are replacing their legacy TDM communications with IP/MPLS and private wireless broadband networks.

But its equally critical to address the network operations evolution requirements as part of the ongoing network transformation. A change in technology impacts the people and processes the operations organization relies on. For example, a change may create the need to retrain team members or update the outage impact analysis process. These needs introduce risk to the optimal operation of a communications network that has been designed to reliably support mission-critical applications such as teleprotection and SCADA.

Utility ABC is transforming digitalization. But does this mean Mom’s birthday party needs to suffer again?

The answer is no. Experienced utility industry vendors such as Nokia offer services like Startup and Quick Launch that can help utilities train their employees and optimize their processes. By following four steps for effective network operations during and after technology transformation, utilities can exploit the full potential of the new network technology and save the day for Mom’s party.

  1. Ensure alignment between network operations and network engineering teams during the transformation process. This mitigates operational risk and optimizes new technology introduction.
  2. Conduct an operational competence maturity assessment and use proven knowledge transfer methods to address capability “gaps” and help the workforce to develop new skills to run the new network. Supplement this with operations subject matter experts until the maturity baseline is achieved.
  3. Develop a knowledge management platform. The double whammy of an aging workforce and changing infrastructure necessitates that all learnings, methods and procedures be captured in a digital platform. In this way, when Joe is faced with a potential outage issue, he can easily find the right solution to the problem. No longer ”average Joe”, is he?
  4. Conduct a detailed assessment of network operations processes and tools at the Network Operations Center (NOC). Benchmark the findings against ITIL, eTOM and industry best practices. This will uncover the status and effectiveness of network operations in the context of new technology deployment and future growth. Trusted operations experts can then help utilities to develop a transformation roadmap to industry-leading operations. 

If all this sounds as daunting as climbing stairs to the top of the Burj Khalifa, utilities can always take the elevator! Nokia’s Managed Services can take care of end-to-end utility network operations, ensuring mission-critical levels of performance and reliability from Day One. Our digital operations approach combines cutting-edge automation, AI, industry domain operations experts and a rich knowledge repository harvested from deploying and managing more than 120 mission-critical networks around the world.

Digital operations in the era of the ”no-compromise” Mom

Managing the multi-layered, multiprotocol, communications-enabled grid technologies as operational silos with multiple workgroups, manual and disjointed processes, spreadsheets and homegrown tools is not an option in the 21st century. A common digital framework will enable the digitalization of workflows and the automation of processes to create a new digital way of working in operations. Nokia Services has developed an innovative digital operations framework to enable the digitalization of processes across utilities’ mission-critical network life cycle to drive efficiency, enhance quality and manage complexity.

Field teams benefit from digitalization by being able to use AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality) tools to quickly resolve problems, supported by remote experts who can use telestratition tools on problem areas. With AI-driven automation and machine learning, operations teams can get to the root cause of an issue faster and can even predict issues before service quality is impacted. Fault and change management processes are driven through AI and automation, resulting in 86 percent performance improvements in log ingestion, anomaly detection and change management. Single-click software upgrades are not the stuff of Utopia. At Nokia, our Managed Services teams have flawlessly upgraded tens of thousands of network equipment in a single maintenance window with zero rollbacks.

As a result, every customer—including Mom—can learn to live without compromises and embarrassing power outages.

What does this mean for Mom’s next birthday party?

A highly skilled utility network operations team empowered by Nokia’s digital operations framework will work like magic elves to assure that this year, the lights won’t go out when Mom blows out the candles on her cake. And with the savings on her electricity bill, she can also get herself that amazing Nokia phone she wants!

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About Jishnu Dasgupta

Jishnu leads Nokia’s Enterprise Services marketing efforts. He’s a lover of life-hacks and any technology that gives him more time with twin passions of music and automobiles. His dream of coasting along the French Riviera in a Ferrari convertible is currently replaced with rush hour crawls in his PeopleWagon.

LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/jishnu-dg

Twitter : @Jishnu_Dasgupta