It's always satisfying to see energy network operators' innovation projects turn - eventually - into 'business as usual'(BAU) and embedded in the everyday operation of the business, says Kelvatek's Jonathan Rodgers.
The payoffs of innovation in terms of sustainable revenue growth, reduced expenditure and enhanced customer experience are clearly appealing to DNOs. Despite this, however, investments in innovation certainly don't come with a guarantee of automatic success.
At Kelvatek, we are supporting UK DNOs as they grapple with the dual challenges of decarbonisation and network digitisation. These imperatives have been the catalyst for some fascinating initiatives that disrupt traditional LV distribution and network management models. However, over the last couple of decades in the energy industry, I've personally had ample opportunity to recognise the tell-tale clues when innovation is either likely to bear valuable fruit - or when it's doomed to be a frustrating and costly drag on precious resources.
Here are three practical tips to ensure your own innovation projects deliver real business benefits, today and tomorrow:
1 Keep both sides talking
When a project doesn't make the successful transition to BAU, it's often signalled by a disconnect between innovation teams and the operational side of the business. Avoiding the dreaded "not invented here" syndrome hinges on getting operations involved as a core part of every project, right from the outset. Their wisdom and real-world experience can be invaluable in focusing their innovation peers on securing commercial returns that may lie five or even ten years in the future. The early involvement of operational staff ensures valuable insights and field experience are built into the design of a solution, which assists with adoption to BAU.
2 Change for the better
Innovation means doing things differently. We've all seen too many instances where projects have fallen short of their original promise because implementing new technology hasn't been mirrored by a corresponding transformation in other business processes and policies. In turn, that requires effective change management that embraces every touch-point, from staff training to internal communications.
3 Make sure everyone's on board
Finally, the importance of buy-in from senior management can't be overstated. While it might seem obvious, any project that isn't championed in the boardroom is doomed to a bumpy ride from innovation to BAU - if it even gets that far. Implementing new innovations can be challenging and disruptive in the short term, but with vision and support they can provide real benefits to performance, customer satisfaction, and ultimately a DNO's bottom line.
If you're a UK network operator mulling over how to make the most effective use of your innovation activities, now is a good time to talk to Kelvatek. As DNOs limber up for the challenges of ED2 and DSO transition, the wealth of experience we have accrued in several successful innovation-to-BAU projects - like our hugely successful BIDOYNG single shot LV auto-recloser which is now deployed by all UK DNOs - can keep all your staff and stakeholders focused on the long-term picture.