The water utility landscape is evolving. Utilities are increasingly held accountable for issues related to water scarcity, water quality and flooding. As described in the first blog of our series, West Monroe believes that the Water Utility of the Future will need to develop innovative solutions to continue delivering safe drinking water and meeting growing customer demands; all under the added complexities of climate change and rising populations.
West Monroe has begun investigating the gap between the capabilities of the current utility workforce and the capabilities required to support these future operations. We have identified four key competency areas we believe will be required to support the Utility of the Future: Water Resources Management, Data Management, Infrastructure, and Operations. Each represents an area of transformation driven by the change in industry.
- Water Resource Management: Water Resource Management encompasses the activities related to Water Governance and ownership; from water quality and biological science, to resilience planning and water rights, to stakeholder interactions. We believe the Water Utility of the Future will be collaborative in resilience planning in anticipation of extreme weather events, cooperative in devising strategies to apportioning water rights, and transparent and responsive when interacting with customers, requiring a flexible and collaborative workforce.
- Data Management: The Water Utility of the Future will be more tech-savvy and data driven, with unprecedented amounts of data generated from AMI/AMR applications, remote sensors, and new operating platforms. Water utilities must have resident staff capable of developing a data governance structure, supporting data integration points, and extracting actionable results from data analytics.
- Infrastructure: While the Utility of the Future will continue to support distribution infrastructure and facilities infrastructure, they will have the added role of maintaining telecommunications systems, data networks, and their physical and cyber security. Utilities will need deep technical experts to support these added functions.
- Operations: Utility operations include field operations, general maintenance, customer service, as well as people management. Operations activities will generally be impacted by the availability of new data and access to new systems. Similarly, customer service representatives will have more data at their fingertips to provide information to customers in real-time. Managers will need to lead with a focus on cross-departmental and even cross-utility collaboration.
These competency areas will be critical to supporting operations of the Utility of the Future. In the next blog of our series, we will continue the conversation regarding the changing workforce and share insights on whether significant changes are expected of utility positions. Positions with changing requirements translates to either training existing employees or hiring employees with the required skillsets. Through management assessments, training employees for changing roles, and guidance through current and future state gap analysis, West Monroe is able to contribute knowledge of changing industry trends, technological background, and business perspective to water utilities.