While climate change is putting immense pressure on the global supply of water, digitalisation can improve sustainability – it’s one of the top three benefits of digital transformation. Here, Gentrack selected a panel of global experts to share their views on industry challenges and explore the key to digitising.
Water is a natural resource many of us take for granted, but recently it has been the subject of global concern. While devastating floods are wreaking havoc across Australia, the Northern Hemisphere is battling record breaking water shortages, including the worst European drought for 500 years.
Outside of our industry, we seldom appreciate the millennia of engineering advancements that have led to a system of safe, clean drinking water delivered directly into our homes and the removal of unwanted waste – or the immense pressure that system is under today.
Aside from the overwhelming effects of climate change, the global water industry is battling urbanisation and population growth, regulatory and political pressure, all while contending with aging infrastructure. And it’s not just the physical assets that are aging – 75 per cent of global utility customers are managed on legacy IT systems1. As a transformation powerhouse, we wanted to get to the bottom of this digital delay in the water sector.
While sustainability is a significant positive outcome of digitalisation, it was customer experience that stood out as the top benefit. This is unsurprising considering that many water firms don’t utilise data to inform intelligent customer solutions and propositions.
Given that the benefits of digital transformation are clear, why are many water firms relying on manual processes?
Our panel (83 per cent) claimed that during a transformation, operational and culture change present the biggest challenges, but poor change management capabilities are the biggest blocker to starting a transformation.
This is despite reports from Global Water Intelligence that global digitisation of the sector could lead to savings of approximately USD$176 billion on total expenditure over five years for drinking water treatment, distribution, customer services, metering and billing.
How do we get past these challenges?
If culture is one of the key blockers, then the simple reality is this – it’s time to change the culture and introduce innovative thinkers into the business. Some of our panel even noted that going digital drives recruitment of leading tech talent.
What’s more, our panel agreed that engaging a proven technology partner is key to overcoming poor change management. When 70 per cent of transformation projects fail, it’s understandable that the water sector is resistant to change. But being a digital laggard isn’t the answer. The global challenges facing the water sector will become unmanageable for those relying on manual processes.
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