The evolving role of the utility CIO

Posted on: April 11, 2019 by Mazi Fayazfar

How the c-suite can renew itself to grow with renewable power

My previous post talked about the promise and the challenges of renewable energy for utilities. I’d like to follow that by challenging utility leadership to deliver on the promise.

In meeting with our utility customers, I often discuss how the role of the CIO is evolving closer to that of a chief digital officer (CDO), and how their organizations will benefit if they embrace the role. By this I mean that they embrace every opportunity they have to redefine the future of their organizations and create a digital-first business. One example of this is how a CIO approaches commoditized IT resources.

Computing resources and traditional IT functions are increasingly becoming commoditized and, as a by-product, so is the traditional role of the CIO. In contrast, technology investments are increasingly applied to the front office or the point of customer experience where they are literally helping the business transform to serve new markets and products.

The management of horizontal and commodity IT services is an exercise in strategic supply chain management. With the advent of cloud computing (aka utility computing) a plethora of technology options will drive down costs and increase uptime. They’ll also enable CIOs to use the savings to self-fund new technologies that drive new business initiatives. Embracing these mediums to save money and spend it more wisely in new ways will impact the business materially.

And there’s some irony in the fact that utilities are slow to embrace the commoditization of traditional IT and computing services. It’s a business model that their contemporaries in other markets have mastered over the course of decades. This is the way they create headroom for new technology investment that increases business agility and enables more high-value, service-oriented offerings. For example, renewable energy represents an opportunity for utilities to reinvent themselves, redefine their growth strategies, and create new value for their customers and their shareholders.

Utilities can learn from digital transformation efforts in other industries

There’s a playbook for this digital transformation. Many other sectors, their business models disrupted by new technology, innovation, and latent customer needs; have reimagined their businesses and applied technology and data to drive new growth. We’ve seen it in banking, telecom, retail and investing. I’m seeing more and more utilities charter cross-functional working groups focused on:

  • Developing new revenue streams
  • Bringing new products and services to market
  • Turning the threats posed by customers generating their own power into growth opportunities by leveraging their brand as trusted energy advisors

The rapidly changing energy marketplace requires utilities to change. They must put in place the technology, operational procedures, planning processes, and regulatory and policy reform to assure that the costs and benefits are allocated appropriately across the stakeholder community. Digital transformation of the utility represents the most important and fundamental step of harnessing the value these clean energy resources offer. Let’s begin the journey.

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About Mazi Fayazfar
Chief Technology Officer for the Telecom, Media & Utilities, Atos in North America
Mazi is the Atos North America CTO and Chief Evangelist supporting the Telco, Media and Utilities markets (TMU). He is a seasoned IT executive with hands-on experience in all aspects of Information Technology including Application Development, eCommerce and Digital Transformation, Cyber Security, IT Strategy and Enterprise Architecture. His charter and mission is to partner with senior global executives and technologist as a trusted advisor on the best use of technology to support TMU accounts and Atos NAO. Mazi has created architectural and technology roadmaps that have resulted in stronger business strategy enablement via technologies and thus driven significant business value.

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