Protecting People, Communities and Business
Safety has always been a core value for the utilities industry. Now in the face of a global pandemic, ensuring that critical lifeline services are not interrupted has created an unprecedented challenge. The near-term decisions utility leaders make today to protect their employees, communities and business from COVID-19, will undoubtedly impact future operations. In order to ensure enterprise resiliency now and in the long term, priority must be placed on ensuring the safety of people and going the extra mile to serve customers while anticipating and minimizing financial impact.
Adapting to an evolving environment today: Leaders are already managing large reductions in productivity as most employees grapple with the safety, care, and education of family and loved ones. As public health officials warn of a multi-month fight against the virus, these challenges will only be amplified and exacerbated without adequate foresight and planning. While each utility will have different needs and requirements for workplace and people management, customer service, and business continuity, we recommend the following approach in the short term.
Organize your response: Utilities around the globe understand that a rapid and well-coordinated response is required to proactively manage and adapt to an evolving environment. Critical success factors include:
- Unifying the response team
- Establishing clear priorities
- Communicating with consistency
It is important that everyone from the C-suite to field crews understands their roles and responsibilities. Executives should be focused on strategic guidance, broad priorities, and mitigating legal or policy issues. A single cross-functional response organization should be established with one incident commander. This helps to align response objectives and coordinate the resources to support field crews, call centers, and control room operators charged with executing tactical operations.
Create a future planning team: The uncertainty and complexity of a pandemic makes responding more complicated than a typical natural disaster. As a result, utilities should model different scenarios focused on the impact that the current and potentially worsening operating conditions will have on the business over the next 12-24 months. The gaps identified in the scenarios will help to inform key considerations when developing short and long-term strategies.
Identify opportunities to partner with stakeholders: At a time when governments are increasingly limiting movement of people in an attempt to slow down the spread of COVID-19, utilities can expect a shift in the demand for electricity. Residential consumption and demands on water infrastructure will increase as families are at home for longer periods of time. State and local legislators will champion response priorities in the different communities they serve. Regulators may introduce newly developed mandates that don’t support the typical business model. As a result, there is an opportunity for utilities to actively partner with varying stakeholder groups to understand their needs and properly set expectations accordingly.
First published March 26, 2020