Over the past year I’ve spent a lot of time traveling in Europe and meeting with utility executives to discuss the challenges they are facing. It’s probably no surprise, the challenges that these business leaders face vary by country because, when markets are regulated nationally, there are always national contexts to be negotiated.

But it might surprise you that there is one thing that I heard from almost every CEO, CTO, and executive I met: making decisions is getting harder every day.

It’s not that these men and women are not used to making decisions – they are. Utilities in the electricity and gas sectors are some of Europe’s biggest businesses and the executives who lead them are some of the most experienced decision makers you’ll meet. Instead, utility executives are finding it harder to make decisions because the systems that they are managing are incredibly dynamic and increasingly complex. The complexity of the utility sector makes it nearly impossible for a decision maker to comprehend the entire impact of the choices they make. When there are hundreds of millions of euros riding on a major decision and when personal intuition runs up against its natural limit, utility executives are left with little to guide them in making the optimal choice.

This is not a problem that has gone unrecognized and, in recent years, several potential solutions have emerged to help make those critical strategic decisions. Decision management software, decision supports developed in-house or on contract, the ubiquitous consulting groups and their branded takes on world’s best practice, and the many big data offerings that try and extrapolate the future from a deep dive into the past are all competing for the attention of utility executives, all offering the promise of a way through the complexity that these decision makers face.

Yet despite the proliferation of these different tools there’s an increasingly strong case to be made for an alternative approach: not a decision-making tool or a decision-making solution, but a decision making platform.

The executives I have been speaking to are not simply looking for a way to make better decisions today but a way to make the optimal decision today, tomorrow, and in the future. What they are seeking is a platform approach to decision making, one that recognizes the dynamism and complexity of the utility sector. The appeal of such a platform is obvious:

  • The dynamism of the sector means the types of decisions that are made each year are going to change. Changes in regulations, changes in tariffs, changes in the energy mix, and the rise of distributed energy are all going to have a varying effect on the decisions that are made each year and a decision management solution needs to be able to adapt to these changes. For a proprietary tool this dynamism represents a problem in a way that it does not for a true decision making platform.
  • No single supplier, vendor, or technology company has the perfect tool for every circumstance. Choosing one tool over another might represent the perfect solution for a specific use case, but what about when another trend emerges that will require different expertise? A decision-making platform that is open and integrates with existing and future solutions, on the other hand, means less wasted time and more consistent decisions, too.
  • The complexity of the utility sector and its multitude of moving parts makes it hard for any single tool to integrate all the developing pockets of expertise in each department and connect them as a single unit. A decision-making platform, though, offers a utility the opportunity to deploy a company-wide approach to decision management. A utility that moves to a decision-making platform has the flexibility to respond to a dynamic market and the changing decision parameters that define the rapidly evolving utility sector.

It’s almost certain that adopting a platform will deliver benefits for utilities and help them transform their businesses into profitable, sustainable, and market leading enterprises.

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