Many of the world's most successful leaders give importance to their sixth sense or intuition. Today there is a whole new breed of intelligent intuition cropping up. Situational intelligence - a military term - refers to comprehensive awareness of the situation on the ground which, coupled with intelligence, is used to increase effectiveness and reduce the number of armed forces required in combat.
Another word for this is 'business intelligence' - the ability to rapidly evaluate history and present circumstances even as they are changing with a focus on analyzing data that is relevant to a particular decision across space and time. This collaborative intelligence coupled with a good situational intelligence technology solution is making its mark on the water utilities industry.
In times of economic hardship, water utilities will have limited ability to increase prices. In addition, with the advent of metering, they will face pressure on water revenues. Concerns around climate change and a growing population are likely to put more pressure on improving infrastructure. Water utilities will therefore have to strive to do more with existing resources in order to improve performance. Effective collaboration across different departments coupled with tools for situational intelligence can help a water utility get more out of the existing IT investments and improve performance in customer services, operational efficiency and environmental impact.
An ability to predict, what resources will be impacted, what assets needs to be used, etc. can give water utilities much needed relief leading to better overall performance. That is the beauty of situational analysis - it not only gathers data from various sources- the collaborative model can also help users understand and analyze the data and therefore act as a guide to effectiveness. Power Grid International says: "data is plentiful; it is the right accessibility to it that is an issue". For water utilities, with meters churning out trillions of bytes of data which could be related to anything from pipe lines bursts at various locations to customer billing issues, prioritizing and decision making for relevant action is the key issue. Moving towards a culture of anticipating problems can help reduce the need for emergency work and hence the amount of contracted and hired services consumed. Similarly knowledge of events and their change over time can help staff do more effective planning and proactively manage customer experience during major incidents and outages.
A few examples are:
- Information integration - The core element of situational intelligence solution is the integration of information across silos. The largest water utility in UK has leveraged this to ensure proactive management of potential major events related to low water pressure, supply interruptions and sewer blocks especially for the areas around recent Olympics locations.
- Intelligent metering - A water utility in the southern part of UK was able to detect more than 8500 potential leaks in the first year of implementation through proactive detection.
Overall, a good situational intelligence solution can help utility staff across departmental silos collaborate, visualize and analyze – enabling better decision making and ultimately better performance. We discuss these in detail in a paper authored by me and Rohit Kastur.