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BLOG: A THIRST FOR DATA

In the interest of getting a better deal in any transaction, it’s generally accepted that the most successful shopper is the one with knowledge on their side. After all, you wouldn’t buy a new car without knowing the mileage you could expect per gallon. So why would you pay your water bill without knowing exactly how much you’re using? It’s an age-old principal that over the last decade, as interest in big data has become more commonplace, has seen facilities and utility managers begin to get a grip on their exact water usage and manage it more effectively. Not least, as the average industrial water bill has increased by 40 per cent over the last 20 years. For those that are responsible for buying water on behalf of commercial enterprises, understanding the ways in which big data can impact on procurement practices is an important step. A recent report by Accenture highlighted that around $9.6billion (USD) of water is leaked globally each year. On top of this, while water companies are often locked into their geographical market, in other cases the regulations vary depending on location within the British Isles. As such they’re often not able to charge competitive prices for enterprises such as food and beverage retailers whose water demands are much higher than others. Interestingly, a recent report by WRI suggested that more than half of the profits of the world’s biggest companies would be at risk if water was priced to reflect its value. Couple that with an expected 40 per cent expected rise in water usage by 2020 and you can see why the water industry is getting more interested in market data and how it can use it to better effect. So if the sleeping giants are starting to wake up to the realities of big data then what does it mean for the humble facilities manager trying to improve their bottom-line? Is the squeeze about to get tighter? The answer, which may come as a surprise, is no. To understand that conclusion, we need look no further than the energy industry. Despite sharing the slow-moving characteristics of any utilities industry, the more commercially attuned energy sector is already using transformational software to improve the way it works with the energy broker. npower, among others in the ‘Big Six’ energy providers, is currently achieving record sales and has reduced its cost to serve based on an improved client engagement experience thanks to its adoption of new technology. As a result, end users are experiencing a much simpler and more transparent customer journey with less room for inaccurate overcharging. Generally speaking, where the energy providers lead, water providers are likely to follow, so we can expect more and more to be adopting this trend in the near future. Water providers will become smarter in how they interact with the utility brokers and their end user, which should lead to a more transparent process where both parties better understand how the other works. The long-standing relationship between consumer and utilities provider has been one of distrust, often accompanied by unexpected bills and estimate adjustments. But, as providers become easier to deal with and consumers better understand their usage, the playing field should become a much more collaborative place.