5 ways modern B2B infrastructure fuels efficiencies in the energy and utilities sector

By | 3 minute read | April 6, 2021

A significant portion of the population is now working from home. That trend will likely continue, as 83% of companies surveyed expect hybrid workplaces to become the norm. When power outages occur due to extreme hot or cold weather as recently experienced in the U.S., shortages of water, food and heat are inevitable. Even worse, these events are to blame for lost lives and billions of dollars in costs. And now, with more remote staff and few with home generators, an outage can hamper business productivity as never before. In these extreme situations it is imperative that IT infrastructure supporting the exchange of capacity and usage information remain highly available without disruption.

There are many reasons why energy and utility companies may experience downtime. In our work with energy and utility clients worldwide, we see five areas IT leaders and B2B managers are focusing on to build resilience and help mitigate risk of service disruptions.

Let’s explore:

1. Modernization

If you have a legacy or homegrown system or multiple, point solutions that aren’t integrated to enable full interoperability, it’s time to modernize your B2B infrastructure. As employees retire, many B2B managers and IT leaders are having trouble replacing the traditional skill sets and tribal knowledge required to operate these complex systems. Digital B2B networks can simplify and automate connectivity with trading partners and provide additional visibility to help you understand capacity, determine if you can meet demand requests, and better allocate supply. Take a fresh look at today’s modern, flexible solutions and how they can be customized to meet your needs and evolve with you. A comprehensive solution that includes all the capabilities to support your environment is simpler to use and lowers the total cost of ownership.

41% faster partner onboarding and 51% more efficient management of B2B transactions

– Business Value Highlights, IDC report

2. Availability

As part of modernization, consider moving to the cloud for availability and resilience. B2B infrastructure that’s available as a cloud or hybrid solution, provides flexibility to auto-scale.  As demand shifts, you can scale up or down to meet changing transaction volumes and manage costs. With options for EDI and API connectivity, you can work seamlessly with both large and small trading partners and establish secure, repeatable workflows for data movement internally and externally.

“Keep systems operational, essentially 24/7.”

– Eric Doty, Greenworks Tools

3. Compliance

Wholesale and retail energy firms need a way to reliably and securely exchange, track and reconcile transactions between producers, operators, pipelines, services and marketers. B2B solutions need to be optimized for the energy marketplace and support standards, including North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB) compliance, which is a backbone data exchange standard for all energy trading markets in North America. Particularly important during times of disruption, regulatory adherence simplifies and accelerates the ability to source power from other regions that are generating power at a surplus, or supply other regions when you can fill the void.

4. Security

The average cost of a data breach in the energy sector rose 14.1% between 2019- 2020, to an average of $6.39 million—the largest increase and second highest average cost among all sectors surveyed. Modern B2B infrastructure ensures secure and reliable information exchange between key customers and suppliers with tools for user- and role-based access. Using the latest standards and encryption policies protects data of all types, at rest and in motion—customer, financial, order, supply, Internet of Things (IoT), regulatory reporting and more.

5. Innovation

NAESB puts blockchain at the top of its list of significant technologies that will reshape the energy industry. Deemed a “high-value area,” NAESB will remain active in the development of supportive standards and continue involvement as the energy industry continues to adopt applications for the technology. For example, the industry forum is looking at digital smart contracts to improve and automate transactions and accounting cycles for power trading. Prepare for the future with a modern, hosted service that can add capabilities like blockchain, which provides multi-party visibility of a permissioned, immutable shared records that fuel trust across the value chain. Evolve in lock step with the energy trading market for competitive advantage.

In our increasingly connected world, service disruptions shine a light on the need for greater resilience in the energy and utility sector. As you face the certainty of change in marketplaces, technology and industry standards, you need a fast, flexible and secure B2B infrastructure so you can continue to deliver exceptional service anywhere, anytime. Let IBM show you how we can simplify your B2B journey and extend the value of your existing investments while driving innovations that propel you forward.