By Travis Kennedy
At ACE 2017 last month in Philadelphia I had the opportunity to join many market leaders on air as part of Water Talk (formerly the world famous Water Online Radio). It was revealing to see how the water utility market has evolved when you compare the topics discussed at ACE 2013 with those discussed at ACE 2017. Four years ago, conversations centered on the virtues of specific product features, in an attempt to differentiate offerings from similar products. This year’s dialog had little to do with tangible products themselves. Instead, it was heavily focused on the concept of “Big Data”. Interviewees not only discussed what Big Data is but more importantly, how it can be interpreted and what it means for water utilities.
One such conversation was with Andrew Chastain-Howley from Black & Veatch. He defined “Big Data” for the water market as the “utilization of information that everyone sees but there’s too much to process in our minds”. He went on to say that from an engineering standpoint “we need to put in practices and develop tools to be able to handle a lot more in this area.” This brings up a number of fascinating points to ponder. First, Big Data has arrived and will be a big (excuse the pun) part of the industry for years to come. Second, Big Data represents a model for all businesses to embrace.
Municipalities and plants all utilize data in certain silos and those silos live in areas such as Lab, Metering, Flow, and many more applications including predicting asset failure. It’s also been said that utilities in particular only leverage 10% of the data they collect. When data equates to money, you can bet that interpretation of data will be at the forefront of every operator and engineer for the next few decades. This represents a huge opportunity for manufacturers.
Now that Big Data is part of the industry vernacular, Chastian-Howley also warns, “You’ve got to get past the sexiness of the term and be willing and able to understand how it can improve your life.” This is exactly how I view brand publishing in the water market. Brand publishing’s mission statement includes presenting your brand as a partner positioned to help your target audience improve their lives. All aspects of brand publishing incorporate not just a helpful mindset but also the collection of and, wait for it, INTERPRETATION of data. Your content serves as the first step in the process but the presentment followed by the data collected and interpreted on the back end are just as important.
This is where we are. Not just in terms of data and industry but also in relation to marketing to the industry itself. Data is all around us and the interpretation of data is not just for your customers but for you as well. Embrace data and embrace your climb to market leadership.
Image credit: "Big_Data_Prob," KamiPhuc, 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/