Across society, consumers are increasingly integrating mobile digital technology into their daily lives, from online shopping and operating their home security systems to remotely turning lights on and off and adjusting thermostats. At AEP, we are integrating digital into the way we organize, behave and operate to remain competitive, better serve our customers and create sustainable value. This agile operating model gives us a place to test insights and develop valuable products, services and solutions quickly for customers and become more efficient ourselves.
We envision a future where the power grid is fully digital. From a diverse and decentralized network of distributed energy resources (DERs) equipped with advanced monitoring and controls and a self-healing grid, we empower our customers to understand and manage their energy use from their mobile device. Through these advancements, we are reinventing what it means to be an energy company.
As we continue our digital transformation, we are creating opportunities for employees to stay curious and test new ideas. We are encouraging a collaborative mindset that sparks creativity and innovation – staying true to our heritage of innovation. We developed new work spaces that are more conducive to creating, innovating and developing new ideas. This also gives us the freedom to develop those that show promise with an avenue to fast-track them to market when ready or move on when they don’t. We are also giving employees tools such as mobile apps, augmented and virtual reality environments, and automated controls and sensors that provide real-time data to improve network operations, resilience and safety.
Digital transformation is a massive undertaking, and we have a five-year roadmap to align our actions around a new organizational and governance structure and strategic workforce plan. Our employees must be agile, willing to challenge the status quo to test new ideas and insights and able to accept failure as part of success. In preparation, we are undertaking strategic workforce planning as we create the future of work – what the work will be and which skills are needed to be successful.
What Digital Can Do
Becoming digital will change how we work, as well as alter the processes we use to get the work done. We are using integrated digital solutions throughout the company and using technology to make these solutions effective across our footprint, so our jobs can truly become more efficient and measurable and skills are transferrable.
In 2018, AEP created Charge, a new team who represent all functions across AEP and who will manage transformative innovation projects focused upon delivering incremental value to our customers and employees. Charge works closely with our IT, Innovation, Continuous Improvement and Customer Experience teams. Charge is led by our Chief Digital Officer, a new role formed in 2018.
The Charge team engages the business at large, prioritizes opportunities against an established framework and rapidly creates technologies for immediate consideration and implementation at a proof of concept scale. Upon successful rollout and realization of benefits, Charge partners with IT to scale the solution for broader consumption.
In early 2019, Charge moved into a new development factory space in an up-and-coming technology center in Columbus, Ohio, to foster an environment of innovation, a departure from the traditional corporate workplace. The organization is sub-divided into pods consisting of four to six technologists who work on specific new ideas in rapid succession.
Charge’s goal is to achieve $200 million in savings for AEP over the next five years. The team has already delivered the first big innovation to improve the customer experience – a Claim Submission Portal that went live in early 2019. The new portal allows customers to quickly and easily file claims digitally with AEP online. It eliminates the need for call centers to handle claims, freeing them up to focus more on servicing other customer needs.
In 2019, Charge will continually seek to develop internally generated intellectual property and to build partnerships in the Columbus, Ohio, area to potentially co-author offerings. We are also investigating ways of sharing solutions we develop with others in our industry.