From The Editor | September 5, 2022

Digital Solutions Support Cross-Functional Teams and Company ROI

Mark Wiley Headshot

By Mark V Wiley, Chief Editor, Water Online Advantage


Digital transformation in water and wastewater is one of the most important industry innovations of the 21st century. Where the focus used to be on pipes, screens, filters, disinfectants, and things more directly related to treatment, today the focus is on centralization of processes and data. It's changing the way municipalities operate their systems and has become the change catalyst of our time.

This move toward digitization is a boon for vendors and municipalities alike. Vendors in this space are able to drive news sales and upsell support like never before, and utilities will reap cost savings and increased ROI over time. It is now possible to connect all the previously disconnected treatment systems, centralize operations, and streamline processes through adoption of digital solutions and the formation of cross-functional teams.

Cross Functional Teams

Cross-functional teams (also known as “innovation teams”) help drive innovation by promoting a collaborative culture, which in turn improves organizational connection and accountability, reduces installation and troubleshooting cycles, improves conflict resolution, and increases the speed of progress. Most of all, cross-functional teams improve customer service, as the sooner a problem is uncovered, and an issue resolved, the happier the customer.

Accenture asserts that cross-functional collaboration has allowed companies to continue adopting digital solutions during times of sluggish demand and shaky supply chains. Even in so-called normal times, they warn that “a lack of collaboration on complex challenges like digital transformation can cost organizations ROI and future revenue growth.” They found companies that adopted digital solutions with the help of cross-functional teams saw 27% growth between 2017-2019, compared with the average 2.1% growth.

Bluefield Research shared statistics about cross-functional teams at the SWAN 12th Annual Conference. According to their research, 55% of water and wastewater companies now have, or are in the process of forming, cross-functional teams related to digital transformation. These teams are being made up of engineers, plant managers, maintenance supervisors, operators, financiers, and even vendors.

The Innovation Plan

Bluefield also includes another interesting statistic: 90% of the municipalities surveyed discuss innovation at least once a month. In other words, there's a meeting going on monthly in almost all the municipalities, where digital innovation is specifically being talked about. Yet, among that 90% of companies surveyed, only 20% (that’s 1 in 5) have a formal innovation plan in place.

For a municipality to pull these departments together, they need to have an innovation implementation plan. This is not difficult in theory. Yet having the plan consider each department and seek to align itself with municipal goals and regulatory requirements, is another story. It is likely that the utility or municipality may not even have all the necessary people on staff who understand digital solutions to a degree that they could craft a plan.

That’s where you, as a vendor in the water and wastewater digital transformation space, can help lead utilities and municipalities along their journey. This is the perfect opportunity for digital solutions vendors to get in on the ground level with innovative change in both small and large municipalities. They want your products, and they need your expertise, insights, and knowledge — and will for the next 5-to-10 years as they navigate these new technologies.

As a digital solutions vendor you must present yourself not just as an equipment provider, but as a thought leader, an advisor and, perhaps more importantly, as a trusted partner there to help make the transition easier.

There is an old saying that one must be ready to seize on opportunity when it arises. Unfortunately, many vendors are unable to capitalize on this. For some, it is about not having the ability to compete with the giants in the field, to be heard above the noise, and to make meaningful connections with utilities and municipalities.

We Can Help

At Water Online, we help digital solution providers engage the right utility personnel with the right content at the right time to make a meaningful difference. By analyzing reader behavior, we identify patterns of reader activity and connect it to the personas-of-interest you need to influence, helping you create a portfolio of content assets to differentiate your company and brands from the pack.