From The Editor | July 27, 2022

Overcoming Barriers To Digital Transformation

Mark Wiley Headshot

Mark V. Wiley, Chief Editor


It’s an exciting time. We're finally at a point where we're able to implement technologies far more advanced than what they were just five years ago, let alone decades ago. When looking toward change and adopting new technologies, barriers always seem to appear that slow the process. To make the change from old technologies to new ones these barriers must be overcome.

When approaching the water utility market with digital solutions, it's good to understand the four barriers that your potential customers face in evaluating your solution. Let’s look at four barriers to digital transformation in the water and wastewater industry.

Barrier 1: Lack of Time

Water and wastewater utility personnel are swamped. Coming out of the pandemic, many are finding themselves busier than ever keeping operations up and running. And with the retirement of many operators and senior personnel, it’s only getting worse. Despite your solution promising to optimize operations and create efficiencies, many are struggling to find the time in their schedules today to understand how.

Over the last 5 years, we’ve seen digital technologies for the water industry advance significantly. No longer are these solutions being built for another industry and then pushed into ours. We are seeing software solutions designed, piloted, and deployed specifically to address water and wastewater issues.

The problem is that it takes time to learn. Assessing the potential benefits and pitfalls, understanding how the technology could be implemented aside existing assets, fully understanding the IT and OT implications of a new solution, and measuring it against the alternatives all takes a significant investment of time on the part of your potential customer.

For the vendor, this “lack of time” presents a unique opportunity to position themselves as valued, trusted partners in the process. How can you as a vendor educate and talk casually with, but also teach the benefits of not just your new technology specifically, but advancements in technology relating to water and wastewater overall? 

While lack of time is a big barrier to entry into the digital solutions space, it also presents one of the biggest opportunities for vendors, even smaller ones, to come in as partners, advisors, and teachers and seize the opportunity and help make the conversion possible.

Barrier 2: Lack of Understanding

For the older statesmen in these municipalities who've been there forever, technology can be a scary thing. The decision makers and the municipalities who are hesitant to make that change, need to know there can be a time of overlap. That is, they install a digital transformation and learn it while maintaining their former process. At some point, the new technology will be learned, and seen to be faster and more accurate, and the old can be dropped. This provides a time for a learning curve during a proof-of-concept period.

Barrier 3: Unclear ROI

With any new technology, adoption can be slow due to an unproven or unclear ROI. We always try to educate clients here at Water Online, as it relates specifically to content, is to make sure that they're not ignoring the thought leadership early buyer's journey. That is, writing content that addresses the issues, problems, and topics that your customer wants to know about or learn about. And it needs to be part of your content plan and your marketing plan. But one of the surprising things about this burgeon is that more so than ever because it's so new, and because it's not as well as understood as an operator or a plant manager understanding like a screen, or a filter, is that they just want to know if it works. Writing case studies and articles that address application and cost savings is a must.

Most utilities and municipalities don’t want to be the first to adopt a new technology, in case it fails. They want to know if it’s been successful somewhere else. They want assurance that it is going to work for them, too, so there is a return on investment at some point that makes sense. Be clear on message.

Barrier 4: Bureaucracy

It is amazing how many people are involved in the decision to buy one piece of technology for a given municipality. So many different people that don't have anything to do with one other on a day-to-day basis (because of job function), are suddenly put together to make an important decision. And when it comes to adopting a digital solution, because it's not as well understood as a filter or a screen, it needs to go through so many levels of meetings, discussions, votes, and approvals that bureaucracy becomes a barrier to entry.

While this is becoming less and less of an issue, it is something that vendors need to think through when considering how they can help their clients and be the champion at their potential customers' municipality in helping to navigate that bureaucracy.

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.