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Maximizing ROI with data collection software for utility companies

By Linda Schwefel
January 9, 2024

Utility companies may hesitate to embrace a SaaS (Software as a Service) field data collection software and management solution due to the substantial investments in their current methods, from pen-and-paper to complex in-house digital platforms. These entrenched systems represent significant sunk costs in time, money, and training – investments that may be painful to put aside in favor of a SaaS solution, despite the benefits.

From familiar routines to technology resistance

Utility companies have grown accustomed to their processes, regardless of where they fall on the digital spectrum. Long-standing procedures, such as the manual method of using clipboards, forms, and pens, have a certain comfort level due to familiarity. Transitioning to laptop and spreadsheet systems offers a leap in documentation efficiency, only to be slightly dulled by versioning issues and data integrity problems that these intermediary solutions often incur.

Even more advanced are those utilities that have developed custom in-house solutions. These digital platforms may feel like the culmination of operational refinement, specifically designed to cater to the company’s unique workflow. Such personal investment in existing systems and the fear of data migration efforts can anchor organizations to their digital status quo.

Addressing hesitancy

The primary concern that stymies the adoption of new technologies like digital data collection software is the perceived disruption it could introduce to established workflows and the uncertainty regarding the actual return on a new investment. This is where tools like the Fulcrum ROI calculator play a crucial part in bridging the gap between reluctance and technological advancement.

Working with a Fulcrum success team member, utility companies and contractors can simulate how Fulcrum would directly affect their business, providing a sober, calculated forecast of ROI after implementing the SaaS platform. The calculator not only factors in direct financial savings but also the added value of data precision, workforce optimization, and the agility to adapt processes efficiently as business needs evolve.

Use case: utility pole inspections

So, let’s dive into a sample use case of the ROI calculator: wooden utility pole inspections.

Some quick background stats:

  • The US Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Services offers general guidelines for timing pole inspections from eight to twelve years.
  • Certain regions require more frequent inspections. In California, for instance, the Public Utilities Commission mandates inspections to occur at least once every two years.
  • Utilities also conduct audits of pole attachments made by telecommunications or cable providers, typically every five years.
  • Electrical utilities are additionally tasked with emergency pole inspections due to power outages, weather damage, car-pole accidents, and other untoward incidents.

The hypothetical

Now that we’ve got a very common use case, let’s break down a hypothetical scenario. We’ll estimate each inspector has 1,200 minutes – or about 20 hours – of actual inspection time per week. The rest of their time is spent traveling to inspection locations, performing administrative tasks, and doing other work. (Travel and other requirements vary by location and organization, so feel free to adjust these numbers to suit.)

Inspection time

Using the pen-and-paper method, it might average about 30 minutes to do each inspection; we’ll say about the same for spreadsheets. This means each inspector is getting through about 40 inspections a week.

Using an in-house platform gives you a productivity upgrade. Now we’re looking at maybe 20 minutes to do each inspection, getting each field team member up to about 60 inspections per week.

With Fulcrum, we should be able to shave the time down to 15 minutes tops. This time savings puts each worker at 80 inspections a week, for a 33% productivity boost from the in-house method. This increase allows you to do the same amount of work with 25 percent fewer workers (see sample ROI calculation below).

Fulcrum ROI calculator - Maximizing-ROI-with-Data-Collection-Software-for-Utility-Companies
Hypothetical Fulcrum data collection software ROI calculation

Data management time

Of course, the inspection is only the first part of the story. Once the data is collected, it requires management. Tasks include transcribing the data, transferring it from a spreadsheet to another platform, or moving it between platforms for in-house options. Each of these options demands additional hours and personnel. The extent of these requirements depends on the amount of work necessary to format the data for use.

Fulcrum data collection software wins out over every solution here. Once the data is entered through the app, it’s synced and ready to go without further meddling. Even better, Fulcrum’s industry-best integration capabilities mean that outputting that data into whatever platform needs it is a breeze, taking essentially no time at all.

Reporting time

Once again, the three options outlined require someone to take the data collected and use it to manually create reports. Fulcrum reduces the time for this task to nearly zero. A simple click or two in the Fulcrum app and you’ve got professional reports for just about any requirement.

Software costs

We admit it – Fulcrum isn’t free. And if you’re adding a good number of licenses, it can add up to a not-small dollar figure per month.

If all you’re doing is comparing the cost of zero for paper and clipboard and almost zero for a copy of Excel on a laptop to the cost of Fulcrum, Fulcrum’s going to cost more, no doubt about it.

But only for the software costs.

Going back to the inspection costs when compared to paper/spreadsheets, Fulcrum data collection software lets you perform double the number of inspections weekly. If you’re a utility, this lets you keep inspection personnel expenses in check. And if you’re a utility contractor, this lets you do more work, and bill more projects, with the folks you already have on the payroll.

When comparing Fulcrum to the in-house solution, all the productivity gains achieved for inspection times are blown out of the water. Costs add up quickly when you’re looking to IT to create and maintain a proprietary software program, perform integrations, and create reports. Heck, they’re even responsible for creating and editing the forms people in the field are using to do their work.

The Fulcrum difference

Now that we’ve explored a hypothetical scenario, you can appreciate how this ROI calculator helps utility companies make informed decisions.

The Fulcrum ROI calculator empowers utility companies and contractors to make data-driven decisions by providing a clear, quantifiable understanding of the savings and efficiencies gained from switching to its SaaS platform. It tackles the hesitance head-on by laying out the prospect of not just maintaining operational continuity, but dramatically enhancing it.

For the organization clinging to manual processes, it illustrates a leap in productivity and data integrity. For companies transitioning from spreadsheets, it shows a new horizon of collaboration and process automation. And to the enterprise burdened by its custom, insular digital system, it presents the liberation from heavy IT dependencies and inflexibility.

Let us crunch the numbers

If you represent a utility company or contractor considering such a pivotal upgrade, Fulcrum’s ROI calculator is available to help quantify the benefits specific to your organization. Our customer success team is on hand to guide qualified companies through the assessment process. Contact us today, and let’s embark on your journey towards operational excellence – with real data as your compass.