How water industry consultants can increase their value to utilities by embracing the cloud

Tim Medearis Tim Medearis December 20, 2023

6 min read

“There is nothing permanent except change.” Though Heraclitus uttered these words in the 6th century BC, it’s easy to forget that change is necessary for growth. We fall into our comfortable, day-to-day routines and temporarily forget this truth. This can be particularly evident in the workplace where everyone is busy. Change can conflict with a company’s smooth sailing.

If your workplace’s chief goal is to deliver or collect water, with thousands if not millions of people depending on you, it can be especially difficult to embrace change. It means potential disruption to your critical business. Yet the quote rings true. In many cases, such as the embracing of cloud technologies, change can be hugely beneficial.

Are you ready to change the status quo?

Let’s start with the current status quo when it comes to hydraulic modeling, master planning, and CIP planning. Often what this entails for utilities is a single contract with an engineering consultant to evaluate their data, conduct workshops, clean and polish their hydraulic models, and deliver a 100-page PDF report back to the utility… until the next contract in 3-5 years.

This kind of deliverable is certainly praiseworthy, and it might even be implemented. That is, until an unexpected problem crops up, at which point the utility might need to completely revise or even abandon the CIP plan. Point is that while this system works in many situations, more and more often the business needs of today demand increased speed, flexibility, and collaboration.

More than ever, being a successful water consultant means staying top-of-mind and being available more than just every 3-5 years. Staying stuck in a 5-year CIP loop can limit the development of a utility and possibly even waste a consultant’s valuable expertise and time, without knowing if their deliverables will have real effectiveness.

It is into this consulting environment that Autodesk’s Info360 Cloud solutions have entered as a new, but potentially game changing solution. We think that cloud-based solutions can bring consultants closer to their clients, offering them more convenience and clarity, and helping clients stick to recommendations by delivering easy-to-access dashboards they can rely on whenever they need them. By taking advantage of direct collaboration in a shared environment, utilities and consultants can reap many benefits together.

Change the way you collaborate and communicate

Master planning, CIP, and risk assessment deliverables all require high communication and data organization to make effective million-dollar recommendations. Now consultants can create deliverables in the cloud, share results quickly and easily by sending a live link during the project process, or by exporting results to ArcGIS Online for further display customization. When the project is complete, it’s even possible to transfer ownership of the entire cloud site to be maintained by your client. We’ve also seen consultants use Info360 Asset to take on the full QA/QC and storage process on behalf of their client utilities.

Add value by making it easier for your utility client to submit and review PACP inspection data – and make fixing simple mistakes much easier.

Change the way you track progress with analytics

Acquiring or requesting SCADA or time series information for hydraulic model calibration can take a lot of time and approvals, depending on the client agency. With Info360 Insight, time series data can be cleaned, sampled, and downloaded for easy and secure consultant access. In addition, flexible custom analytics for getting the most out of this time series data allow consultants to add direct value to their clients’ dashboards and workspaces.

Change the way you report to regulators

There are still many paper-based processes in need of digitalization, and regulatory reporting at the treatment plant level is one of them. After being added as a guest account within their client’s Info360 Plant cloud site, consultants can upload report templates to automate standard regulatory reporting processes. Custom analytics for adding further value to clients’ dashboards are also available in both Info360 Plant and Info360 Insight.

How to Excel at reporting: Consultants can create custom analytics dashboards and add extra value for clients by setting them up with Excel outputs formatted for quick regulatory approval.

The cloud offers benefits like virtually limitless scalability, rapid speed of deployment, and automatic software updates, and these benefits have been realized by most industries and have been well documented ever since cloud computing became popular back in the mid-2000s. While cloud adoption has been rapid in many areas of engineering, hydraulic modeling and management of utility assets has largely been a desktop process.

Why the situation may be changing

There are many reasons that come to mind why this may now be changing. Here are three possibilities that are based on what we’ve seen with our customers:

These are a few factors that seem to be pushing water professionals towards the cloud. We think consultants should grab on tight to these trends and embrace cloud computing as a competitive advantage, helping their clients not just solve problems with technology, but learn how to change their ways of working – under the guidance of a trusted advisor who can be available for regular consulting work, of course. That person could be you.

Change is ready when you are

Autodesk has a track record of bringing the benefits of cloud integration to technical engineering processes. We’ve done this already with the Autodesk Construction CloudFusion 360, and most recently Forma. Our Info360 SaaS-based water solutions (InsightPlantAsset) are yet another example of this kind of industry cloud innovation. 

We asked a cybersecurity expert: Can the cloud help water utilities?

At the same time, we understand that with technology change comes unfamiliar business change. And while the unfamiliar can cause hesitation, the reality is still what Heraclitus stated 2,500 years ago: Change is inevitable. The choice we have is to either face it or run from it.

We’re happy to be your partner in facing change head on. We invite you to schedule a call with us. We’ll show you how the Info360 Cloud environment can enhance your consulting capabilities and deliver more valuable benefits to your clients – and bring them a future full of positive change.

Learn more (and prepare to be changed)

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