The myth of the global offer

The evolution of energy systems, that I have been describing for several months in this blog, becomes more and more cross-functional and requires links between previously independent elements, eg between the electricity distribution network, heat and cooling systems and gas storage facilities.

The links between energy systems and services for users and operators of these systems develop, too.

The Smart Cities do not have a single energy orientation; they address other areas: mobility, health, employment, culture, governance etc …, never totally independent of energy. It is therefore necessary to consider the interactions between these areas.

How to meet these transverse needs, how to participate in this emerging movement, how to manage all of these links when a vendor is specialized on some businesses, some skills and expertise?

Three major positions of products and solutions suppliers, seem to coexist in the market today:

– Participation in consortia: this positioning is to join, in each case, a team dedicated to a particularly promising project: obviously, it is rather a position to wait and observe. An analogy with team sports would call a consortium, a team or selection of a day, gathering good players not accustomed to playing together. The result is rarely exceptional.

– Participation in an eco-system of actors: this positioning is to create the conditions for repeated team performance: common rules and standards, research and organization of complementarities, predefined schema value sharing. Several providers meet around a common solutions architecture to increase the value of their offer. Each work on its scope of activity.

– Development of an offer the more comprehensive as possible: some providers are choosing to expand their offers as much as possible, so as to claim the leadership of Smart Cities initiatives, and to cover the broadest spectrum of solutions as possible.

For cities and, to a lesser extent, energy companies, the first positioning enables satisfactory support for projects built on a short or medium term logic; the individual value of each company, that is a consortium member, does not condition the value of the consortium itself; yet, one or two renowned members may give a high awareness to the group. To take the sports analogy once again, two star players do not shape the performance of a one-day team but they are nevertheless able to fill a stadium. In this case, you need an excellent project manager to value all team members’ offers and effectively coordinate all inputs.

The value of the second position is less readable for cities. It is built over time, not results obvious in the short term and do not always meet the needs and expectations of political agendas. This position still offers a promise of interest and allows to consider an indispensable capitalization of expertise.

The third positioning can reassure: it reduces the number of parties in front of the city and seems to simplify the management of the future project. The global provider presenting or imposing itself as the city advisor and natural coordinator of the project, the decisions on governance seem easier.

The issues that must meet these global players within their own organization are hidden behind this attractive appearance: expanding in no time their field of expertise, which requires an efficient integration of their acquisitions, control various decision-making processes to manage simultaneously traditional activities and innovative and emerging activities, manage successful products and services, provide a sustainable neutral and competent support to cities etc …

In front of these challenges, the fact that none of the contenders for an offer of this type has yet triumphed over these issues, that, on the contrary, they seem to gradually become entangled in a complexity that overtakes them, I wonder if this quest of globalizing the offer is not a myth.

Will political deciders, who have so much need of symbols and short-term wins, to successfully overcome their elections, avoid too brilliant proposals from global suppliers and detect, among the various offers, those who may serve their ambitions over time.

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