Smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and apps have changed our personal lives, and they are poised to do the same in the workplace.
In India for example, more than 350 energy sector professionals have downloaded, and use the GE-designed PowerU app that combines the instant communication benefits of a messaging app, and a Q&A platform – a “Quora for the industry” – offering fast, expert advice on a wide range of relevant topics.
PowerU also enables posting and sharing of latest news, trends, videos, and ideas, in Facebook style, to promote collaboration, crowdsourcing of feedback, industry discussion, and thought leadership.
PowerU is a great fit for a nation like India which has embraced all things digital – a recent social media study revealed 28.4% of the population is connected to the Internet, while 10.3% are active social media users. This penetration provides a strong foundation for digital marketing.
The PowerU app is also likely to be popular in ASEAN – a ‘wired’ region that includes 9% of the world’s internet users, 11% of the world’s social media users, and 11% of the world’s mobile connections. To learn more about PowerU, and the response from users, we spoke with Asha Poulose, CIO for GE Power South Asia & Sanjeev Duggal, GM Marketing, GE Power Services South Asia who played key roles in its development.
Question 1: Sanjeev, how did GE come up for the idea for PowerU?
In 2016, during the GE Power Services India technology seminar, we experimented with a 3rd party conference app called ‘Technovate’. It was very popular even after the event, with many guests continuing to use the app to contact GE teams for inputs on services. Given the response, we realized the potential for using digital marketing to fulfill an unmet industry need for technical information from single source.
Question 2: Sanjeev, who is the target audience for the PowerU app, and what are the key benefits for users?
Everyone working in the steam and gas power generation sectors, including executives working for IPPs (Independent Power Producers) and government owned generation companies are platform users.
PowerU is a mobile platform to help industry professionals discuss, and resolve, their operational issues and benchmark performance, and to identify new ways to reduce costs and improve operations. The goal is to utilize the collective wisdom of key industry stakeholders to improve performance, and viability, of power plants in the region. We support this by having more than 140 GE experts connected to PowerU – they offer information on many industry topics like maintenance advice to help detect potential issues to reduce downtime, and state-of-the-art technologies to retrofit older plants.
We also provide regular industry news updates – and most important of all, access to a wide network of energy sector professionals where they can chat, and exchange knowledge among peers.
Question 3: Asha, how long did it take to develop, and what were the technical challenges faced in building the app?
To advance the idea of the app, our Marketing and Digital teams presented an app concept to Ashok Ganesan, the CEO of GE Power Services South Asia. He liked it a lot, and set-up a team including his Steam, Gas, Communications and Engineering leaders to produce a prototype. Within two weeks, the concept of app was finetuned, and after four more months, PowerU was launched on the Apple and Google app stores. It is built on Predix, GE’s operating platform for industrial internet users, using an Agile Scrum methodology.
PowerU users can connect easily with 140 GE Power experts who can share advice and information across a wide range of industry issues and solutions.
Question 4: Sanjeev, how has the app been received by energy sector professionals? Have you seen any responses or outcomes that have surprised you?
The first round of feedback was received after a soft launch to a select group of power plants in February. We made changes based on their experiences, and PowerU was officially launched in first week of March. Since then, the response has been terrific and we have more than 350 subscribers – around 62 people use it daily, and 71 questions, and topics, have been posted so far. One of the best outcomes is the high level of interaction between plant professionals responding to resolve each other’s issues.
Question 5: Asha, what are the main functions?
One of the most popular ones is Plant Connect, a ‘forum feature’ that allows users to pose questions, or discuss topical industry issues that GE experts, and other plant experts can reply to, and share expertise and experiences.
The ‘Messages’ function meanwhile, connects users with more than 140 GE experts to chat about many topics – there’s even an IVR call feature for emergency situations in which customers can talk to experts instantly.
There is also ‘Feed’ – a ‘Facebook for the Energy Sector’ feature where plant professionals can publish best practices, and successes from their plants, on shared timelines. We also load GE case studies and news updates from the across power sector. Finally, we have Recognition ‘Icons’ to reward active app users and their informative posts.
Question 6: Asha, was this the first app of its kind for the energy sector in India? And what are future-plans for the app?
It is the first one to target energy professionals in India. As a pioneer in this field, we faced challenges especially in ensuring legal and compliance angles were addressed, and building understanding and trust among users. Now that the app is better known, wider adoption is our focus now – we’re also researching why some functions are more popular than others. Rather than major additions, we will fine-tune existing features over the next six months. For example, we recently changed the individual chat feature, to group chat, to enable customers to connect with groups of experts at a time. It allows all GE stakeholders to be ‘in the loop’ on the messages sent to customers.
Question 7: Sanjeev, what has been some of the business outcomes the platform has given so far?
The main purpose for the app is to deepen our connection, and relationships with customers, by providing them with timely, business-relevant, added-value data and information, and easy contact to industry experts. In addition, as a major stakeholder in power sector in India, the PowerU app is a unique way for GE to contribute to the development of the industry.