We talk a lot, in this industry, about topics and concepts: blockchain, IoT, the shift to the cloud, grid modernization and growing customer demands. And these are all worthy themes to dissect and plan strategy around, for sure. But, there are people behind making blockchain a reality, connecting each bit of technology to smarter devices, smoothing the data flow to that cloud, fixing those interop problems with new grid hardware and thinking ahead to what customers will want tomorrow.
It’s time we talked about some of those people pushing those topics and concepts, making them a reality for utilities around the globe from here inside Oracle. And so, the 3Qs blog series was born.
For this summer’s 3Qs conversation, we sit down with Matt Gleeson, our vice president of alliances and channels based in Australia and ask him—as the name of this series hints at—three big questions.
Us: How did you get involved in utility business, and what makes (and keeps) you passionate about it?
Matt: Initially what brought me in to the utility business is actually what has kept me here all this time as well—the transformational projects that are happening on a regular basis in these corporations.
I had developed a real passion for project management while working on some major trading data publishing and archiving projects in the stock market space, as well as supporting 24/7 mission-critical solutions that had catastrophic financial ramifications if they were unavailable during trading windows. Seeing, within utilities, a similar challenge of massive data volumes (which have expanded ad infinitum in the past eight years with smart meters) and critical solutions that underpin the lifeblood of the corporation and the customers it serves attracted me then—as it still does now.
I also have a tremendous passion for helping foster the growth of both individuals and organizations as they seize the opportunity to approach transformations to their business model and their personal and organizational roles in a greater context. I get excited being a part of helping organizations take the substantive steps forward to improve the way they serve their customers, or remodel the way they think about managing their grid infrastructure, or even to form new corporate context in the light of regulatory change and/or pressure.
But, if I am honest, what I love the most is seeing the people that make up those organizations (either within or around them) challenge their own neural programming and come up with new inventiveness and adaptations that give them and their organization a valuable sense of worth and distinction.
Us: What's the top problem for utilities you work with today, and how do you advise they solve that problem?
Matt: I think the challenge today is similar in many ways to what we’ve observed in utilities for a long period: the ability to adapt and innovate is hampered by a number of factors.
The first is an unwillingness to make a shift change in business procedures at a granular level (I call it their internal ALRM – Automated Legacy Retention Mechanism).
The second is the creation of a system of structures that limit the flexibility to pivot rapidly to new market opportunities (again this is both technological and heuristic).
The third is a reflex to stifle innovation instincts within their own employees, leading to low talent retention rates for all generations post Gen X.
I’d love to say that there is a golden ticket/bullet/process/system that solves all these problems, but there really isn’t a single answer. Instead, I think it becomes a challenge to set a course for the cultural mindset of the business to explore new ways to advance. I’ve seen some great innovation bubbles in utilities get started and produce great results—and then get torn apart when they are brought back in to the mainstream. This is why so many of the new players in the retail utility space can have such a dynamic impact. They start fresh and stay that way.
You’ll notice I didn’t say “change the culture of the business” because many utilities have tried this at least once and then come back to a position one degree wide of their initial starting point. I would say that many of these advances were driven from within and, as such, were always going to meet the three challenges I noted above and the results would be somewhat predictable as a result. Sometimes it is the fresh-eyed outsider who can guide you on how best to pivot, and I have seen some tremendous examples of this in utilities willing to define a new tomorrow for themselves.
Us: What's your touchstone—the idea that you keep coming back to—and how do you apply it to what you do every day?
Matt: I was fortunate enough in 2014 to study under Robert Quinn who authored the excellent book Deep Change. Robert planted seed in my mind—perhaps Robert is as big a fan of the movie Inception as I am—that I refer to every day, and it relates to what Robert calls the Fundamental State of Leadership. For me, when I was learning of this, I built a mental image of how I want to approach and focus tasks in my life—be they work, family or other—and that image has remained crystal clear to me ever since. It drives my motivations and behaviors every day. I know that if the actions I am planning do not create a greater good, do not allow for new approaches to old problems or allow us to pursue new horizons in a way that is true to my values—then I start over. I know I can achieve greater accomplishments if I move back in to the Fundamental State of Leadership and think it through again.
Editor’s note: Matt admits to having a bit of a “messy workspace at times,” but he’s still letting us share this shot of his desk space and the visual reminder he really does keep on his desk to reference his touchstone daily. (We think he has nothing to worry about with the messy thing. We’ve seen lots worse.)