We were thrilled to have Exelon Utilites CEO Calvin G. Butler Jr. join us for our “In Conversation” interview series last week at the #ThirdCloudSummit in Washington D.C. Calvin sat down with Wall Street Journal reporter Rob Barry and, as a utility executive, provided an intriguing perspective on the digital transformation for the utility industry.

When asked about some of the key challenges he is seeing in the utility industry, Calvin emphasized that customers are looking for something very different today and tomorrow – in terms of a user experience – than what they’ve traditionally had in the past with utilities.

“In the future, customers are no longer judging us against other utilities – theýre comparing us with their experiences to other industries – like Uber, Southwest and Dominoes,” Calvin said. “At the end of the day it́s a technology platform, and their thought is ‘Why should I have to give my cable a four hour window and wait around for him when I can track my pizza on a mobile app.”

Calvin stressed the need to get regulators to understand where utilities are trying to go so they can help us get there.

How do you keep data safe?

Rob asked Calvin about how utilities can keep data safe as they move to a more digital platform, to which Butler replied that privacy and protecting the data is paramount. He said that Exelon invests hundreds of millions of dollars across the company to do this.

What are you trying to accomplish 15 years out?

When asked about his 15 year plan for Exelon Utilities, Calvin said that “Operating the grid in a safe, reliable manner is going to be critical for who we are.” This works in tandem with providing the best level of service to its customers, and giving them the best experience possible. “Act as if your customers have a choice today, because they can all go off the grid tomorrow.”

Calvin expressed that Exelon Utilities is very diligent about putting together its long range plans, saying that calculated risks should be limited. “It’s important to acknowledge that we don’t fully understand where the technology is going, so we have a whole team working on that,” Butler said. “We’re always looking at technology, looking at start ups, and engaging in conversations about this. The partnerships we have formed are helping to form us, so recognizing that we dońt have all the answers helps us move forward.”

How are you navigating unpredictability of costs and challenges in transitioning from on-prem to the cloud?

Rob asked about how Exelon Utilities is navigating the costs of transitioning to the cloud, to which Butler replied immediately with, “Costs are key for us, every dollar we invest eventually flows back to our customers bill so we have to be cognizant of that.”

Calvin went on to discuss how Exelon and Exelon Utilities develops strategic partnerships – including one with Oracle Utilities. Their thinking was to partner with them on the front end, not knowing where it would end up, but knowing they’d get some place, and work together to determine what those solutions could feel like, and how they could better serve our customers.

“That partnership is one where you’re not worried about every dollar, it allows you to sit back and think innovative creatively, and say ‘okay if that’s where your end goal is, here’s what we can do’. And you’re not worried about all the inputs and outputs because it’s a partnership. That is how we’re managing those costs, but more importantly, think innovatively because we do not have all the best ideas, so we bring in those technology partners like Oracle to really leverage it and go and do it together.”

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Calvin for joining us at the #ThirdCloudSummit this year and for sharing his point of view and insights as CEO of a utility company. These are critical as the industry continues its digital transformation.

Stay tuned for clips of Calvin’s interview on our YouTube channel.

Please visit our website for more recaps and photos of last week’s Summit.

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