Over the last 2 years, public utilities have focused significant attention on becoming more competitive. To achieve this competitiveness, utilities are implementing many innovative practices, such as optimization, gainsharing, employee empowerment, and automation. Utility managers have the opportunity to apply private sector tools in the public sector. The key questions are which tools are appropriate and how can these tools be implemented within a different context. This paper describes fundamental private sector tools that enable utilities to become world class utilities. The classic business planning process and structure are used to show how to develop a logical action plan that will provide the highest value. The value chain provides a construct to gain organizational alignment. Results of the planning process will provide out-of-the-box solutions for utilities. Expanding from core competencies, some utilities are taking over management of other utilities. Some are expanding their excellence in customer service to manage customer service in other public services. Input from customers is providing insight to utilities on what their customers truly want and are willing to pay for.
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