There aren't many companies that can boast a 98.6% customer retention rate over a period spanning nearly three and a half decades. But that's the kind of success that Brampton, Ontario-based Survalent has enjoyed since it first started tracking this data in 1983.

Survalent is a developer of advanced distribution management systems (ADMS) – sophisticated software applications for monitoring, controlling, and automating the utility networks that distribute gas, water and electricity to end users. Utility companies use Survalent software to keep the lights on, the water flowing and the gas burning in millions of homes and businesses around the globe. As you might expect, customers in this market take buying decisions very seriously, so it's not surprising that some of Survalent's main competitors figure prominently among the world's largest software and engineering firms.

President and CEO Steve Mueller

No substitution for smart, dedicated people

Despite a tough competitive landscape, Survalent has gradually expanded its customer base to include over 600 companies in 34 countries, with customers as diverse as Tampa Bay Water, the Panama Canal and Alectra. Approximately one fifth of Survalent's business is here in Canada, half is in the United States and the rest is outside of North America.

When asked about the secret of Survalent's success, President and CEO Steve Mueller gives full credit to his team: “When it comes to developing high-quality, competitive products, delivering industry-leading customer service and support, and building productive, long-term relationships with customers, there's no substitution for smart, dedicated people.”

Talent attracted to great quality of life

Survalent logo

Being in Ontario has helped support Survalent's growth, which depends on highly skilled, specialized talent. Not only is Ontario a source for this talent, but those who move to Canada to work for Survalent come to appreciate the quality of life afforded to them and their families.

“We have a tremendous number of very technical people, many of which are either first generation Canadians or have transferred from our offices in Central and South America,” explains Mueller. “Our location in Ontario's largest metropolitan centre is a big selling point for the top professionals we're trying to recruit.”

Opportunities for continued innovation

Energized by Ontario's abundance of IT and emerging-tech talent, supportive environment for R&D and dynamic ecosystems for innovation, the company has found what it needs to thrive in the global marketplace. Competition being what it is, Survalent actually invests more in R&D as a percentage of top line revenues than tech giants Microsoft, Amazon and Google. The rise of renewable energy sources, in particular, is presenting Survalent with new opportunities for innovation.

“Before renewables started coming online in a big way, power generation was more predictable, with most planning taking place at least a day ahead,” recalls Mueller. “But in the case of solar, for example, if a cloud passes overhead, production can instantly drop from 10MW to 2MW. The grid isn't meant to handle that. Survalent is currently working with a partner to develop technology that will solve those challenges.”

Survalent advanced distribution management systems

Using AI to mitigate risk

Mueller goes on to acknowledge that, with Ontario's strengths in artificial intelligence R&D, companies based here have an advantage in developing predictive analytics and AI-enabled solutions that can make power generation more efficient while mitigating risk. With the number of extreme weather events increasing due to climate change, he says, risk management is becoming an even greater concern for Survalent's customers.

To help utilities manage risk more effectively, Survalent is developing an innovative, new software application for predicting the state of an electric grid with increased accuracy. The Distribution State Estimation (DSE) engine will improve the efficacy of self-healing networks and facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources. Supported in part by a grant from Ontario's Smart Grid Fund, the DSE engine is slated for release in 2018, following the completion of a pilot project at Oakville Hydro.

And so Survalent continues to add new products that anticipate the needs of current customers while at the same time demonstrating a forward-thinking mindset to prospective buyers. Suddenly, the company's 98.6% retention rate doesn't seem all that surprising anymore.



August 31, 2017
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