We recently attended the annual gathering of utility practitioners at Utility Analytics Week in San Antonio. A common theme discussed was “how do we get started?”, “where do we start?”, and “how do we justify the cost?”. Electric utilities are becoming increasingly digitally-oriented and data intensive with the adoption of AMI meters, deployment of SCADA systems across the grid, and improvements of asset management through data-driven strategies. In this blog, we provide a recommendation of an analytics center of excellence (CoE) to address and solve problems, driving value for your utility.
As a first step, we suggest staffing a small team supported by a business sponsor, data expert/business subject matter expert (SME), and an advanced analytics resource to tackle a couple common business problems occurring right now in the organization. This team can tackle big issues and focus on a few direct initiatives to create immediate value to help justify the investment. In addition, they can work in a R&D/Ad-hoc style environment.
Low-hanging fruit for analytics may be apparent within the organization. If not, conversations with leaders across different departments can uncover ripe opportunities. The CoE team can help solve immediate issues around analysis, validate information, or develop ideas. As necessary, the team can pull data from source systems and then use the business SME to ensure the proper analysis with tools such as Excel, R, or Tableau. The CoE team can deliver quick and simple insights from data analytics, with read-outs with key stakeholders to validate the need and value that the analytics can provide.
As the CoE team matures and becomes more familiar with problems across the organization, they can begin to identify more complex problems that may require additional resources and advisory support. Collecting information across departments, the CoE team can develop opportunity summaries to pitch to an advisory board. With a better understanding of required resources (skills and number of full-time employees), time, and anticipated value delivered, the CoE team can obtain buy-in from leadership and garner additional support. When there are multiple opportunities for larger initiatives, it becomes critical to prioritize and create a roadmap. A roadmap is particularly important when the CoE team’s initiatives depend on or relate to existing initiatives within the organization.
At the end of the day, the CoE team will inevitably come across roadblocks. This may be due to technology, data, or infrastructure. As utilities grapple with growing amounts of data, they are looking to external platforms and resources to develop and execute use cases. However, by building your own CoE team, you will be better prepared to embark on a Big Data journey, strategically utilizing consultants and reducing integration costs.
Analytics is an exciting opportunity to leverage technology to improve and transform utilities. Powered by the right skills, processes, strategy, and tools, an analytics CoE allows your utility to do more with its volumes of data:
Increase grid reliability and resiliency through predictive asset management
Respond effectively to evolving customer and regulatory demands
Create greater value for stakeholders
While each utility has different needs and means, building an analytics CoE can start with a small team. This team can tackle the “what if”, “it would be nice if”, and “what we really need is” problems.