3 takeaways from Utility Analytics Week

Utility Analytics Week—sponsored by the Utility Analytics Institute—visited San Antonio this fall. The conference gathered utilities and vendors together to unpack the details on analytics and all the ways those lovely numbers are being used—and can be used in the future—in this industry.

I came away from the conference with these major thoughts.


1. Utilities need to invest in analytics as a core capability.  

They can't just pick off use cases one by one anymore, or merely “dip their toes in analytics.” Raiford Smith from Entergy talked about this in his session “Enterprise Analytics Journey—A Truly Enterprise Approach.” But he wasn’t the only one to mention it during the conference.

In reality, utilities aren’t alone here—nor are they forging new ground. The Harvard Business Review has been surveying Fortune 1000 companies since 2012, and almost half of the companies now say their businesses are “achieving measurable results from their big data investments.”  They are decreasing expenses, finding new pathways for innovation and launching new products and services. Utilities just need to get on that bandwagon. (And the prevalence of this discussion during the show assured me they definitely are.)


2. Utilities face a lot of analytics uncertainty.

As they think about those investments, they face a lot of ifs and maybes.  Technology is changing. The market is changing. Customers are changing.  So, evaluating the flexibility of your strategy is critical.

I’m struck at how this particular takeaway is supported by work we’ve done with Navigant on the “Utility Innovation Blueprint: How to Manage the Challenge of Dual Transformation,” One utility exec was quoted in the study as saying :  “We’re having to really rethink how [to] work in a much more accelerated manner … We need to be more responsive and more flexible.”  

This uncertainty (and flexibility) is certainly influencing utilities’ technology investments. Rather than planning for a specific outcome or market change, utilities are investing in a core capability around agility and making both their business and technology more adaptable to change.


3. Utilities are really investing in internal data science.

 I met more utility data scientists at this conference than I ever have in my life before.  Beyond that, everyone is focused on enabling the "Citizen Data Scientist" as they realize more of their new grad employees, even those that aren't analysts, come out of school with an inclination to analyze data.  The Exelon Customer Analytics team talked about tools they built to enable these “citizen data scientists,” and I heard this term countless other times from utilities.

We presented too on the new cloud analytics platform we are building that will connect our full utilities suite.  While we have focused on utility data science for a long time, from Opower personalized energy management insights to DataRaker's revenue protection algorithms to Oracle Utilities Analytics insights about network operations and more, a lot has changed since we launched these solutions.  Our new platform will enable more self-serve data exploration and analytics, and it will speed up our ability to launch new analytics across all our products.


Look out for our new analytics roadmap in early 2018, and let us know if you are interested in our December 14 SyncUp in Chicago where you'll have an opportunity to influence our direction—especially the analytics use cases we attack first.



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