Utilities are hearing quite a lot about data, the cloud and analytics these days—seemingly from every side and every source in the industry. So, to get you the best insider knowledge—knowledge that might actually help you make better decisions on data, the cloud and analytics—we went to an inside source: The Utility Analytics Institute, a member-based organization that spends all its time talking to utilities and vendors alike in this space about one thing and one thing only—that awesome opportunity that is analytics.
For this first installment of our new series on analytics inside the utilities industry, we posed a few questions to Kim Gaddy, Managing Director at the Institute—questions about the status quo, what’s coming and what advice she’d give from her insider perspective.
Oh yes, and we asked about one our favorite subject’s here at Oracle, too—the cloud.
But first, let’s talk about what she sees right now.
Oracle Utilities: How are analytics initiatives changing the utility world right now?
Gaddy: In the world of utilities, analytics is changing how utilities operate. More utilities are relying on analytics to answer questions of strategic importance and not just of tactical necessity.
Utilities are becoming more proactive enterprises as a direct result of analytics. Predictive models detect faulty equipment that can be repaired or replaced before outages occur, minimizing customer impacts, shifting work from unplanned to planned and reducing operational expenses. On the customer side, utilities are using analytics to deliver a more personalized customer experience.
Every utility business process is being impacted by analytics. They’re exploring the use analytics to enhance asset management, workforce management, storm response, vegetation management, customer marketing, load management, integration of distribution energy resources and more.
Oracle Utilities: What new changes are coming with analytics in the near future?
Gaddy: There is a growing recognition that a strong analytics foundation is essential. In the coming years, more utilities can be expected to implement organizational models to support analytics success, to adopt rigorous data management processes, to invest in enterprise analytics platforms and to develop analytics roadmaps.
The diversity of analytics initiatives will continue to grow. Analytics will be embedded into more business processes, driving decision making and actions and often in an automated fashion. Issue identification and problem resolution will more frequently be automated and accomplished in near real-time. Cognitive solutions, machine learning and artificial intelligence will speed resolution of long-standing problems and emerging challenges.
Oracle Utilities: How important is the cloud in all of this?
Gaddy: An ongoing question is to what degree the slow adoption of cloud-based solutions limits the industry’s analytics progress. It’s is a good question as some analytics solutions are offered solely via the cloud. To date, the industry’s use of cloud-based solutions has been largely restricted to peripheral systems and applications. The reasons for the slow adoption range from information security concerns to the inability to capitalize cloud-based analytics investments to challenges related to quickly moving data to and from the cloud.
In the short run, the impact is generally low as there are plenty of untapped premises-based analytics solutions. Longer term, failure to leverage cloud-based solutions will put the utility industry behind other industries that are taking full advantage.
Oracle Utilities: What advice would you give utilities on planning for the right analytics programs and pushes?
Gaddy: A strong analytics foundation will help ensure that utilities pursue the “right” analytics programs and pushes.
Like everything else, utility analytics is changing fast. Utilities with a solid analytics foundation have moved quickly up the analytics maturity curve while others have made little progress. Those utilities able to harness the data asset will be much better positioned to adapt to the changes underway in this industry. Don’t get left behind. Invest in analytics.
The Utility Analytics Institute (UAI) has 140+ utility and analytics solution provider members, and Oracle Utilities is proud to be in that group. (Editor’s note: UAI started under the Energy Central umbrella but was recently acquired by Informa.)
UAI’s upcoming conference on analytics in the industry, Utility Analytics Week 2017, is in San Antonio, Texas, November 1-3.