“Analytics” meets Reality

By | February 1, 2013

WOW – what a difference a year makes!  At DistribuTECH 2012, seemingly everywhere you looked in the convention hall, banners with the word “Analytics” appeared in one form or another – nearly every exhibitor touted their “analytical” capabilities.  Fast-forward to this past week in San Diego and DistribuTECH 2013 and the exhibit hall had a very different look and feel.  Gone were the 20-foot banners that declared “Analytics” everywhere!  So what happened?

While I believe this blog has helped shape the discussion about enabling high-value business insights through data integration and analysis, I also believe that the utility industry has gotten another year smarter about what qualifies as “analytics” and what is simply good reporting capabilities.  What many have learned is that these insights are the result of hard work, not luck.  Understanding the relationship between data in a typical utility isn’t easy and straightforward. 

According to Wikipedia, “Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data” and are commonly applied “…to business data, to describe, predict, and improve business performance.”  Data resides in systems typically designed for a specific purpose and as long as simple questions are asked, they can usually be answered by a system’s single, limited data set but typically result in limited insight and little business value.  In fact, this type of insight is delivered by “reports”.  A report of new customers comes from the customer information system.  A report of delinquent customers comes from the credit and collection system.  A report of the meters that send out multiple event records indicating meter tampering comes from the meter data management system.  Simple enough, right?

So what happens when you want to know whether any new customers provisioned within the last 90 days are already delinquent in paying the bill AND appear to be tampering with their meter?  That’s not found in a standard report!  What is it worth to the utility to deal with these customers sooner rather than later?

The world’s leading utility companies develop and deploy various types of analytics to discover insights that are valuable to their decision making and ultimately affect how they operate their business.  So what happened between 2012 and 2013 at DistribuTECH?  I believe our industry figured out the reality that system “reports” aren’t the same thing as “analytics”.  Reporting provides value, but they aren’t game-changing for a utility.  That takes Analytics.

Now I wonder – how many banner makers are now looking for work?

Bryan Truex

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