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Case Study: Electric Utilities Company

Energy and Utilities
Company Type:
Electric Utilities Provider
Company Size:
Job Functions:
C-Level Executives, Business Intelligence
BI Strategy & Roadmap, BI Readiness Assessment, Data Architecture Strategy

Challenge: How to align business intelligence (BI) investment strategy with industry and company business challenges, justify the strategy to regulators, and create a pragmatic roadmap based on business-driven BI priorities and a low-risk technical approach.

Balancing Costs and Service

Our client is a holding company owned by a major metropolitan city.  Like many energy and utility companies, it operates both regulated and unregulated businesses.  The company is charged with distributing electricity to over 675,000 customers via $1.6 billion in distribution assets – comprised of more than:

  • 25,000 primary switches
  • 60,000 distribution transformers
  • 200 terminal stations and municipal substations
  • 13,000 kilometers of overhead wires supported by 159,000 poles
  • 9,000 kilometers of underground wires

The company is the largest municipal electricity distribution company in the country and distributes approximately 18% of the electricity consumed in the region.

Like most regulated utilities, the company has to balance costs and services.  Customers all want reliable power, prompt repairs, and responsive customer service – all at the lowest possible price.  Because of this, the municipal regulators and various interest groups keep a close watch on the company’s operating costs, capital investment levels and plans, reliability, and proposed rates. 

The company was challenged to define the business value and ROI of its proposed $6.75 million, three-year investment program to substantially enhance its BI and business performance management (BPM) capabilities.  More specifically, it needed to align its BI and BPM investment strategy with industry and company business challenges, justify the strategy to regulators, and create a pragmatic roadmap based on business-driven BI priorities and a low-risk technical approach.

Enterprise BI and BPM Strategy and Planning

The company selected DecisionPath as its partner in creating an in aligning data architecture and BI initiatives with a larger corporate strategy, as articulated in our book – The Profit Impact of Business Intelligence.  Using our BI Pathway Method, we partnered with the CIO, Enterprise Architect, and BI Director to conduct in-depth interviews and workshops with key executives, directors, managers, and analysts across the enterprise.  This process identified key BI opportunities in several key areas including:

  • business performance management
  • distribution system reliability
  • service delivery improvement
  • asset management/planning
  • planned maintenance decision support
  • demand work decision support
  • revenue and load forecasting
  • management accounting
  • working capital management

These opportunities formed the basis for a portfolio of BI and BPM projects which we prioritized for development and delivery based on their targeted business impact.  In parallel, we performed a technical readiness (risk) assessment, which drove formulation of an enterprise data architecture and technical strategy to support the BI and BPM strategy.  All of these efforts came together in a documented BI Strategy and Roadmap and a BI Business Case, which included a detailed ROI analysis and other information required to justify the company’s planned BI investments.

 Leveraging BI and BPM to Improve Business Results

The company is poised to leverage BI and BPM to address the key business challenge of balancing costs and customer service.  The BPM portion of its portfolio provides improved management control in Operations, Finance, Customer Service, and Human Resources.  This helps ensure that the company meets its prime responsibilities of: (a) operating on a commercially-prudent basis; and (b) providing a reliable and efficient distribution system with an emphasis on customer satisfaction.  Other portions of the BI and BPM portfolio provide sophisticated tools for managing and improving the various complex aspects of its business, including:

  • executing advanced reliability management strategies
  • enhancing customer service
  • improving asset investment and maintenance plans
  • forecasting the needs for reactive maintenance
  • forecasting the needs for customer connections
  • leveraging activity-based budgets
  • improving overall planning processes
  • planning for workforce retirements
  • managing workforce skills and training
  • leveraging smart-meter information to improve demand management
  • managing inventory levels
  • improving fleet maintenance plans

To support this vision, the company is deploying a unified data environment based on a practical architecture and a sound, pragmatic technical strategy. Overall, BI and BPM enables the company to deliver strategic results by leveraging its electricity distribution assets to the fullest, improving productivity, and avoiding unproductive costs.

Created by Matrix Group International, Inc. ®