How does one go about finding help in implementing data analytics? Our analytics guru offers four metrics and dispenses a little free advice. You may be surprised.
Conference season will return this fall with our upcoming Utility Analytics Forum in September,  a great opportunity to talk and learn about what's happening in the analytics space.
Through all the good old-fashioned handshaking and roller-bag lugging of the conference season just past, we're seeing some pretty high-tech analytics challenges arising. Let's take a look at a couple of technology challenges facing utilities as they move forward with analytics.
Who should we turn to for the analytics "stuff"?
Analytics are the hardware, software, professional services, business processes and people that transform data into actionable insights. At the Institute, we harp about the importance of people and business process change in analytics because these areas are often overlooked. However, the analytics stuff—also known as hardware and software—is certainly important. Going a step further, perhaps more important in a rapidly evolving marketplace, is not just the technology, but who provides that technology. For example, will your technology provider be around in a year? Will the company's solution for a pain point you're experiencing right now serve your company's needs well into the future?
During my recent conference presentations, several utilities have asked me who are the top five analytics vendors—particularly for analytics middleware. Utilities said they were getting inundated with vendor pitches, and needed help figuring out which vendors were the best. This inundation isn't surprising. In our most recent research report around customer analytics, we had over 60 solution and service providers who said they served the space in one form or another. Narrowing those sorts of numbers down to the top five is tricky because each utility has unique needs. We'll be exploring this area more in the coming months, but here are a few quick things to keep in mind as you evaluate analytics vendors:
Please, give us a meter asset management system!
While inundated with vendors for some analytics, utilities are sending up flares and waiting for help to arrive for other analytics areas. At one conference, two utilities—within five minutes of one another—asked me about analytics and asset management solutions available for smart meters. As smart meters roll out, utilities now have to maintain them. The trick is that the complexity of these meters is much greater than traditional electromechanical meters. There are communications cards and all sorts of newfangled devices in them, and the meters need to be tested and certified each time they come in for service. So how do utilities keep track of all of that? These utilities couldn't find a good answer.
These utilities also realized that if they tracked meter problems and the locations of those meters, then they could analyze that information to identify trends in meter problems. Again, how to do this eluded them. We'll be exploring this topic more at the Institute, but a few things to keep in mind for now:
Technology always has its challenges, and analytics is no exception, but that's what makes it interesting. Well, time to hit the road again. As always, thanks for reading.
This article first appeared in the May/June issue of Intelligent Utility magazine.