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Three reasons to postpone any efforts in grid analytics

Recently our younger son had an appointment with the dentist. They gave him a magician’s wand and told him he could control the chair: an excellent ploy to distract his attention (sorry to the Harry Potter fans I’ve now disillusioned). After the session, my smart son told us that he knew that the magic stick didn’t work and that he assumed the doctor was pressing hidden buttons to move the chair. Sure, as if my son would be that naïve. That’s my boy!

Frequent readers of my blogs will have intelligently anticipated that as always, there must be some link to grid analytics. Here you go:

Mostly when I talk to clients in the utilities industry about analytics on grid data, I find myself in very engaging discussions and sense a lot of interest, and that trend continues to grow. But in some other cases, fortunately a decreasing number, I face some serious FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). That customer pushback will always fall into one or more of three categories:

  1. No value.
  2. No time.
  3. No budget.

@No value: blame me (and my dear colleagues at other vendors). If we didn’t succeed in explaining where and how data analytics can help your business in a tangible way, we really should talk again and this time we need to do better; much better. Because in the meantime, there are references available from several of your industry peers from around the world which prove that grid analytics can really do “magical” things – to come back to the wand again. Nevertheless, your concerns could be because you saw too many major Big Data projects fail. Indeed, millions have been spent on some large platforms which never delivered their anticipated return. Then I would (at least partially) agree and understand your POV. Still, there is hope. Nowadays, no one invests in “big bang projects” with uncertain outcomes (or at least: they shouldn’t). Methods and technologies to explore your data in a quicker and easier way are available. Instead of the “big Big Data project”, digital performers nowadays opt for a step-wise approach in which each small step justifies the next small step. So, what are you waiting for? Give it a try!

@No time: blame your manager. This happens when the boss sits in Business Class and reads about the strategic importance of Big Data in some management magazine. Right as the flight lands, he/she calls you explaining that they want a Big Data strategy to be delivered by tomorrow morning. They offer no information on budget, effort, or scope, but do state they expect no disturbance to daily business, but fantastic outcomes for presentation at next week’s advisory board. I sometimes call this “CXO dreaming”. As I’ve said before, to be successful with analytics, you (and your boss) n-e-e-d  t-o  c-a-r-e. Sounds familiar? Here’s the Link for your CXO about how and why they should care more.

@No budget: blame yourself. Why? Let me make a wild statement to explain: Analytics is unnecessary, and therefore cost is the wrong evaluation criteria. What? Yes, read it again. I really mean it! Many systems are must-have, mission-critical applications to cover various parts of modern grid operations, e.g. SCADA/DMS, MDMS, GIS, WFMS, etc. I would assume you already acquired these systems through painful tender processes, looking for the best content/price ratio. But analytics? Well, you can keep the lights on without it. It’s not a necessity. And therefore, the question should never be what it costs, but what value it brings. No value, no analytics. Period.

So, if one of your CXOs asks you how much analytics will cost, tell them: “Nothing”. While your CFO will love this answer, I’d guess your CTO or CIO might have some additional questions. Fortunately, there’s increasing evidence to demonstrate to them that analytics is about data-based decisions which lead to clear business outcomes, yielding measurable ROI. And, even if you come to a point where you need to make a sizeable investment, you will find that there are partners out there who are willing to share the risk and rewards of analytics projects with you, lowering large upfront investments. So, again: No need to wait. Get started, now.

And, sooner or later, if analytics unfolds its full potential and delivers business value in different areas, maybe, yes maybe, the unnecessary might suddenly become necessary. I’m personally looking forward to that point in time!

If you are still not convinced that you should give analytics a chance and rebuke my efforts to jointly get things rolling, I promise that I will not steal any more of your precious time (over and beyond this blog’s 896 words). But I might talk to your colleagues who are more “open” or curious. And maybe by generating some great results, you will see one of your workmates and me getting a lot of quality time with your senior managers soon. You have been warned.

PS: Coming back to my son, when I asked him the next day how and why he knew about the hidden buttons, he explained to me that he tried out the magic wand 4 times, but it simply didn’t work. After that, he developed some other theories ;-)

Well, sometimes you need to try before you really know…