As Gavin left our meeting last night he said, with enthusiasm, ‘I didn’t know that BI could be so exciting’. He had attended a lively discussion about Business Intelligence in Utilities Companies led by Alexandra Gillies of Bord Gáis Energy based in Dublin. We had people who had gone partly down the road of BI and others who were just considering it.
Alexandra took us through the current landscape in the Utilities industries where there is lots of data, but less of it being used to inform decision making than perhaps there is in retailing. She then looked at the BI landscape from the researchers and consultants points of view and contrasted the needs of retail and the needs of utilities. There was certainly agreement in the room that experience in retailing BI has very little resemblance to the needs of industry.
We spent some time discussing the Data Warehouse construct looking at the practical issues around pulling information from disparate systems and putting them into a place that they can be made available. We talked about the skills required and the change in business culture, roles and responsibilities this will cause. Alexandra made the point strongly that this is not a project like ERP and CRM, it’s a permanent change because the information needs of the organisation will always be changing and growing to meet changing business requirements. So where do these roles sit in the organisation – with the Chief Information Officer or elsewhere? It certainly has IT involvement, but what about the rest of the business? Do they own it?
Alexandra outlined the journey that Bord Gáis Energy are on, the way they approached it and their current stage. It’s a 5 stage journey and Alexandra believes for utilities, this could be a journey of more than 6 years to reach full Optimized level, particularly with challenges offered by products like Smart Meters. The journey starts with small targeted wins. Bob talked about how his Quants had used weather data across the organisation to benefit several areas of the business as a practical example of the use of BI.
As always much of the power of these meetings is sharing the insights – the lessons learned. Her advice:
- This will be challenging
- Don’t rely on the ‘experts’ – they probably haven’t done it before in your industry
- You must have strong business sponsorship
- This will take time
- Don’t wait till tomorrow – start today – start small, think big – there will be important learning from this
- It will be a journey
We had a great session led by Alexandra Gillies and she made a prediction of the direction of BI and the delivery of BI facilities by the major application vendors. We all hoped fervently that her prediction is fulfilled.
All walked away with things to consider – and that is a sign of time well spent .