A solid, integrated information management and information security plan is essential to help utility and energy companies overcome competitive obstacles, grow and succeed.
But first, the challenge: Both industries face rising fuel and operating costs. There’s growing demand for energy efficiency and alternative energy sources. And the sector is grappling with new alternatives, competitors and stakeholders. At the same time, rates are set in advance for public utilities and even at private energy companies the market controls their fate so profitability informs every decision.
That’s why the better you manage your information in utilities and energy, the more effectively and efficiently you can take advantage of the investments you’ve made to lower operating costs, speed up response times and minimize down time. That’s because the greater the handle you have on the data that becomes the information behind business decisions, the more likely you are to reach your business goals. In many cases, this involves initiating a data migration effort for better information management and governance.
And if you are going through such a data migration effort, it’s important to manage your content well. Effectively managing content is essential to your success and profitability. You need better ways to connect and enable employees who work in the field.
It all boils down to three core information management principles:
For any data migration, you want to follow these three steps:
You’ll find that far too much data is being kept beyond its useable life. For some utilities, there may be regulatory holds required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Otherwise you should consider seven- or 10-year holds, at the most, and moving this sensitive information to isolated storage or archive once it’s past its operational relevance to the organization (which is typically around two to four years.)
To review and create policies, you will need to understand the following three parameters:
For more on approaches to content migration, read Jim Polka’s recent blog In Content Migration, One Size Doesn’t Fit All.
Many utilities and energy companies are behind the times when it comes to new technology implementations. Policies in these companies often are not up to date and may be archaic. That’s probably because current electric or gas delivery practices have not changed all that much in recent years. It’s important to identify your ROT—redundant, obsolete and trivial information. Many in the sector have been heavily paper based, with a primitive records management approach.
Take the example of electrical transmission data. Who owns that information? Who manages it? Are there gaps in terms of the new business lines? (See Linda Andrew’s recent energy sector post, Content Migration Case Study: “Let’s Get Rid of that ROT.”)
At Doculabs, we help you audit your data and look for gaps. Are both your business and IT teams on board? Who is the data owner? Where do information security, protecting intellectual property (IP), and legal fit in?
To organize your data correctly and align the information to business processes, you need an overall Information Architecture where you answer three questions:
Information Architecture is so critical because it touches every interaction and business process. It’s part of every job.
You need to go a layer below and identify global metadata. Holistically there should be global metadata fields, which allow for one or two additional business line specific fields. Proper metadata helps search as well as helps you organize your information architecture. And that, in turn, can help you automate metadata tagging so that users only have to worry about one or two fields.
Again, take the example of a transmission site. There’s the delivery of electricity. And there’s the tracking of transmission sites, generators and capacitors. A repairperson should be able to search histories on the fly. He or she should be able to get all the records and history of machinery while at a site.
If a transistor blows, the repairperson should have the history and as-builds at their fingertips. They should know what specific piece of equipment should be serviced. This can only happen if the data is stored, tagged and properly maintained. Bad-data-in equals bad-data-out.
To create a new, “greener pasture” for your users to adopt, consider:
See Rich Medina’s blog post, So What Should You Do First? Planning Your Information Management Roadmap.
These approaches are important because both the utility and energy sectors still tend to employ older workers. The change management piece is difficult. “This is always the way it’s been done” is the all-to-common mantra. The sector needs to attract younger workers while retaining the institutional knowledge. Technology is there to help aid that retention.
Modern, structured information architecture makes the job—and the organization—so much more vital. It also helps each utility and energy company face the challenges of the marketplace.
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