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Turning your data into a powerful strategic asset: How to climb higher on the data maturity curve

Posted to PowerPlan in the Digital Utility Group
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Suzanne  Ward's picture
SVP, Product Management PowerPlan

Suzanne has more than 20 years of experience in product management and go-to-market strategy within the fintech and data and information industries. In her current role, Suzanne...

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  • Dec 7, 2022
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This item is part of the Data Analytics and Intelligence - November/December 2022 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

The energy industry is at a significant inflection point. Once a more conservative, slower-moving adopter of technology, the sector and its partners are now transitioning core technologies and reporting platforms from on premise to the cloud. Regulatory demands continue to change, the workforce is shifting like never before, and the volume of data that energy companies consume and generate has never been greater.

While the physical assets that energy companies build and operate have always been central to their business and generating revenue, the data about those physical assets is now becoming a strategic asset in its own right. Many data initiatives began as a means to wrangle the data generated by new field technology, such as smart meters, but are now incorporating all areas of the business including back-office functions like accounting, tax and financial planning. In fact, regardless of the size or type of business, virtually every employee or stakeholder of any energy company likely knows of or is taking part in at least one data initiative at this very moment.

These efforts - designed to respond to industry dynamics and advance how businesses gather, extract, join, automate, distribute and govern data and ultimately use it to meet the reporting and analysis needs of the business - come in many recognizable forms:

  • Data consolidation from multiple systems into data warehouses and data lakes
  • Integration of data into other cloud systems
  • Streamlining of manual processes
  • More automated distribution of various reports to key stakeholders 
  • Reduction of numerous reporting and analytics tools from many to few, or even many to one
  • And one can't forget the desire to use the data more strategically to uncover risks and opportunities not yet discovered 

Bridging the gap between ambition and action

Whatever the particular initiative, using data to manage and accelerate business is top of mind for nearly every enterprise. In thinking about placement on a maturity curve, aspiration is very high, and intentions are noble. But if you find yourself in this scenario just described, how do you actually execute and execute well, so that your move up the maturity curve is fast enough to meet business demands and effective enough to ensure your progress is sustainable?  

The truth is that numerous industries, not just energy, are still in their infancy in their journey along the data maturity curve. They know they can and should do more with their data, but they often don’t know the best way to get there. In developing and executing your own enterprise data strategy, you’ve probably encountered some of these very common complexities that make successful execution extremely challenging:

  • Difficulty getting beyond the tactics and beyond a chronic reactionary mode to support an initiative properly
  • Lacking confidence in data interpretation and collection and how to correctly combine data from different sources
  • Limited SMEs in the organization who truly understand niche data sets, and the enormous risk this presents with today’s level of turnover
  • Navigating complex data models that include hard-to-understand fields and labels
  • Data accuracy and governance that becomes all but impossible to manage and audit the moment data is removed from its source
  • Self-built or homespun data extraction methods that are nearly impossible to scale or are brittle, breaking easily in the face of even minor system or data changes    

With so much pressure to overcome all these challenges, and so much potential opportunity locked up in your data, how can you achieve these ambitions and mature your organization’s ability to use data more strategically?

Moving up the curve: Where to start and how to mature

Be strategic about your choices of solutions, especially those that simplify the process of data extraction and transformation. One very concrete way to accelerate your progress is to harness the power of provider-built web service APIs, designed specifically by experts for reporting and analysis. APIs built specifically for this purpose (often in the form of data libraries) simplify complex data models and make your most-needed data more meaningful and easier to work with for any user. These solutions are often built with added value above and beyond the original data source. They may include curated data sets targeted to specialized operational functions, data sets for specific organizational stakeholders, or data views that are otherwise too difficult to extract from the system. APIs also prepare you for integration into third-party systems and cloud environments, helping you evolve your use of cloud-based applications.

Ensure your chosen solution fosters trust in your process and data. Whatever solution you choose must foster trust. Trust in reliability of the solution, trust in accuracy of the data. The business must have full confidence in using the data, and IT must have the confidence to stand behind it. Provider-built APIs deliver all the technology you need for reliable and efficient extraction, while the curated data model delivers accurate and easy-to-use data that end users demand. They’re key to realizing the vision of one, single source of truth both sides can stand behind, and to building confidence and momentum with every data initiative completed.

Be open to how your existing data assets and the solution you select may help your business answer bigger questions, uncover hidden risk and make more informed decisions. This is the linchpin in turning your data into a strategic asset and climbing the maturity curve. Often data is not easily exposed, accessed, extractable or consumable within your platform, yet it’s data that can truly have measurable and even profound impact on your business. Provider-built APIs make it easy for IT to enable the business side to do exactly these things to maximize the value that exists in the accounting data from their fixed assets to conduct the historical analysis, trend detection, forecasting and innovative analysis that lead to real, actionable insight for the most impactful, most strategic functions of the business:

  • Respond to regulatory and audit needs 
  • Directly support rate cases
  • Conduct effective project/work order cost analysis 
  • Get an immediate handle on budget vs. actuals 
  • Make informed asset buy/sell decisions
  • Conduct system-to-system reconciliation 
  • Expose hard-to-detect data anomalies to improve data quality and confidence

Uncover the opportunities in your data. Regardless of where you may be in your unique journey along the arc of data maturity, you likely have many untapped opportunities to unlock the true power of your data.

To discuss how you can get even more out of your PowerPlan data or to learn how you can use the PowerPlan suite of data solutions to accelerate your own climb up the curve, contact our experts today at info@PowerPlan.com.

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Through our industry-leading expertise, SaaS technology innovation and vast experience working in tandem with our clients, PowerPlan helps North American energy companies make the right financial decisions which improve lives and powers the world.
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Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Dec 26, 2022

Valid points. Companies have large volumes of information that can be leveraged to improve their operations. However to meet that objective, they need to organize themselves and put processes in place to find the information nuggets buried in their data haystacks. 

Suzanne  Ward's picture
Thank Suzanne for the Post!
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