Business Intelligence Drives More Effective Decisions, Utility Professionals Reflect at EUCG's 35th Anniversary Workshop

May 01, 2008, 01:00 ET from EUCG

    SAN ANTONIO, May 1 /PRNewswire/ -- An electric utility's success is
 related to how well and how fast the right information and intelligence get
 to the right people, author and business consultant Gary Cokins cautioned
 attendees of EUCG's semiannual spring workshop in San Antonio in April.
     EUCG is a global association of energy and electric utility
 professionals who meet to discuss current and emerging industry issues,
 share best practices and exchange data for benchmarking purposes. The
 association celebrated its 35th anniversary at this spring's workshop.
     "Utilities are not unlike other industries that spend tons of resources
 collecting information, including measuring all aspects of operational
 performance under the sun, but fail to convert this information into
 actionable intelligence," said Cokins, an expert in performance management
 for SAS, a leading business intelligence software provider, and author of
 Performance Management: Finding the Missing Pieces to Close the
 Intelligence Gap. "Most businesses can tell you their customer satisfaction
 score or on-time delivery performance, but they cannot tell you with great
 certainty what drives these scores. The data is often treated as discreet
 measurements, but in reality these scores are interrelated and
 interdependent. Performance management and business intelligence programs
 provide much needed context and advance management decision making."
     "The EUCG membership spent a great deal of workshop time sharing best
 practices and discussing individual business intelligence and performance
 management programs," said EUCG President Stephen Saunders of Tennessee
 Valley Authority (TVA). "Rapid decision making is becoming increasingly
 important within the electric utility industry, and our members are
 discussing how to leverage human, technological and financial resources to
 support quick action."
     "Our industry is data intensive, and Mr. Cokins challenged utilities to
 convert this information into intelligence to help drive customer
 satisfaction and shareholder wealth," said EUCG Vice President Mark Derry
 of Exelon (NYSE:   EXC). "Our ability to manage utility operations through
 the present-day supply and cost challenges may rest on how well we're able
 to use intelligence to justify capital programs, secure revenue adjustments
 and communicate with customers in a meaningful way."
     EUCG welcomed approximately 180 workshop participants from more than 60
 different utilities, including four foreign countries, to its spring
 workshop, said George W. Sharp, EUCG international marketing director, of
 American Electric Power (NYSE:   AEP). "Our workshop theme focused on
 leveraging information to improve business decisions, and many of the
 presentations addressed that topic," said Sharp.
Each committee pursued individual workshop agendas, including: -- Nuclear Committee: Presentations during the workshop included an update on the construction of a new nuclear plant in Romania and an interactive panel discussion on project management practices at four major companies, said David Ward, Nuclear Committee chair from Duke Power (NYSE: DUK). "Our committee continues to provide a forum for discussions on key industry topics and a network for obtaining a blend of company solutions to emerging initiatives. With the prevailing nuclear renaissance, new issues are being discovered, and we believe strongly in nuclear technology playing an important role in balancing the world's need for environmentally friendly energy supply." Other topics discussed by the Nuclear Committee involved recent developments in nuclear fuel management and ways to improve the committee's database to assist members in transforming the data into business intelligence, Ward said. -- Fossil Committee: Plant safety and cost management were the overriding themes discussed by the Fossil Committee, reported chair James Patrick of Ameren (NYSE: AEE). "Safety continues to be a popular topic for our committee, and we were able to review a couple of fantastic safety-related case studies from our members." The cost impact of managing current and future environmental regulations continues to weigh heavily on the minds of the membership, Patrick added. "We are planning to discuss how members develop their long-term capital plans during the upcoming fall conference, along with presentations in the areas of safety, the environment and the building of new power plants." -- Information Technology (IT) Committee: The IT Committee focused on refining its cost benchmark model and sharing information about member companies' corporate environments, IT organization structures, CIO metrics and IT governance models. Best practice discussions centered on case studies of technologies that member companies use to support key business functions. "One company described its use of data warehouse technologies to support business analytics and decision making; another shared its lessons learned from implementing project and resource management practices and technologies to optimize staff utilization and project planning functions," said Jack Flack, committee chair from TVA. "Our members are interested in determining the optimal resource allocation and structure within a utility for an IT department. We plan to spend much of our workshop time during the fall continuing discussions about lessons learned by our members during the execution of major IT projects. We're also going to discuss 'smart metering' and integrated work management issues when we meet in San Francisco this September." -- Hydroelectric Committee: Hydro plant staffing, work force planning and data analysis for management decision making were the overriding themes that the Hydro Committee discussed during the spring conference, according to Jim Miller, committee chair from TVA. "We are focusing much of our efforts on using our committee's database to determine best performers and, more importantly, what processes, resources and best practices help drive these best performers," said Miller. The fall conference will continue developing on the theme of best performers, including an updated analysis of member accomplishments over the past three years. -- Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Committee: T&D Committee attendees heard presentations about the SmartGrid concept and the impact that renewable energy and energy storage will have on future utility operations, among other issues. During the fall conference, T&D members are planning to discuss execution strategies for developing a successful safety culture, developing and implementing disaster recovery plans and a roundtable of different members' "green" strategies. EUCG will hold its 2008 fall workshop in San Francisco Sept. 14-17, when it will continue celebrating its 35th year of operations. All energy professionals are invited. Interested parties should visit the EUCG website ( ) for more information. About EUCG: EUCG is a global association of energy and electric utility professionals who discuss current and emerging industry issues, share best practices and exchange data for benchmarking purposes. The 35-year-old association is organized into five separate committees that represent specific utility functions: Transmission & Distribution (T&D), Fossil Plants, Hydro Plants, Nuclear Plants and Information Technology (IT) departments. Members attend semiannual workshops that focus on strategic planning, maintenance practices, operations management, outage management and various other aspects of the electric utility business. Membership is open to all utility companies and professionals worldwide. Interested parties should contact Pat Kovalesky, EUCG Executive Director, at 1-623-572-4140. Email: . Website: .