energycioinsights

Shifting Role of CIOs in Utility with Tectonic shifts in IT

By Zeeshan Sheikh, CIO, Entergy

Zeeshan Sheikh, CIO, Entergy

How does a utility increase internal customer satisfaction? In all likelihood, every business asks this question at a certain stage of their existence and it grows with each passing day. Even if the organization is already resource constrained, customers within the organization still want you to fix the world for them. However, it is possible that they don't have enough time to get those resources, change the business process, and then test it. This has become true in all sectors, including energy.

With the utility arena increasingly relying on technology, the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is as critical as ever. The role is responsible for introducing new technologies for the business in a way that does not overwhelm employees. At the same time, these need to be easy to learn. On the flip side, CIOs are expected to be proficient in the know-how of business processes while maintaining development.

To drive growth and add value, the effort begins with the deployment of best-in-class software and hardware; however, it doesn’t fix a damaged business process completely. CIOs need to understand their organizations’ limit of adopting new technologies. Business process re-engineering is the strenuous part of every technology evolution, taking the maximum time to make the process highly efficient. Also, it is challenging to find the professionals who know how to do that and who can differentiate between an automated model and the organization’s business processes. CIOs should have the ability to explain the ‘value’ story for continuous investments by the company during that upfront time of the business process.

CIOs are not turning the machines and generating power; they give visibility and provide a perspective of how to operate the machine.

Challenges in Utility Technology Adoption

Counting on the number of customers you serve per day doesn’t make you worth being called a utility service provider. I come to work every day thinking that I don't own any assets; instead, I manage the assets for our utility owners. I want to be able to win their business every day, think about putting the roadmap together, and care about the outcome.

Whether it is a nuclear plant process control system change-out, or security system change-out or website change-out—there’s a lot of thought involved; it's not just “Go, do it”. Entergy is going through a great modernization effort; the company is investing in smart energy meters, line sensors, and newly automated distribution management system for all of its utility customers. Most importantly, Entergy is going to perform data analytics on all the data they are able to get and help prevent untimely failures of systems, which will benefit our customers with energy and cost savings. In addition, data analytics in the energy and power sector would allow customers to analyze their energy behavior on the smart phones and tabs—in real-time.

Working With Partners/Vendors

For reliable energy delivery, it is unrealistic to assume that energy delivery systems should be isolated or immune from compromise—cybersecurity preparedness is a must. For that, an incredible amount of due diligence is required for choosing the right partners to implement the systems we use. Vendor compliance for cybersecurity is required for securing systems, customer data, and employee data.

Additionally, one can find partners/ vendors who are technically sound but there are few who understand business processes the way you do. A good way to find that out is to interview them and identify key resources with references and past projects. As a partner, you need to treat their project resources as your own resources. Together, you can meet the obligations and needs of the business and processes in the minimum time interval.

Tectonic shifts in IT are rocking the utility arena, giving new businesses an opportunity to enter the power industry. There are fresh challenges in serving customers, but the key is to never underestimate your business acumen. Learn to serve better by working in different parts of the actual business, doing it yourself and working for the actual business you service. This will put you in position for long-term success.