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5 lessons CIOs can learn from the power sector

Balaji OS | May 26, 2016
Here are 5 lessons you can learn from the utilities sector – power generation, transmission and distribution, and retail – which are particularly valuable.

Studies in innovation suggest that some of the best ideas and solutions to problems are generated by looking at practices outside of one’s own area of work. There’s a tremendous opportunity for CIOs to learn better practices from their counterparts in other areas of the business.

Here are 5 lessons you can learn from the utilities sector – power generation, transmission and distribution, and retail – which are particularly valuable.

Lesson 1: Communicate and predict outages

Managing outages is one of the key services provided by utilities organisations. During outages, utilities act quickly to restore power and put in place steps to minimise future outages. Utilities are leveraging technology capabilities in big data, analytics, visualisation and mobility to better communicate, manage and predict outages.

What can you learn?

Similar to utilities, one of the key areas in IT operations is to ensure system availability by effectively handling the system outages and minimising the impact to business.

While there are traditional processes on incident and problem management, practices commonly used by utilities are worth looking into.

Ask yourself:

  • Can my IT team create a simple visual map showing the high level end- to- end application and technology interactions, for at least the top twenty services critical to business? Can we create an app that shows outages in real time to IT managers and possibly to business stakeholders?
  • Can our IT group operate using a common visual map of services, which can be used by different service provider teams to identify the area of failure similar to how utilities operations centre manage their network?

Lesson 2: Vegetation management: trim the trees

Trees and plants are good friends of humans but aren’t great mates for power lines for the simple reason that can they can create serious incidents during adverse weather conditions.

Every year, utilities organisations have a program of work to trim the vegetation that interferes with power lines and have an obligation to ensure safety. This whole capability is termed as vegetation management.

What can you learn?

The landscape of IT is no different to fast growing vegetation, as with every IT release, systems grow and complexity creeps in. This is even more profound with organisations moving to adopt Agile and DevOps to automate and increase their frequency of releases to a production environment.

In many CIO organisations, while there is great focus on agility, time to market and service restoration, there is very less emphasis on managing the technical debt.

Over a period of time, there is huge pile of technical debt resulting from too many applications, variety of tools used for similar purpose, poor code quality, complex infrastructure and high cost of support.


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