Shari thanks Royce Bell, CEO of Accenture Information Management Services, for his contribution to this month's column.

Orchestrated correctly, a data management system can be the transition from legacy cacophony to operational harmony. The New York Power Authority (NYPA), the nation's largest state-owned electric utility, consistently provides some of the lowest-cost electricity and is excelling at the modernization. NYPA provides 18 generating facilities, including two large hydroelectric projects on the Niagara and St. Lawrence Rivers, and almost 1,500 circuit miles of transmission lines. Its customers include community-owned electric systems, public facilities and hundreds of businesses and other employers who depend on allocations of low-cost power linked to 400,000 jobs throughout the state. Each day NYPA asset managers face the challenge of determining constantly changing market conditions to ensure all parties receive the best possible price for power.

For these NYPA managers to quickly make the best pricing decisions for their customers, they must have access to timely information from as many as 13 sources. By viewing weather, fuel and energy market information, asset managers are able to develop well-informed bidding strategies. But NYPA's asset managers relied on multiple standalone disparate systems that were incapable of delivering integrated real-time data from multiple sources. Data arrived in many forms, from spreadsheets to notes handed to the asset managers in the midst of high-pressure transactions. The operation even required manual entry of some data - a process that was labor-intensive with the potential for error.

Instead of fully focusing on the market conditions, asset managers and business analysts were spending too much time collating and interpreting the data. Because the information was not always current or available, asset managers were not always able to make the most optimal pricing decisions. NYPA envisioned the solution it needed - a single energy trading intranet portal for asset managers, analysts and executives, including a real-time dashboard highlighting the NYPA's financial and physical positions. Such a Web portal would enhance asset manager productivity and improve strategic bidding of generation assets. The NYPA knew it needed to team with a seasoned third-party services provider to help it achieve its vision.

Accenture assessed the key functional and technical requirements for the trading portal by meeting with NYPA managers, business users and technical support groups. The resulting technical blueprint offered solutions to several key challenges. The major issue was how to maintain data integrity while automatically updating integrated data in real time. The single dashboard had to display the various indicators that would help NYPA optimize bidding strategies through timely and effective information management. For example, asset managers needed to be able to synchronize asset utilization by viewing energy plants' fuel supply and available energy as well as plant margins. Asset managers also required up-to-the-second supporting price information and analytics to execute optimal bidding strategies.

The solution created a hybrid technology model that allows both atomic and aggregated data to be stored in different forms but displayed in an integrated fashion on the portal. The system leverages a component-based architecture and is comprised of a data integration tool, a data management engine and the intranet-based portal. Together, they allow data to be extracted from disparate systems, integrated and converted into business information that is instantly displayed and automatically updated. The solution leveraged an enterprise application integration tool to bring all the data into a central repository in real time. The data management engine harmonizes the master data across the disparate source systems before storing the data in the central repository. This facilitates the aggregation and display of data in real time.

NYPA asset managers are now equipped with a system that allows them to quickly respond to the dynamics of the deregulated energy market. The energy trading portal has helped to transform the asset managers' workflows in that it has removed a significant amount of manual data input and integration of data, thus allowing them to focus on market analysis and optimizing generation bidding strategies in the deregulated energy marketplace. The portal provides the flexibility and scalability to meet NYPA's immediate and long-term needs. With its component-based architecture, the trading portal can grow, and new features can be added without costly and disruptive changes.

 The NYPA now has:

  • A single information gateway for asset managers, analysts and executives;
  • A real-time dashboard that highlights NYPA's financial and physical positions;
  • Aggregate reports integrated from different data sources;
  • A rules engine that enables the asset managers to create rules-based real-time analytics; and
  • A communication infrastructure that feeds real-time internal and external information into a data management engine.

Using technology to create and act on customer and business insights in real time is common in high-performance businesses. Another trait of high performers is rationalizing, simplifying and standardizing IT to manage the total cost of ownership and enhance productivity.  

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