September 20, 2012 – The energy utility industry is battling widespread BI and analytics immaturity and a lack of expert IT staff, while it is pressed to upgrade business and supply chain systems in the next two years, according to new survey results from a consultancy and system integration solutions provider.

In its “2012 Utility Industry Survey on Business Intelligence/Analytics,” BRIDGE Energy Group questioned more than 14,000 energy industry officers on their views and experiences with enterprise BI, analytics and big data.

According to the survey, 53 percent of respondents noted that their business operations were “challenged” by the immaturity of their BI and analytics capabilities. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed associated their challenges with one of the two top problems cited in the results: the availability of knowledgeable staff, and the integration of related systems and data stores. Limitations with current BI tools rounded out the top-three utility industry challenges, according to BRIDGE.

Still, based on a number of industry factors, 29 percent of utilities reported that they are planning a “major” BI/analytics program within the next two years, and another 62 percent were planning smaller scale projects, like adding a predictive analytics tool. According to the survey, utilities expect to move along an “aggressively” advanced curve of maturity by 2014, taking on more programs that involve predictive modeling, real-time data consumption and business change derived largely on analytics.

Utility companies in particular are challenged with upgrading data systems in response to increased “smart grid” industry expectations, said BRIDGE CEO David E. Olsson, in a release on the survey results.

“Opportunities ranging from outage reductions to delivering consumer-centric services are now possible due to the availability of new data from across the utility supply chain,” said Olsson.

Other challenges with the transition to the smart grid involve handling massive, raw volumes of energy data that were pretty unobservable, often on aging legacy systems connected with new integration architecture, according to previous industry assessments. In addition, expectations of federal cybersecurity regulations that touch on the nation’s power and utility systems – possibly in the form of a mandate from the White House – could add to industry data system demands. Overviews of the research did not point to any dollar amount for investment in these system upgrades or expectations.

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