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Training Room: IT's Growing Need for Business Training

By John Ferrare, Enerdynamics' CEO

There is little argument that the energy industry needs to learn more about information technology (IT). On the electric side, IT is critical to running power plants, operating transmission systems, scheduling power flows, and accurately communicating with and billing consumers. But the industry's current use of IT is just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) the annual rate of data intake by electric companies may increase by 3000 to 8000% annually as the Smart Grid is implemented! 

As shown in the graph below, the amount of data storage required has already grown significantly in the last five years. Data growth starts with automation of the distribution system and moves through deployment of new information-based systems all the way to customer-owned appliances that are expected ultimately to participate directly in electric markets. A similar progression, though less dramatic in terms of volume, will occur on the gas side of the business. 

 

 

Annual Growth in Data Storage at a Utility Company

 

source: Presentation by Jon Peterson, VP Marketing, OSIsoft

 

While the energy industry clearly needs to learn about IT so it can be used effectively, the IT industry also needs to learn about the energy business. It is one thing to design systems to move data from one place to another, but it is hugely more challenging to design systems that utilize data in ways that support the business needs of the organization. Without IT professionals who understand both IT and the energy business, many IT projects are doomed to waste millions of dollars and drag on forever without ever achieving their goals. Even successful projects such as the CalISO’s Market Redesign and Technology Upgrade (MRTU) and ERCOT’s Texas Nodal Market Implementation took many years and significant amounts of re-programming to get right. 

This might be why we are seeing increasing interest from IT departments in our energy business acumen curriculum. While we've always had IT people attend our classes, increasing numbers of IT groups are requesting training programs on their own. Several examples come to mind:

  • One of our clients in India writes software for energy companies worldwide. We are working with this client to provide a certification program for its programmers. The company's goal is to ensure that programmers understand the business aspects of gas and electricity allowing them to work effectively with their clients' technical and business experts.

  • One of the largest electric utilities in the nation, with an IT department larger than some utilities in their entirety, is offering several of our electric courses exclusively to employees within their department. This ensures access to the classes without having to go through the corporate learning program and allows us to customize the content to the specific needs of the IT employee.

  • A client who wrote software for gas scheduling found that business acumen training greatly improved its programmers' ability to understand the business rules the pipeline wanted programmed into systems. 

  • And lastly, an ISO IT group put together a program that offered several one-day electric courses to nearly everyone in the IT organization. The result was nearly sold-out classes, technical professionals who understood the basics of the electric industry and a very pleased IT client.


Changes in the energy industry will only increase the value of business acumen training to IT professionals.  These employees simply cannot design the systems that will be required without a basic knowledge of how the business of energy actually works. So we won't be surprised to see increasing numbers of IT organizations take training matters into their own hands.

Please contact me for more information on the types of training that we've developed for IT groups and how we can help your organization better understand the business of energy: jferrare@enerdynamics.com or 866-765-5432.

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