Datapanik in the Year Zero Five

When I started working as a professional journalist a little over a decade ago, the company I worked for was not what you would call “Internet-savvy.” I don’t think we were alone in that respect. This was 1995, and, although it doesn’t sound like a long time ago, the Internet was not yet the ubiquitous business and social tool that it is now.

I recall we had one editor on our staff-only one-who had an Internet e-mail account. It was, specifically, a Compuserve account, and the editor’s e-mail address was a complicated series of numbers and letters. The rest of the editorial staff, Internet outsiders that we were, regarded that Compuserve account with a sense of mystery, on the rare occasion that we regarded it at all.

Compare that with today-or, for the sake of this column, yesterday.

I returned to the office yesterday after having been gone for exactly one-and-a-half business days. I had 160 unread e-mail messages in my inbox. (Fortunately, one of the days I was gone was a Friday, typically a light day for e-mail.) After trudging through that pile of information in my inbox, I had to deal with the 120 new e-mail messages I received my first day back. (Tuesday, it seems, is a heavy e-mail day.) Out of curiosity, I also counted up the number of e-mails I sent yesterday: 58.

Between reading, discarding and responding to e-mail, I have to wonder how I managed to do anything else.

I point all that out not to complain. I realize I’m probably not unique, at least not in the publishing industry, in the amount of e-mail I send and receive in a business day. I point it out rather as an example of the information overload I experience today compared to a decade ago. A great deal of the information I receive today is absolutely integral to my job as a news-gatherer and has made me a more efficient journalist than I was in the days before I was “Internet-savvy.” Data overload isn’t necessarily a bad thing for me, but it has fundamentally changed the way I manage my time and resources.

The same holds true for the modern utility. Utilities today have access to exponentially more data than they had to deal with a decade ago. Like a lot of what hits my e-mail inbox, this flood of data coming into the utility via advanced metering systems and intelligent electronic devices is vital. If it’s managed properly, it can revolutionize the way utility companies run their operations.

That’s the prevalent theme in two of our features in this issue, and it’s sure to be a theme we revisit in issues to come.

In the article “Substation Automation: Achieving Benefits Enterprise-wide,” our authors examine the value of the massive data quantities captured by modern, microprocessor-based IEDs. If that data from the substations is managed and routed properly within the enterprise, it can have positive effects on a utility’s financial performance, customer service ratings and operational efficiency. In another article, “Benefits of Meter Data Warehousing,” the authors again discuss data management-this time as it relates to the unprecedented amount of data collected by advanced metering infrastructure. As more utilities implement metering systems capable of 15-minute reads, the need for data management comes to the fore.

Whether it’s me sifting through e-mail or a utility sifting through meter data, we’re all learning not just to deal with data overload but to turn it into a positive. Data management is the new business imperative for all of us-editors and utility managers alike. ࢝®à¢®

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