Murthy Divakaruni, Syntegra USA
Once a conservative and safe haven for investors, the energy industry is under scrutiny by analysts, media and politicians. Do we have access to sufficient and relevant data to succinctly view health and progress in the corporate cockpits? The answer is yes.
Airlines have panels that distill the indications from hundreds of instrumentation and miles of wiring. The cockpit crew depends on the distilled data presented to them on the dashboard, as well as their training and skill, to perform their functions.
In the energy industry, the crux of the idea is to collect and present data so that the corporate cockpit crew (CEO, COO, CFO, CTO) can understand the gravity of the situation. If designed right, the dashboard allows executives to analyze the alternatives, drawing upon the corporate talent and knowledge quickly, to take an action.
The figure shows how a corporate dashboard may be designed. In this example, products, people, profits, knowledge, infrastructure and business risk are the six executive-facing business issues that may be monitored constantly. The green, orange and red represent safe, alert and danger zones. A visual indication, behind which millions of corporate sensors are feeding the data in near real-time, also brings together data from ERP, CRM and other sizeable investments. The key to making it valuable is to use the right metrics and to articulate the value in terms of operational and efficiency improvements, as well as departmental and individual contributions to the corporate goals. To be successful, we have to ensure that:
- We address the communication issue between CEOs and CIOs. (Only six percent of business executives consider CIOs a partner in business strategies. This has to change.)
- We capitalize on the vast knowledge of analysis and data currently available. (Utilities have invested $5 million to $100 million in enterprise software, and $1 million to $100 million in customer information or relationship management software on a cumulative basis. It is time to access the relevant data for corporate health monitoring.)
- We do not turn this into another huge IT project and spend $30 million on business intelligence and enterprise integration software. (Initially the project must yield results from the data gained from existing systems.)
When developed completely, the dashboard will have a simple but human-factored design. It will have metrics and analytics embedded from which decisions can be actuated. Initially, the corporate dashboard may be misunderstood as a company portal, but it is not. It is a corporate monitor, showing the key data that is available from various sources. In the second step of proof-of-concept, the data gets even more narrowly defined so that the executives can see only what is needed in their area of interest.
The next step is to build one application in detail. It is here that a business intelligence package (with only necessary features) is carefully deployed to analyze the data. This step deals with the cultural aspects of the dashboard development by working with the users and their expectations. The final step is to repeat the process for other areas.
Divakaruni is a former general manager for Syntegra USA’s energy sector; he has since left the company.