Common Problems of Enterprise Software Systems & Electric Grid


Common Problems of Enterprise Software Systems & Electric Grid | GridBuddy

Posted by Marc Aubin on Oct 2, 2016 5:13:01 PM
Marc Aubin
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We’ve heard a lot about Lightning and Thunder from Salesforce, and now we are going to talk about raw electricity and how we can apply some lessons from the electric industry to how we implement enterprise software.When I discovered Gretchen Bakke’s book, The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future, the similarities between the problems of our aging electric grid and enterprise software roll outs were shocking (no pun intended).

First, let’s consider some eye opening facts about the electric grid.

More Renewable Production Is Not the Only Answer 

We all know about global climate change, we know that renewable energy is a good thing, and it seems like there’s just not enough of it. Therefore we should just produce more, right? In fact, this is what the Department of Energy and many state governments are precisely focusing on -- increasing the percent of energy generated by renewables from the paltry 6 to 7 percent it’s at now to 25 to 50 percent by 2030.


But what if I were to tell you that in some places, having enough renewable energy is not the problem?

For example, in some states on blustery days, local electricity balancing authorities who ensure that electricity production and consumption are exactly the same (more on this later in this series) have to pay some of the wind farms to shut down their turbines because they are flooding the grid with too much power.

Or consider the State of Hawaii which has 12 percent of its homes with rooftop solar. On some days, privately owned solar provides Hawaii with all the power it needs (but this doesn’t solve the State’s energy needs because at nighttime, they still rely on imported oil to keep electricity generation going). You might think the answer is more solar. However, the State now does not let any more home solar systems connect to its grid. Why? Because the days when there’s too much of a good thing, their grid shuts down self-protectively.

Renewable sources connected to our aging electrical grid cause such a problem with variable production that utilities have to fire up inefficient diesel and coal plants to balance the grid when the wind or the sun goes away. When these plants get fired up on a moment’s notice, they run at minimum efficiency (just 2 percent efficiency according to some sources) causing more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere than if they were running as they were originally designed to -- at full bore all the time.

In other words, our current renewable energy production is possibly more dirty on net than it was before these renewable sources were introduced into the picture.

Given our current situation, it’s fair to say, in the electricity industry, our problem is that we are not able to take full advantage of what we have. As Gretchen Bakke says, “It does not matter how much water is in the sea, or how much electricity we generate, if that water is not drinkable and that electricity is not delivered.”

We Don’t Take Advantage of Our Data in Enterprise Software

Likewise in many people’s experiences working with enterprise software, it is also fair to say we don’t take advantage of what we have.

For example, there are many sales leaders who lament along the following lines, “We have all these leads in our system that were brought in by a new campaign, but nobody knew about them because they didn’t have the right view to see them. So they just sat there, for a long time. They were fresh when they came in, but nobody did anything about them until we finally discovered they were there, and then they were too old.”

Imagine how you would feel if you lead a sales organization and you knew that your conversion of new inbound leads was 5 percent leading to an ACV of $7K per conversion at a cost per lead of $100 (yes, I know full CAC would be necessary to consider here, but that’s out of scope for this point). If this campaign brought in 1,000 or more leads at those metrics, needless to say you might start to feel disappointed if they were “invisible”.

shutterstock_357305048.jpgOr consider your sales reps who need to make tactical decisions every day so they can conduct business processes that lead to sales. Many complain they can’t find or efficiently act on the data they need. In complex, data-driven sales environments, this means opportunities are not followed up on in a timely manner and things fall through the cracks. Time and again when I or anyone I know who leads sales operations asks why they don’t update data in Salesforce to move things along, they say it takes too much time or they don’t know where to look.

In each of these cases it’s not that the data wasn’t there to help our users, it’s that they couldn’t make effective use of it.

These are actually common scenarios, and it’s also all too common to hear that Salesforce adoption is below 70 percent (when I was in school, this score meant a failing grade). If people are not following business processes, data quality is suffering. If you have bad data quality, you have cases where users and management don’t know where to look for the source of truth, and then you get this vicious cycle of bad data leading to even worse user adoption. If you’re in this situation, you are likely hitting your head against the wall wondering what it will take for your organization to get what it needs out of your enterprise systems.

The Problems and the Solutions Lie at the Last Mile

Not only are there astonishing parallels between the problems facing the electric grid and enterprise data management, but the solutions that hold the most promise are strikingly similar.
What is exciting is that the solutions are very creative and tangible ways to deal with the problems that face each industry.

So in the next few articles, we’ll look at what we can learn from the distribution of electricity in America and implementing enterprise data management systems at scale. This series is broken into 5 more articles:

  • Our Data Management Systems and Electric Grid Technology Are Old
  • Breakdowns in the Electric Grid and Enterprise Data Management
  • Solutions at the Last Mile of Data Management
  • 4 Principles of Last Mile Data Management Solutions
  • 4 (More) Principles of Last Mile Data Management Solutions

Read the next post, Our Data Management Systems and Electric Grid Technology Are Old.

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