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Wired or Mired? Electronic Information for the Gas Industry

Fortnightly Magazine - February 1 1996

Groups and now GISB have undertaken to determine: 1) when a particular data requirement should be implemented, 2) what "data set" elements encompass a transaction, and 3) how these transactions will be implemented via EDI. The devil may be in the details, but "vision" must guide the gas industry.

Riding the Third Wave

Alvin and Heidi Toffler observed that our civilization has undergone three "waves" of change. The "First Wave" was the agricultural revolution; the "Second Wave" brought the industrial revolution. The Tofflers now find modern nations undergoing a "Third Wave," by which knowledge (em consisting of data, information, symbols, culture, ideology, and values (em makes up the central resource of the economy. Information-rich electronic commerce marks an essential feature of this new economy.3 Moreover, this new Third Wave economy implies certain keys to wealth. These keys should influence the internal debate over electronic information infrastructure in the natural gas industry.

Apply technology. The appropriate data, information, and/or knowledge make it possible to reduce all the other inputs used to create wealth. While

natural resources may be finite, information is for all intents inexhaustible. Appropriate information technologies assist in the efficient acquisition and use of energy.

Customize. Mass production (em the defining characteristic of Second Wave industry (em is becoming obsolete as organizations install information-intensive, often robotized, manufacturing systems capable of customizing products for little added cost. The challenge of providing customized services

for gas customers can be man- aged with effective information technologies.

Innovate. Successful organi-zations must become "early adopters" of new technologies, processes, marketing, and finance. Innovative independent and affiliated information service companies are adding value to the standardized information made available by pipelines through their own proprietary systems. These systems allow electronic: 1) nominations, 2) least-cost

transportation routing, 3) capacity release offers and bids, 4) management for peaking and no-notice service, 5) balancing data, and 6) customized billing.

Even more sophisticated services are becoming available to link all the players in the natural gas marketplace together in one system. These multifunction systems allow online cash sales and purchasing, transportation and storage, as

well as decision support. The CH4ANNELSM System developed by EnerSoft Corp. and NYMEX Technology Corp., for instance,

offers online trading of gas and

capacity, channeling the data feeds from various pipeline EBBs and market centers into a single interface.

Flatten Organizations. Businesses everywhere are increasing their flexibility by downsizing and outsourcing. For the most part, energy has always been outsourced, but the number of individuals responsible for its procurement is growing. Many of these persons are not gas experts. Changes in the scale and shape of organizations, as well as the increased number and complexity of energy transactions, require a sophisticated electronic energy information system.

Integrate Systems. Rising complexity in the economy calls for more sophisticated integration and management. Greater and greater volumes of information pulse through the organization as managers are required to maintain an extremely high order of systemic integration. Natural gas companies that believe it is advantageous to limit information flows must remember that today's managers routinely can retrieve data from their organization's databases