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Competitive Intelligence: An Antidote to Downsizing

Fortnightly Magazine - March 15 1996

outside plant locations and streamline online planning and design work for new service provisioning.

The spatial information system being installed at BellSouth will permit the utility to rapidly and extensively upgrade its telecommunications infrastructure as its business grows. A parallel system will estimate the cost of new installations as engineers design them. In short, BellSouth will be able to speed up its response time to requests for new service. Speedy response time offers not only significant competitive advantage, but also a long-term commitment to providing superior customer service.

West Ohio Gas. Like many local gas distribution companies, West Ohio Gas is expanding its service territory and improving its customer service. The company's strategy is to adopt information systems that enable better decisionmaking, help the utility control costs, and allow it to spend operations and maintenance dollars more wisely.

Over the past two years, West Ohio Gas has implemented a new system, conceived and designed as an enterprise-wide information management solution used by virtually every business unit. Among the software applications being developed are DOT reporting and analysis, pressure control and analysis, customer complaint tracking, and emergency response. The emergency response application helps utility work crews trace through the natural gas network model to identify critical valves in the event of a leak.

Kentucky Utilities Co. As one of

its business strategies, Kentucky Utilities decided to use information technology to improve its trouble-outage management capability, contain the operational costs of growth by increasing labor efficiency, and provide more accurate and timely information to enhance customer service.

Senior management recognized that improved trouble-outage response was fundamental to maintaining superior customer service. The company envisioned a sophisticated system that includes call processing, outage analysis, outage status information, troubleman/ crew management, and a one-way supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) interface. The core AM/FM system will provide an information foundation for the trouble outage system, providing frequent updates. A work management system will be integrated with the AM/FM system to provide tools for more effective work design, estimating, project closing, and posting that ensure accurate and timely data for operations as jobs are completed.

Implementing and integrating these technologies will enable Kentucky Utilities to achieve its corporate objectives. The improved work management system will enhance labor productivity and help employees accomplish their jobs without staff additions. The AM/FM system will manage geographic data on line and provide a valuable facilities management tool. The trouble-outage entry/analysis system will support improved outage resolution and help the company provide more responsive customer service.

The business goals at BellSouth, West Ohio Gas, and Kentucky Utilities are the same as those at virtually any progressive utility in the 1990s: to be more competitive, to be more responsive to customers, to provide reliable service, and to respond effectively and efficiently to emergencies. The difference is that BellSouth, West Ohio Gas and Kentucky Utilities are adopting "appropriate" technology tools to help them achieve their goals, and "integrating" such tools into a mission-critical, decision-support system.

The trend toward increased regulatory scrutiny of issues related to safety, reliability, and customer service is entirely appropriate given