Fortnightly Magazine - September 2005

Outsourcing: All It's Cracked Up to Be?

Despite several high-profile deals, utilities remain cautious about outsourcing their key business processes.

It seems that "outsourcing" has become a dirty word among utility executives. But though left unsaid in polite conversation, the word is still on everybody's mind. They might even be doing it. They just aren't talking about it.

Maintaining Control Over Outsourcing

Utilities can transform the business while managing risk.

In a survey of 305 North American utilities, 51 percent of the respondents said they either had outsourced or were planning to outsource a customer-care function in the next two years. But despite its advantages, outsourcing remains fraught with risk—the very reason that traditionally conservative utility companies have in the past shied away from letting third parties take over parts of their business.

Finding the Utility's Core

Where should outsourcing end—and the real utility begin?

When utilities evaluate business process outsourcing, they need to determine which processes are most advantageous to outsource—core or non-core? Rather than debating the merits of core or non-core, perhaps the more critical questions utilities should ask are: How are our key processes performing? Are they cost-efficient and effective? Do they enhance or inhibit our corporate performance?

Hold the Champagne?

There is much to celebrate in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but what will federal regulators do?

When we least expected it, the politicians finally were able to pull a multi-billion white rabbit out of their hat—enacting a comprehensive national energy law (Energy Policy Act of 2005) that will usher in extraordinary changes in the industry However, just how the new law really will affect the industry is the question of the hour, with many provisions of the law left to the interpretation of regulators.

Efficient Frontier: A Brief Overview

The efficient frontier is a portfolio analysis concept designed to assess risk vs. return for an investment portfolio. 

The efficient frontier is a portfolio analysis concept designed to assess risk vs. return for an investment portfolio. While the financial projections of individual assets are key to the analysis, the end result is critical to successful structuring of the portfolio as a whole. Key to the efficient frontier is that it represents the highest level of a portfolio's return for any given level of risk. It can be applied to physical assets, as well as financial instruments—simultaneously. Figure 1 displays a typical efficient frontier chart.

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