City of Tallahassee Utilities is undergoing an enormous transformation, and is working to put analytics into the hands of its employees through a self-service campaign using Alteryx/Tableau solutions. David Carnes, Mobile Systems Data Coordinator, shares some insights from his experience.
How are you measuring the benefits and ROI of your self-service analytics initiatives?
The principal benefits we’re seeing from our implementation of our analytics platforms are mainly internal to our organization. We can solve problems that would have been time and cost prohibitive to attempt with just code-based tools. Our developers and analysts can work more efficiently and can tackle more, and more complex, problems.
We’ve managed to implement a couple of customer-centric solutions which will save our customers some money. In one, we’ve been able to enhance and automate the detection of potential water leaks on the customer’s side of the meters. Another is an automatic, periodic review of electrical usage profiles to identify those customers that might benefit from our Nights and Weekends pricing plan.
The “return on investment” is difficult to quantify. Yes, we can work more efficiently but then we are getting involved in creating more solutions, many of which we would have never attempted. In addition, we’ve been able to create solutions that allow end users to fulfill their own periodic requests for data.
This alleviates their need to call IT for data from disparate data sources for their quarterly or annual reporting. The result is that managers and supervisors don’t need to wait for IT to fulfill their requirements and IT is not getting called upon for the intermittent and repetitive data requests.
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How are City of Tallahassee employees using analytics tools?
Primarily, the people who are doing work in the analytics space are using either Alteryx or Tableau, with a subset of folks utilizing both. We have put Alteryx Designer and/or Tableau Desktop in the hands of developers, business analysts, accountants, and Human Resource specialists, allowing them to work directly with the various data sources they require. In addition, we are running the Server products for both Alteryx and Tableau. This give the users of the desktop products the ability to publish, share, and automate their creations for the benefit of their own departments, and other departments if necessary.
The Server products provide mechanisms to control access to certain data sources which are considered “protected data,” our police data being a primary example.
What does the future look like at your utility with respect to analytics?
We are currently proselytizing the capabilities we’ve built in-house to provide analytics services and automation. In concert with this we are also pushing to create a culture of self-service analytics by putting the Alteryx and Tableau tools in the hands of people in various departments around the City. Sometime soon we will start up internal user groups for both Alteryx and Tableau for our user base to share solutions they’ve created.
The Underground Utilities and Public Infrastructure department has recently added “data governance” as a strategic goal. For our first project in this space we are evaluating the data demands of our wastewater treatment plant. From that we will determine our next steps, technologically speaking. The data that the treatment plant produces and consumes are in enterprise (City-wide) systems, SCADA, water quality laboratory databases, inventory systems, etc. Increasingly, the need for a consolidated and curated data lake has been recognized. Therefore, we’re likely to be doing some pilot projects and testing the waters of the data lakes.
What Analytics Communities do you and other members participate in at UAI?
Our membership has grown dramatically in the past couple of months. The Communities that have piqued the most interest have been the Analytics Architecture & Technology Community and the Customer Analytics Community.
Attend Utility Analytics Week this October 24-26 in Orlando, Florida to learn more about how utilities are using analytics today. Register with code UAIPOST before September 12th to receive an additional 15% off of our Early Bird 20% discount!
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