​By Kevon Storie

In this digital age, every large complex organization produces mountains of data — on customers, equipment, services, finances, every aspect of its operations. The challenge is turning these raw, unprocessed nuggets of information into something of value to the business. Data as a Strategic Asset is WAPA’s answer to this challenge of converting data into sound business decisions.

Gotta have a plan

WAPA’s streamlined 2021 Tactical Action Plan includes Data as a Strategic Asset, recognizing the importance of a planned, consistent approach to managing the organiza­tion’s data.

Data collection at WAPA is not new. For decades, business units have gathered the facts and statistics relevant to their specific tasks and responsibili­ties. There was overlap, of course, with some units collecting the same data but measuring it in different ways and recording it in different formats. This approach didn’t pose much of a problem until 21st-century information technol­ogy released a geyser of data and a host of new platforms to manage it.

Technology also brought rapid change to the utility industry, requir­ing a more integrated way of doing business. Operational decisions must now reckon with joint dispatching, energy imbalance markets, regional transmission organizations and many other industry changes, along with advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Data is the key to keeping up with this evolution, remaining fiscally responsible and meeting increasingly complex business goals, but only if it is efficiently collected, stored, managed and governed. WAPA’s data strategy will bring order, accuracy and value to its data, turning it into a strategic asset.

This is the way

In June 2019, the Office of Management and Budget issued the Federal Data Strategy describing its 10-year vision for accelerating the use of data to deliver on mission, serve the public and maintain resources while protecting security, privacy and confidentiality. A WAPA committee of subject matter experts adapted the OMB document to create the Data Strategy Roadmap, WAPA’s vision for a data-driven, information-centric organization.

Like every journey, data manage­ment must begin with placing one foot in front of the other. The roadmap lays out a series of 10 steps, or strategies, to bring all the disparate data sets and management approaches together in an integrated WAPA-wide system.

In 2021, WAPA will be focusing on four steps:

  1. Determine what data has the greatest business value to the orga­nization. Not all data is created equal; some of those nuggets are worth more than others to WAPA’s business operations and decision making. For example, the transmission asset data WAPA’s Asset Management program collects is crucial to making informed decisions on repairs and replace­ments. AM is working with Operations and Maintenance to develop processes that ensure data quality and accuracy. Identifying the valuable data and mak­ing it the focus of management efforts is what sets strategy apart from mere data wrangling.
  2. Define strategic business goals or outcomes to achieve through data and analytics. If you don’t know what the question is, you won’t know the answer when you see it. WAPA must identify specific business questions that can be answered through data analysis. For instance, Power Operations might have questions about grid performance that affect decisions and situational aware­ness in the control room. Finance might be looking to increase the accuracy of budget forecasting in out years. Simply pulling data together will not provide answers to such complex questions. Analysts must have a clear idea of what they want to achieve and the informa­tion they need to reach their goals.
  3. Bring data together for meaning­ful purposes. Because each business area’s goals are intertwined with other departments, this step directly relates to the previous one. The answers to questions may be in multiple data sources across WAPA. Connecting and cataloging these data relationships will provide better WAPA-wide reporting and allow staff to focus on analyzing data rather than spending time identi­fying and collecting different data sets. Information Technology is spearhead­ing this extensive undertaking in 2021, with the aid of new software and business partners throughout WAPA.
  4. Create a culture of sharing infor­mation and trust. The key to over­coming WAPA’s old, siloed approach to data collection is educating employ­ees about the benefits of a successful data strategy, both to individuals and to WAPA. That outreach must also encourage a deeper understanding of how each department’s data affects other departments.

As employees realize the value of others’ data to their own work, they will make greater efforts to ensure the reliability of the data they produce. These efforts can begin by thinking about who might use your data, whether it is in an easily consumable format and how you could make your data more reliable and accessible.

Thoughtful and innovative man­agement is something every WAPA employee can do to build trust in data as a tool.

2021: Year of Data Management

Every WAPA department and employee has a role to play in creating and managing data in a way that turns it into an asset.

At the department or business-unit level, managers can make data a priority and encourage and sponsor employees to be a part of data strategy teams. Employees can track where they get their data and consider what data skills their department has and what they need. Individuals should recognize the importance of data in their area and think about what data is important to their functions.

Watch myWAPA over the next few months for “Data Moments,” more ideas for managing data. There will also be training opportunities coming in the spring to show employees how to make the most of Data as a Strategic Asset. ​

Note: Storie is a technical writer who works under the Wyandotte Services contract.​

Last modified on September 12th, 2023