by Samir Alilat
Samir Alilat of AMT-SYBEX explains why analytics is a key requirement for business readiness
With Project Nexus set to go live in June 2017, the gas industry is finally reaching the end of a long road. The replacement of the UK Link system for market interaction is imminent and Nexus promises to bring the industry into the 21st century. The new system should open up opportunities to increase efficiency, improve customer service and take full advantage of smart meters and other new technologies.
Getting ready for Project Nexus has been a major effort. Most companies have made significant investments in upgrading their systems to support Nexus’ new processes, dataflows and messaging standards. Thankfully, the majority of the heavy lifting is now complete, and most market participants are confident that they are in good shape from a technical perspective.
However, although you may believe that your systems are now flawlessly compliant with the new requirements, you cannot be completely sure that everything will work until Nexus comes online and the data starts flowing. Any large-scale industry change programme is likely to have its teething problems and when so many different parties are involved, there are multiple potential points of failure. If even one market participant has got their dataflow specifications slightly wrong, it could have a knock-on impact for every other organisation in the ecosystem.
For example, one of the benefits of Nexus is that it can help you use accurate and timely consumption data from smart meters to calculate more accurate annual quantity metrics. Since consumers’ estimated reads are driven from this data, the new process should result in more accurate billing and better customer service. However, if failures occur within this process, they may impact the accuracy of billing. This could lead to unhappy customers and even regulatory repercussions.
So as the conversation moves from systems development to business readiness, it’s important you consider ways to mitigate your risk. Experience tells us that however much effort is put into testing, things still might not always go as expected. If you can’t be 100 percent confident, the next best option is to ensure that you have a way of accurately monitoring your day-to-day operations, and have appropriate support processes in place
One of the most effective ways to implement this is to develop a suite of monitoring and reporting tools that can sit on top of your dataflow management platform. These tools can help you reconcile all the transactions you exchange with Nexus, and ensure that you are getting the results you expect. You can also use them to gain insight into all key gas and electricity processes.
For example, when you send out a dataflow relating to a change of shipper, you know what flows you will be expecting to receive back, and within what timeframe. If you have a reporting solution that monitors all outgoing change-of-shipper files, watches for incoming messages and notifies you if the response is incorrect or late, then you can eliminate the risk of problems going unnoticed. As soon as the system detects an issue, it will be highlighted immediately, so you can investigate the root cause and fix the problem.
To implement this type of monitoring system, there are various options. One approach is to commission your IT team or engage consultants to build all the reports from scratch in your existing dataflow management platform. This will ensure that the results fit your exact requirements – but it comes at the cost of re-inventing the wheel.
Another option is to use a pre-built reporting suite and run it on top of your existing system. At AMT-Sybex, we think this approach is going to be more reliable and cost-effective, so we have utilised our reporting framework and packaged it with a set of rules that contains everything the industry will need. Better still, it can work with any dataflow management platform, and we can deploy it either on-premises or in the cloud.
Implementation details aside, the most important point is that although the main systems are now in place, the UK gas industry shouldn’t rest on its laurels. Business readiness isn’t just about building a solution and hoping that everything will be all right on the night; it’s about making plans to mitigate the risk of teething problems and unforeseen glitches. By turning your attention to building a robust monitoring solution in the last few weeks before Nexus goes live, you can be much more confident that your launch will be a success.