Why utilities are terrible at GIS (and where to get help)



Quick Take: Consultant Geoff Zeiss just put out a lengthy, thoughtful blog that encapsulates the geo-spatial problems faced by utilities all over the world. Geoff is more polite than me, so he emphasizes the challenges without harping on the fact that most utilities are failing miserably to meet them. After explaining the six big issues, he then points readers to a source of solutions -- namely, the Geospatial Information System Interest Group from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

I've summarized the problems below, but try to find time to read Geoff's full article. - By Jesse Berst


The smart grid is bringing these six challenges to a head:

1. Low design productivity. Design productivity has become critical because experienced designers are retiring..

2. Poor flow of design information between the field and the records department. Field workers complain of poor-quality maps. The process of plugging field data into the GIS system is slow and bureaucratic.


3. Discrepancies between in-the-system and as-built. As-built information from construction can take months or years to get into the database. (Which contributes to problem #2.)


4. Redundant data. Geoff cites a Gartner study that found the same pole data was being maintained independently by nine different groups at one utility.


5. Low-quality database. Poor-quality data impacts field productivity, leads to inaccurate reports to management and regulators, slows outage response and slows the deployment of new technology.


6. Too much paper. Geoff discusses "islands of productivity" such as CAD and GIS that are connected by paper. The electric power industry needs to take a lesson from financial services, airlines and online retail, which have seen massive benefits from reducing paper.


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.


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