New Brunswick Power makes hay with PowerPlay

Deregulation is coming to members of the Canadian power industry just as surely as it came to brethren power suppliers in 'the States.' This has put new pressure to produce on development heads such as Matt Rickard, manager of systems development at New Brunswick Power in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Rickard and others, upon rethinking important business processes, chose to create a data warehouse in order to better facilitate access to corporate data. For front-end tools, New Brunswick Power chose PowerPlay and Impromptu from Cognos Inc., Burlington, Mass.

What was New Brunswick's background with such software? "Previously we had an EIS in place using 3G tools and an IBM mainframe," said Rickard. "It was proving very inflexible." In fact, it took from three days to a month for analysts to receive needed reports.

"We wanted to create a system that could do some 'what-if' analysis," said Rickard.

The organization was also "moving into client/server environments and [we] wanted to bring information together from a variety of legacy systems," he added. "We wanted to feed legacy [system data] into the data warehouse." Some of the data would be updated daily, some weekly and some would be updated monthly.

To date, New Brunswick has moved more than 20 million corporate data records, ranging from accounts receivable/payable records to its complete vehicle information to a data warehouse. By analyzing the data from the system, New Brunswick can, for example, optimize the number of work crews assigned to a given territory.

"We chose Cognos Impromptu and PowerPlay products because they were economical, and fit in with the company's Windows and Windows NT environment," said Rickard. The analytical software offerings also displayed favorable benefits, such as ease of use on the user side. "It needed to be easy to learn. People using it would use it for a day or two and then not use it for a while," he noted.

How long did it take to get up and running? "We took on customer billing ['our worst application'] first," said Rickard. "It took a year to get things flowing smoothly." Concurrently, other project tasks could be addressed. While setting up the data warehouse, New Brunswick Power was able to train users with the analysis tools. End users actually helped in the creation of Impromptu reports. These were stored as standard reports that other users could then tailor to other purposes.

As operational goals have been met, New Brunswick Power, like others [see "MCI keeps score with S-based analysis," this page], is turning its data warehouse efforts in the direction of identifying and tracking key performance indicators. Again, Cognos' PowerPlay will be used on the desktops of middle and senior management.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.