Are you data rich but insight poor?

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Data rich but insight poor.

Data is everywhere. This is a cliché because it’s true. Humans have never been more connected, both to each other and to our environments. Most things we do these days, will leave a digital trace in a database somewhere in the cloud. Now this sounds very Orwellian but I’m not using this article to spell out the dangers of data collection. Quite the opposite!

In this article I intend to show you the power that data holds for the utilities and energy sectors as well as how effective it can be when used properly.

Data + Meaning = Information

If there’s one thing we in the energy and utility sectors are blessed with it’s data. We know how our customers feel about us, we know how much energy costs from one minute to the next, we even have the potential to know at exactly what time of day each of our customers uses their appliances.

Knowledge is power and with great power comes great responsibility. Whether it’s gathered through a smart meter, Ofgem survey or direct feedback. I would make the case that any energy supplier owes it to their customer base to make the most of the data that their customers are giving up to them.

The key point here is that you have to be able to make the most of the data. Many of the people I speak with, week in, week out continue to wrestle with this challenge and I like to show each of them the same thing.


The “DIKW Pyramid” is a basic but effective way of showing the journey from general data through to an applied solution (or action) based on proper understanding (or discovery) of the wider context.

IoT has big potential.

A great example of this that I think is relevant across the industry is the preservation/management of assets. You might have a network of pipes which have been in use for a longtime and as they’re underground there is no easy way in which to check their condition.

Sending people underground to check the pipes is both costly and disruptive, not to mention how infeasible it is check each pipe in any level of detail. One solution being implemented by Northumbrian Water through their partnership with Reece Innovation is the identification of blockages in their pipeline using acoustic data capture.

Placing a sensor down a manhole they are able to send sound waves through the network, with blockages being identified by the sound reverberating back to the sensor. Doing this allows the company to focus only on the pipes that need to be cleared rather than just blind jetting with no certainty as to whether or not it’s required.

This saves NWL both time and money as well as limiting disruption to the public in the form of maintenance affecting the roads.

Data used to improve CX

Another great example of proper data usage which I believe is incredibly prevalent to these industries is centred around customer experience.

One thing I’m massively passionate about is companies being able to improve their Customer Experience (CX) through increased digitalisation. In today’s world of comparison sites and quick switching, any customer is only one bad experience away from finding a new supplier.

This matters because most of the time you won’t make money from a new client due to things such as cost of acquisition or introductory rates. Where you start to see the benefits is once you’ve managed to retain their business. Offer them something truly great and they might even stay with you during an increase in price.

A good example of this is what Octopus Energy are doing with something as simple as communication. According to an investigation by Which, Octopus are the fastest energy company to respond to emails, taking an average of just three hours and eight minutes to reply. The slowest firms in the industry took more than a week.

Octopus also came out on top of the telephone response charts too, making callers wait just over a minute before they were put through to a human.

When I visited their London offices for a chat with CEO and Founder Greg Jackson, I was really impressed with the importance that personalisation holds to them as a business. Their people are split into teams of 9 or 10 with each of them responsible for a set number of customers thus increasing the likelihood that when a customer calls they will get through to someone they have spoken to before. Call notes, audio and, perhaps most impressively, social media interactions are all saved on the individual's record which lends to a feeling that they’re a known part of the company and not just another nameless, faceless customer.

Personalisation is a great example of using context to turn data into information. You have the Who’s and What’s and then you can understand the Why’s. Octopus are then using this information to more effectively communicate with their customers and make them feel valued.

Be wary.

Be aware that simply having the data is not enough. It’s a great start but what good is it with no surrounding context? Similar to this is data that is only understood by a select few people within an organisation.

To draw one final example from Octopus, I am a huge fan of the way in which they are democratising data. They have a custom built CRM that allows team members to drill down into an very small level of detail with regards to waiting times, reasons for calls, account information etc. This empowers their team to go above and beyond in their line of work as well as promoting a culture of ownership which I doubt would exist were this information harder for the team to get their hands on.

Next Gold-Rush?

In bringing this article to a close I hope I have shown you the power of your data. I see it as a veritable gold mine of potential which can benefit your business. To get those benefits you need the tools with which to give context and turn that data into information. With that information comes the opportunity for improvements.

We’ve seen an example of hardware being used to gather data and we’ve also seen an example of software being used to bring insight.

Data is useless if it’s never acted upon and equally useless if nobody understands it. I believe that a strong relationship with a hardware AND software provider would be most desirable for organisations within in the energy/utilities sectors.

One to help gather the data and the other to make that data more user-friendly and accessible.

Let the gold rush commence!

I would love to hear from you all about how you currently gather or act upon data in your companies. Drop me a DM and we can talk further.

03 Dec