Powering up analytics at Ausgrid

A case study in navigating the big data market labyrinth




Pragmatic advice with a commercial focus on Ausgrid's long term needs ensuring Ausgrid is setup for success

Ajay Mehta,

Program Manager – Business Analytics & Innovation

 



  • Based in NSW, they are the largest distributor of electricity on Australia’s east coast 
  • A network spanning 22,275 square kilometres
  • Serving 1.7m customers
  • 3,200 Employees
  • $2.5B in Revenue
  • www.ausgrid.com.au




THE CHALLENGE

Navigate and consolidate different technical and vendor options available in the data and analytics market to find the best option relating to Ausgrid’s Big Data Platform Program.



THE OUTCOME

Established a business case and successfully designed and implemented a production, big data, and analytics environment in Microsoft Azure.  Enabling scale and capability that was not previously possible and enabling Ausgrid in its vision to be a leading energy solutions provider.



Background

A core component of any data and analytics roadmap is the technology platforms to enable it.  Yet the market for data and analytics products is rapidly changing, making it difficult to decide what is right for any business.  

In fact, just looking at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant1 for Data Management Solutions provides you with nineteen options!  And for a bit of fun, look at the corresponding quadrants for Business Intelligence, Data Science and Data Integration and you are left pondering fifty-four distinct vendors.  

All this whilst your end users and business departments are subscribing to the latest Software as a Service (SaaS) capability, because they believe you are dragging your feet. 

This was the challenge that Ausgrid faced when they reached out.  

They were already aware of the value the data they were collecting held but they needed help with making the right choice on a platform to help improve efficiency and decision-making and help realise their vision to become a leading energy solutions provider.

Even narrowing the field down by selecting leading vendors with enterprise capability, Ausgrid were still left with many questions; “What’s right for our users? What’s right for the data we curate and collect? What about security? What fits our cloud strategy? How will this integrate across our landscape? How much does it cost? How do we navigate through all these choices?”



Outcomes

Through a shortlisting and selection process, we enabled Ausgrid in choosing a Microsoft Azure analytics ecosystem. The Microsoft Azure capability suited Ausgrid’s current and future needs as an energy services and solutions provider and aligned as a vendor which already had a significant footprint at Ausgrid. 

Their new solution enables scale, capability, and energy data scenarios – both current and future – that were not previously possible, such as:

  • Readiness for 5-minute energy settlements, to ensure handling of the volume and velocity
  • Streaming and analysing meter data, enabling capability for real-time energy insights 
  • Improving energy data services for customers
  • Capability to store and process unstructured data types such as Lidar and images which are essential for energy services
  • Allowing consolidation and total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of disparate data platforms and capability.

The platform now implemented in Microsoft Azure is an enabler for Ausgrid, allowing them to focus on getting the data right for cross-business needs.

Led by executives and data champions, Ausgrid is adapting to provide an ecosystem that encourages each employee to use data and the insights it creates to act sooner and more effectively.



“The narrative has now changed, we’re now discussing the data, not the technology to enable it.”

Ajay Mehta, Program Manager – Business Analytics & Innovation



Approach

From the outset the approach taken was to ensure that Ausgrid’s big data platform vision would be realised. It wasn’t enough to just present options, because there’s no value in an options paper until the chosen option is implemented and of value to the business.

To stay focussed the approach was broken into five logical steps:





1. Market Assessment

The assessment navigated the vast number of options in the market by evaluating against the criteria that really mattered to Ausgrid. To ensure alignment and fairness, it was vital to agree upon the evaluation criteria from the outset.  

2. Proof of Concept

The Proof of Concept helped road-test the selected option as well as providing something more tangible to win the hearts and minds of stakeholders.

3. Business Case

The business case provided a clear focus on financial benefit. This is notoriously difficult for data and analytics solutions where the value is often more intangible, enabling new insights and future capability. For this reason, the Ausgrid business case provided “hard cash” benefits through the consolidation and move from existing legacy data platforms, whilst also providing the strategic “soft cash” benefits that future use cases would deliver.

4. Solution Design

As Ausgrid was new to the idea of cloud-based analytics, there were many concerns to address with the solution around cloud readiness. 

The detailed design helped address these concerns:

  • How will cloud and on-premise data sources integrate?
  • How secure will the data be?  Including encryption, access and ring-fencing considerations.
  • How can we estimate cost for budgeting? How can we allocate costs to enable chargeback models?

5. Implementation

Endorsement of the detailed design paved the way for a smooth implementation, although it was important to be willing to learn and adjust as the cloud environment, tools and approach were new to Ausgrid.



“We would recommend Ignite due to their ability to adapt to the client’s needs, industry knowledge and subject matter technical expertise. They also were able to bring the right resource for the right engagement.”

Ajay Mehta, Program Manager – Business Analytics & Innovation



If you’d like more of the detail on the Ausgrid and Ignite partnership or discuss how analytics could help your business reach out to us.



Ignite Services

  • Leadership
  • Architecture



Ignite Solutions

  • Analytics Pathway



Technologies

  • Microsoft Azure
  • SAP



References:

  • 1 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Management Solutions 2019