In this post, we’ll get into the conclusion we’ve all been waiting for: how the solutions to the seemingly insurmountable problems facing the electric grid and enterprise data management sit at what can be defined as the “last mile”.
First, let’s talk about what won’t work. These futile solutions are similar to someone banging his head up against a concrete wall, hoping for it to break down.
What We Can’t Do About It
First let’s talk about rip and replace. We can’t just rip and replace the grid like you would replace a refrigerator. Gretchen Bakke in her recent book, The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future, quoted an author who said, “It would be akin to rebuilding our entire airplane fleet, along with our runways and air traffic control system while the planes are all up in the air, filled with passengers.”
For enterprises and for the grid, it takes A LOT of time to “re-tool” or build a new solution from the ground up. A big reason for this is that the new has to work with the old. Even in the cases where you want to merge one Salesforce org with another (they are both “Salesforce” after all, right?), these projects involve massive migrations of data and functionality, and can take months or even years.
In other words, re-tooling projects are crazy projects that are very expensive!
The other problem is that there are too many cooks in the kitchen these days. These systems are increasingly complex in the sense that they touch so many stakeholders. In the electricity industry you have the utilities, the government, consumers, businesses, the fossil fuel industry; in the Enterprise you have IT, Operations, COEs, individual departments, Finance -- just to name a few.
Trying to get everyone who is a stakeholder to agree on one small thing, let alone a whole new system for doing things, is not easy to say the least. As Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon point out in The Challenger Customer, organizational decision making increasingly involves multiple points of consensus that usually results in solutions that solve the least common denominator of a problem. In other words, achieving full scale change is less and less likely these days, unless you have a mobilizer like Superman who can make things happen.
What We Can Do About It - Solutions at the Last Mile
Even with the difficulties of rebuilding everything from scratch, core infrastructure and system changes are always going to be part of the equation. But they won’t take us all the way home. We have a problem that can be referred to as the “last mile problem”: as one nears the end of a problem or the fringes of a problem, it becomes increasingly difficult and costly to find a 100% complete solution.
So why not just leave things almost done? Operate by the 80/20 rule or something similar and just call it a day? Because that’s the nature of the last mile problem -- the lack of a solution at the last mile starts to undermine other solutions you already have in place, e.g., blackouts that affect everybody, and bad data quality that affects reports all the way up the chain.
So it turns out the last mile is precisely where we have to focus our attention to solve these fundamentally hard problems.
In telecommunications and logistics, the last mile solution refers to that part of the solution that lies closest to the end user. In electricity and data, think of it as the green boxes in these images.
The last mile involves distribution of electricity and information to a great number or widely separated end users or endpoints. Those users or endpoints are typically diverse - so delivering power to a customer in the desert Southwest is different than in Seattle, WA. Delivering data management experiences to an AMER rep is different than a regional manager in Switzerland.
The solutions that have the most promise of overcoming the problems and obstacles presented in America’s electricity industry, and what we have seen work effectively for enterprise organizations time and again, follow 8 principles.
In our last two posts, we will cover the 8 Principles of Last Mile Data Management Solutions. They are very exciting and worth the read!
Read the next post, 4 Principles of Last Mile Data Management Solutions.