The Conference Season

I’m not really sure how this works outside the UK, so apologies to the tens of thousands (!!) of you that read my blog that aren’t UK residents. In the UK it’s the start of the ”party” conference season. This means great British seaside resorts like Blackpool, Brighton and Manchester are suddenly flooded – not by globally warming affected** swollen seas, but by politicians and their entourages (if that’s the plural).  ** I know our sponsor isn’t a great fan of this contentious subject – I must say, as a Mancunian, I have seen NO sign of any warming this year, or in living memory, to be honest. But if Donald thinks it’s Trumped up, then just maybe it is real!

So these conferences are occasions for the respective political parties to talk amongst their own supporters and convince themselves that their strategies, policies and beliefs are correct and all the other parties are wrong. I don’t think it really helps endear any of them to the electorate, but that’s their problem.

But there is a conference that is worth attending. That’s the CTRM conference in Amsterdam.

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Let’s be honest, we all like an excuse to go to Amsterdam, ”on business” – so this is as good as any! Actually, looking at the prospective list of companies attending, it is a better reason than most.

So I’m convinced and I’ll be there – I hope to meet quite a few of you – at least the ones who I haven’t offended or bored too much with my ramblings.

One of the reasons I’ll be going along is that I have recently become aware of a new breed of software applications aimed at reducing energy trading and operational staff dependency on Excel and rather mundane, none-value-add repetitive manual tasks. This is often as simple as reconciling the outputs from different systems, which due to its high boredom factor can often lead to (very costly!) mistakes.

Copying readings from a screen based email and typing them into a spreadsheet – also highly error prone. Updating multiple systems due to an outage etc. etc.

Years ago, when we first introduced ETRM systems into the industry, they seemed to address every eventuality, but it rapidly became apparent that there were, for example, about 20% of the common processes were overlooked, or just too complicated or obtuse to configure in an ETRM.

Most of these can now be readily systemised quickly and cost effectively, with no disruption to business as usual, with energy process automation software. This type of software can usually be user configured, although they are ideal tools for use by systems integrators. They can add real value to their clients’ operation by performing process analysis, mapping and subsequent configuration of these systems. The better packages can be deployed on-premise or in the cloud and can start very simply and quickly by configuring a single process as a proof of concept, and then adding more and more processes over time.

They are not meant to replace ETRM, scheduling, billing or any other proprietary solutions, but they can act as the ‘glue’ between disparate systems. They are particularly good at replacing Excel bespoke applications and offering the advantages of auditability, distribution around an organisation for multiple use  – i.e. removing self-created spreadsheet solutions which do not communicate with each other but whose results are critical.

Typical areas I’ve come across where these packages are deployed are:

  • Middle office processes such as bespoke forward curve building and management
  • Easy aggregation and transformation of business process data across multiple sources and with multiple inputs (FTP, email, text files etc.)
  • Asset scheduling
  • Data reconciliation
  • Portfolio optimization across commodities and physical and contract positions
  • Automated transactions B2B for bespoke supply (e.g. industrial customers)
  • Bespoke reports and reporting cycles
  • Complex energy contract management automation

Apart from discussing business critical issues such as Manchester City and Bruce Springsteen, I would be very interested to get your thoughts on any systems you’ve seen or any areas above that may resonate.

Looking forward to seeing you all in Amsterdam


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