In the weeks leading up to our Utility Analytics Week conference and exhibition, we'll be profiling utility analytics professionals who will be speaking at the event. This week, we sat down and chatted with Lloyd Tokerud, director of analytics for Hudson Energy, a division of Just Energy, which is the largest competitive green energy retailer in North America serving 1.6 million customers. Tokerud took some time to discuss his analytics role at Hudson Energy and the continuous evolution that analytics will bring to utility companies.
On his role with analytics
"My role is to get Hudson Energy's analytics program off the ground. Previously, I had been involved with putting an analytics department together for another retail electric provider, and Hudson Energy asked me to do something similar. So I'm working on pulling together the team, structuring the data environment, and driving an analytics culture across the organization."
Analytics should roll up to the president's office
"Our analytics department actually rolls up to the office of the president, which is an important part of how I thought things needed to be set up. When you have an analytics department that is aligned beneath an operating function -- like IT, operations or even marketing -- it tends to serve whatever department it is under first. If an analytics department is really supposed to be there to get the most important questions answered, then it makes more sense that it's rolled up through the office of the president where the right prioritization happens for the right questions."
Analytics focus areas today
"Right now, we're doing two things. Number one, we're laying the groundwork for the data infrastructure that we're going to be pulling together in the fall. So we're going in and investigating all the data that exists in all the different areas, understanding the discrepancies between the different data and trying to work together as a team to get definition around how the data ideally should be across the company. Second, we're trying to get value as soon as we can by taking available data and answering the most important questions we have on the table today. We're doing both in parallel, so we can drive value now as opposed to waiting for some future date where the warehouse is in place before being able to drive value.
"It creates a virtual cycle, as you answer those really important questions, then other questions come from those. You know that your data needs to be able to quickly and effectively answer X, Y and Z, so you're going to build a data set that supports those needs."
Analytics in the next few years
"First, you need to get to a state where you're really operating on all cylinders of having your data structured the right way and being able to rapidly answer questions. Once you're up to speed with that, two or three years down the road really just becomes an enhancement in terms of building capability around more predictive analytical modeling, gathering relevant information from external sources, and promoting experimentation to test new things with your customers. All those sorts of things become part of a continuous evolution. Analytics is definitely not a destination; it's a journey for sure."
The most exciting things about analytics
"I'm passionate about analytics because it is a lot of different things that come together in the right way. I love to learn new things, and that's something that really drives my personality. There's always something new going on, some new challenge. You're constantly learning new things about the business or new things about the industry to be competitive and to stay ahead.
"When it's done right, it's also half art and half science. It isn't enough for a person to be good technically -- that's only half the battle. What separates a good analytics department from one that is not is people who have the skills to bridge the data and the business needs of their internal clients. It is really a language translator role. There are a lot of people skills involved in making sure that translation is done correctly from a client service perspective, and that is a really rewarding challenge."
Ready to hear more?
Hear more from Tokerud at Utility Analytics Week, September 18-20 in Arlington, Texas, where he will be presenting during the session Developing and supporting the new analytics culture.