De-Risking Data Migration for REPs Part 1

De-Risking Data Migration for Retail Energy Providers (REPs)

Part 1: Data Migration Patterns

Written by: Emmanueil Masih, Senior Manager, Cyber Group Inc.

One of the most common engagements we find ourselves in as consultants is assisting companies as they modernize their systems or realize the synergies created by integrating other firms into their organizations.  This often requires bringing enterprise data from other sources into some single source of truth in the parent company.  This is often multi-layered, which means that more often than not, we are taking data representing clients, accounts and historical or in-process financial transactions and merging that with a target data source that represents the consolidated system for those functions. 

This article is the first in a two-part series designed to provide foundational knowledge about data migration strategies and share how Cyber Group approaches these engagements and works proactively with our clients to accelerate AND de-risk initiatives requiring consolidation of customer data across disparate systems for various business-impacting reasons. 

While the words “data migration” may appear quite simple, the actions required to complete data migrations are often quite complex.   During my tenure at Cyber Group, I have been privy to a multitude of data migration use cases.  Through my consulting journey, I have experienced essentially four distinct kinds of migration use cases. 

 

1. Storage

  • Storage migration is the migration of data stored in one physical location (e.g. Network Attached Storage (NAS), Storage Area Network, or single hard drive) to a target location. Moving physical file share data to the cloud is an example of storage migration. It is commonly executed to improve system performance by moving the existing storage to higher performing and more modern storage solutions and/or to reduce the risk of data loss that can be present when organizations rely on physical storage devices to host their enterprise data.

2. Database

  • A database migration involves moving data between two database management systems.  Recently, the most common type of data migration has been in support of organizations who are shifting to a cloud strategy for data management, or are migrating from one vendor to another. Not only does this data need to be migrated, but very often it needs to be transformed to map to a new data format.   

3. Application

  • Similar to storage migration, application migration is the process of moving an application from one environment to another.  Often application migrations are the result of shifting vendor strategies for a particular niche of system – e.g. front office systems like Salesforce and back office systems like billing engines and accounting systems. 
  • Application migrations often entail a multitude of data migration strategies for storage, database and application levels in a firm’s technology stack.  The cause for such migrations is also relatively similar such as vendor changes caused by strategic shifts. 

4. Business Process

  • Business process migration is the migration of databases and applications that contains information about customers, products, and operations.  These migrations often require changing the underlying supporting technology and working with business users to fundamentally alter how they operate. 

 

The first three – Storage, Database and Application migration – are standards across all organizations. While we enjoy such engagements and have built core competencies around these functional areas, the real secret sauce of a system transformation initiative often revolves around adapting, modifying and optimizing business processes to enable organizations to realize the full potential of their technology strategies.  We can help organizations move data from one place to another, for sure.  But often business value is created by not migrating, but restructuring business processes to maximize the potential a technology investment creates.   

At Cyber Group, I am mostly dedicated to our Retail Energy practice.  Together, we have built a practice around providing verticalized consulting services to Retail Energy Providers (REP) who are responsible for distributing and servicing the energy needs of customers in deregulated energy markets around the world.  Accordingly, over the last 9 years, I have managed several migrations that specifically focused on the following key business processes within the Retail Energy world: 

  1. Transmission and Delivery Utility (TDU) data migration
  2. Integration of Purchased Books of Business
  3. Re-Branding – an adjunct effort that often happens after acquisitions
  4. Provider of Last Resort (POLR)

 

Transmission and Delivery Utility (TDU) Data Migration

In Texas, the Transmission and Delivery Utility (TDU) is the company that delivers electricity from the power grid to homes and businesses nearby.

Currently, there are five(5) TDU’s in Texas as listed below: 

  • Texas-New Mexico Power (TNMP)
  • Oncor Electric Delivery Company
  • AEP Texas Central Division
  • AEP Texas North Division
  • CenterPoint

 

It is very common for TDU’s to acquire other TDU’s.  When these events occur, a project to migrate data from one TDU to another is equally common.  Every TDU has its own way of managing customer data.  This presents a technical complexity that I’m sure you can imagine in terms of extracting data in a common format and transforming the data according to each TDU’s unique requirements and business logic.   

 

Customer Data Migration After Book-Buying

If you have monitored the Retail Energy industry over the last five years, you likely would have observed the intense consolidation that we are witnessing.  When I joined Cyber Group, there were big players in the market, for sure, such as NRG and TXU; however, there was still a rich market of providers of varying sizes.   Fast forward to today, and these large companies have only grown larger, and the presence of independent firms is diminishing.  That is to say that inorganic growth among firms has emerged as a key to survival as competition has only grown fiercer.        

Once an acquisition closes, the most immediate priority post-transaction is to integrate the acquired company’s data into the parent company’s systems as quickly as possible.  Hence, for the growing firm, it is imperative to create repeatable frameworks that can be easily repurposed to enable rapid integration of customer data.  Otherwise, vital time is lost where acquisition synergies are realized.  Additionally, failure to quickly ingest this data makes downstream financial reporting much more laborious. 

 

Re-Branding

It is very common that a company can be the owner of different Brands/REP’s and it can decide to merge different brands and re-brand.  It is equally common that one brand resonates with a market more than others.  In these instances, or to create clarity in the market, we have been called upon to enable re-branding strategies.  Often this involves working with the marketing and sales organization to adjust customer and partner-facing websites.  This is the easy part.  On the backend, CRM and ERP systems have to be able to reconcile these brands and report accordingly.  This latter requirement is often where the heavy lifting of re-branding strategies is required. 

 

Provider of Last Resort (POLR)

POLR’s are designated back-up commodity service providers in areas of a deregulated market.  This is a failsafe designation that ensures customers have a default REP in case their current provider is unable to provide service to their area due to cessation of business activities.  

Every utility has a designated POLR REP and if any REP is unable to continue service, the utility will ask the POLR REP to overtake the current customers of the REP. In this case, data migration will be required, again, within an expedited timeframe. 

The most complex aspect of migrating to a POLR is accommodating for the difference in core business processes that every firm has, but each firm does differently. Apart from REP’s system knowledge, it needs thorough knowledge of how the system works and how transactions flow between REP’s billing engine and utility companies.

At Cyber Group, we have established a unified approach to handling all the above mentioned Business process migrations to promote reuse and is poised to accelerate future efforts.   Our deep expertise in technical consulting and our 100- year combined experience in Retail Energy within our practice positions us uniquely to be depended upon as a core technology partner. 

I hope you have enjoyed this segment.  In Part II, we will put these concepts to practice and provide a deep dive into some of the repeatable migration frameworks we have deployed for our customers. 

 

Best,

Emmanueil

Prosper, TX