Some may wonder why a high-level technology contractor would leave and go to work for a utility.
This was asked by some people from Adriana Andy Karabutis, the former CIO of Dell, who left the computer giant and was named Global Grid’s Chief Information Officer and Digital Director in 2017.
Her answer? It can change the world.
“This is one of the most stressful but challenging jobs – providing and transforming critical national infrastructure,” said Karabutis, who is excited to be a player in more than two major global initiatives: providing national infrastructures from cyberattacks. and transforming the global energy grid in an era of epic technological advances to slow climate change.
As a global CIO, Karabutis is the chief architect of the British multinational’s $ 20 billion digital transformation in the United Kingdom, as well as in New York and New England. She is currently working with two governments to support the cybersecurity of several NATO energy networks while transforming the company into a “smart connected service”.
The chances of the American president or the British prime minister are more likely to pick up a phone call from the CIO of the National Grid these days than from a technical manager. Being on what she calls the “frontier” of global energy transformation may keep her awake some nights, but it’s “rewarding” without words, says Karabutis, who will speak to MIT IT Sloan Symposium next week.
“You can imagine what the Infrastructure Act and Go Green are [initiatives] meant for my budget. It has grown by 30% to 40%, “she said. “I don’t want to give you exact figures, but I had a smaller budget when I was Dell’s chief information officer.”
Upgrading the data architecture of the utility
National Grid is a major customer of Microsoft Azure in the cloud due to its secure, inherent nature, says Karabutis, and uses a range of state-of-the-art tools, from Snowflake, Azure and Matallion ETL for data tools, Informatica for data quality, Reltio for management of basic data and Blue Prism for RPA, to name a few.
The utility is about a third of its way through the transition to the cloud and focuses on moving customer and workforce data first to the cloud to get the most out of business. After that, Karabutis says, National Grid will migrate field force data to the cloud from its fleet of 7,000 on-site workers serving consumers and businesses.
“These capabilities allow us to reduce business risk as we move away from our monolithic, local environments and provide resilience and scale to the cloud,” said the CIO, noting that National Grid also has significant data center consolidation as it moves more data. to the cloud. “We are very mature in our data architecture and what we want. It’s getting closer. “
Not all data will be migrated off-premises – only data that makes sense to work in the cloud, she said.
“I call it cloud density in the right way,” Karabutis added. “All our investments are worth it. And in so many cases, this is not a net return on investment and cost savings, but the elimination of hidden costs and shared costs of technical debt management, such as not having to upgrade. It is about increased security for the state. It is about capacity management and sustainability. All of this together is the way we measure the value of the transition to the cloud. “
Recruitment to move to IT-based products
Talent, data and cloud operating models. These are the main ingredients of the National Grid’s digitalization efforts, which Karabutis equates to building a “smart connected program”.
The first is to build and acquire talent to power the National Grid’s IT transformation, which involves digitizing the network and connecting it to a wide range of sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices and many new renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind. turbines, hydro innovation and even battery technology. The National Grid, which has promised to be fossil-free by 2050, also has a geothermal project underway in New York.
To achieve this, Karaboutis will rely on 1,400 IT staff and another 2,500 contractors. Its budget has also increased significantly, so it has hired product managers as part of the transition to transforming IT operations into a flexible, product-based operational model. Karabutis has also hired UX designers, data scientists, corporate architects and RPA writers, but she can’t find the “talent density” fast enough.
To fill the gap, Karaboutis uses Pluralsight and LinkedIn for training initiatives and continues to outsource the development and maintenance of Wipro, IBM and Atos applications. National Grid is also working with traditional tenants to build a “talent density” and has partnered with flexible innovation consultants such as Thoughtworks, Giant Machines and Palantir, among others, Karabutis said.
Optimization with machine learning
Meanwhile, National Grid is busy building its network to interact with solar, wind and rechargeable batteries. It is also researching natural renewable gas extracted from garbage and has purchased wind farms. But it is keeping its eye and using modern technology to optimize its core electricity business.
As part of this, National Grid is implementing Microsoft AI (ML) machine learning algorithms to streamline its crop management pruning plans as part of the Copperleaf project to prevent fires and other disasters. It also uses geospatial technology in conjunction with artificial intelligence to make the “right decisions” on how to maintain submarine cables and make decisions about routes and investments.
The utility also explores ways to implement ML algorithms to better manage power outages that still occur during electric shocks, such as during World Cup advertising breaks or royal weddings. Such investments in “balancing electricity” may in the future rely on battery technology because it can be stored, Karabutis said.
But despite all these efforts to transform the National Grid into a “smart connected program”, the portfolio of IT projects that are already underway fills Karabutis. Its network of advanced data tools and platforms such as Snowflake and Azure is what will make connections and integrations with whatever energy sources the National Grid will look to the future. And the data is current in this network.
“We said the data was an asset to the company, didn’t we?” Karabutis said. “Today we know it, we breathe it, we live it, but we don’t need to say it. The quality of the data that we are constantly working on and improving “will enable the vision of the National Grid, says the global CIO.