Outage Management Systems for the Water Utility

Many electric utilities have implemented some type of Outage Management System (OMS) to help manage outage information and restoration efforts on the electric distribution system. But these same systems are rarely employed by water utilities.  These have increased in sophistication and are often integrated into the utility’s Customer Information System (CIS), Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, Geographic Information System (GIS), and, most recently, Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) systems.

The OMS is able to provide customers with feedback such as how widespread the outage impact is and the expected outage duration through the IVR or a website (sometimes in the format of a map showing affected area).…

10 Best Practices for High Performance ETL Processing

Every database administrator deals with this ETL headache at some point in their career. As data volumes grow, ETL processes start to take longer to complete. Cue the complaints from business users:

  • “Why do our data loads take so long to run?”
  • “Why can’t we get our reports out earlier?”
  • “I get to the office early and need to be able to see results by the time I get in!”

Performance issues are something that many organizations start to see when scaling up their platforms to handle more data.…

Living Two Lives

Nick Tan

April 25, 2011 was a momentous date for me. Before I tell you why, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about my background. I was born and raised in Malaysia and later came to the United States for college. I studied Industrial Engineering and while in college I decided to come out of the closet, which was a positive experience for me. Upon graduation, I worked as an engineer at a factory located in the small college town of Columbia, Missouri.…

Extending Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011: Build Attachment Download URL Links with JQuery

Recently, at a client engagement, I was tasked with building a custom CRM Web Resource that would allow users to download/open documents via a URL link and to view additional metadata about the document. The problem, that was being solved, was the business wanted to see a list of documents in one place that were found in 2 different custom entity types. The documents were attached to the Note (aka Annotation) objects related to said entities and the CRM out-of-the-box functionality will only show one related entity via a sub-grid.…

Predicting the Future: What an Engineer from the 1900s Can Teach Us About Customer Experience Today

In the early 1900s, a gentleman by the name of John Elfreth Watkins Jr. penned an article for Ladies’ Home Journal, titled “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years”.  As a civil engineer working for American railroads at the dawn of a new century, it was fitting that Watkins would take an interest in the technological advances that might shape America’s productivity landscape. Several of his prophecies were busts: humans averaging ten miles of walking a day and the eradication of cockroaches were among Watkins’ ambitious ideas that missed the mark.…

Does Your Organization Have an Olivia Pope?

Deflategate. The St. Louis Cardinals hacking scandal. Lululemon and see through yoga pants.

In the age of social media and catastrophes taking front and center stage in the media, it’s pretty safe to say that if your organization encounters a crisis then your clients and constituents are going to find out about it. If you haven’t developed a crisis management plan to prepare for the worst, then you better not consider it “handled.”

I akin crisis management to rental insurance.…

Perspective on Public Cloud Costs


Costs can frequently be the deciding factor for IT decisions rather than pure functionality or performance. Cloud IaaS and PaaS solutions are relatively new and it is sometimes difficult for IT leaders to understand what the costs are for these newer solutions as they begin to catch on.

First, some brief IT history:

  • Let’s deploy a mainframe, and have many users share it.  That’ll be cost-efficient!
  • x86 servers are the way to go.  Much cheaper than those mainframe dinosaurs!

In a Seller’s Market, Having a Rigorous, Disciplined, Process is Essential

Blockbuster M&A deals are great for making headlines; what’s not great for making headlines are the write-offs, divestitures, and bankruptcies that follow many failed transactions. Sluggish economic growth, low interest rates, cheap debt, record high equities markets and large cash sums on corporate balance sheets have led to a very “hot” M&A market. With the large amounts of money, time, and effort it takes to complete a deal, treating an acquisition like a one-off project is one of the fastest ways for an acquisition to fail.…

Migrating Your DirSync Domain for Office 365

Cloud solutions have been around long enough now that migration scenarios are getting more exotic than simply moving data from the LAN to an Internet-based provider. What follows is a step-by-step guide for technical audiences attempting to migrate the Microsoft Azure Active Directory Sync Services (DirSync) tool from one on-premises AD domain to another.

I recently came across a situation where there was a need to move the DirSync from one local Active Directory domain to another, independent Active Directory domain.…

Bringing Azure Automation to Your On-Premises Environment

Microsoft’s Azure Preview Portal offers a number of additional automation features as compared to the standard management portal. The most interesting to me of these Preview Portal features is the ability to provision Hybrid Runbook Workers (“HRW”) that allow your automation tasks to span both Azure and on-premises systems. For some environments, Azure Automation could even be a replacement for on-premises System Center Orchestrator, depending on how heavily used your on-premises automation environment is. In this post, I’ll explain the specifics of HRWs in Azure and how you can go about setting this up in your environment.…

Security Buzzwords – What’s the difference?

Data breaches are on the rise and experts forecast that that trend will continue (Experian – Data Breach Industry Forecast). With increased news coverage, Information security is no longer confined to the IT department.  Business partners and C-Level executives are now asking questions and want to know if their company is prepared.  Often times they’ll come armed with buzz-words like ‘vulnerability scans’, ‘penetration tests’, and ‘security assessment’.  As IT professionals, we often think we understand what our business partner is asking for, but do we really? …

A Perspective on Implementing Lean in Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Business Functions


Lean implementations are proven to eliminate waste and promote better flow within the value stream. They can be applied to a variety of industries from manufacturing to healthcare, and production to service functions. In this blog, I’ll focus on Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) business functions. Unlike traditional processes, MRO functions can have an extremely variable demand with a wide array of products/services. They often have labor forces commanding higher salaries than a typical production line workforce due to the technical skills necessary to diagnose, service, repair and replace intricate products/systems.…

How to Create a Company Intranet that Breaks Down Inter-Departmental Silos and Increases Collaboration

Picture an organization that is used to sharing documents via email exchanges and hard print outs.  Team members have to contribute to a common deliverable, but are left duplicating efforts and working on outdated versions of the document because updates are made offline and then emailed to the rest of the team.  This leads to frustration and inefficiencies.  Or worse yet, imagine an organization that does not share files and is left with an information void and resources with institutional knowledge.…

A Look at Gemba Walks in the Distribution Center Environment

With the increasing availability of warehouse information in today’s distribution centers, it can seem like the answer is always in the data. However, when supervisors notice that productivity is beginning to decrease, the start of the solution might be as simple as getting out of the office and onto the warehouse floor.

Background and Methodology

In the ever-popular Lean environment, there is a component based off of the Japanese term “Gemba,” meaning “the real place”. A “Gemba walk” refers to physically observing where value exists in a system and looking for different opportunities to improve efficiency.…

Cutting Through the Fog of B2B Marketing Enablement: Fragmentation + Fragmentation = Fragmentation

John vance 120x120

The digital disruption caused by the ubiquity of 24×7 Internet can often be a challenge for relationship managers focused on one-to-one, face-to-face interactions. The question is often, how can marketing automation techniques and technology enable B2B marketing when prospect groups are relatively few in number? The fact is that armed with mobile devices and go-anywhere connectivity, all ‘people of interest’, from anonymous suspects to long standing clients are less reliant on face-to-face interactions in order to receive the information they are looking for.…


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