Applying Tradition of Reliability

By Bob Violino  |  Posted 2006-01-14 Print this article Print

The electricity distributor restored service in September 2005 to its Mississippi customers within 12 days, instead of 28. A system to find critical documents offered an assist.

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The expanded use of the platform has brought further benefits. One is that Southern overcame the geographical limitations of its regional operating companies by providing for the first time an electronic, central repository of vendor contracts. This has eliminated the time spent looking for, copying and mailing paper contracts.

"Plant support personnel find design documentation is much easier to locate since the data and functionality of the legacy systems were consolidated in Documentum," says Jeff Pruitt, a senior information systems analyst who supports Southern Generation. "Before this implementation, a search for the current version of a document sometimes necessitated searching up to four legacy systems, and possibly paper and microfilm."

Perhaps most important for a power company, the content management system has led to increased reliability of its services to customers, because employees are better equipped to solve problems.

A Baseline analysis of major power outages in the U.S. shows that Southern Co. has restored power faster than other utilities (see "Quick on Its Feet," above). In 2004, Southern Co. responded to eight power outages, restoring electricity, on average, within 1 day and 20 hours. Of 65 other major disturbances affecting 37 utilities elsewhere in the U.S. the same year, it took an average of 3 days and 5 hours to restore power.

Southern declines to say how much it spent on the content management implementation, citing a non-disclosure agreement with Documentum. The company recently upgraded from version 4 of the system to version 5.2.5, which includes a new Web interface.

Tony Byrne, founder of CMS Watch, a Silver Spring, Md., consulting firm that specializes in content management technology, says it's difficult to estimate how much a project of this type would cost because vendors tend to charge different rates for different customers. But he says the entire project, including consulting and maintenance services, probably cost "from the high six figures to the low seven figures."

Measuring a return on investment for content management systems can also be difficult, Byrne says. "When you're talking about managing electronic documents, it's often very hard to prove an ROI," he explains. "It tends to be a cost of doing business," where a company needs the technology in order to be more agile or to improve records management.

—Anna Maria Virzi contributed to this story.

Story Guide:
I.T., Not Just Elbow Grease, Help Utility's Recovery

  • Untangling an Unplanned Legacy
  • Making Related Content Connect
  • Applying Tradition of Reliability to I.T.
  • Southern Co. Base Case

    Next page: Southern Co. Base Case

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