Three easy steps to a tidy energy database

Don’t let your database run away with you. It’s easy to put off updating data and basic admin database tasks that you can do later. But a database needs a new breath of life every so often. It’s important to step back and look at what you’ve got, and how and where you’re adding to your database. Missing data, inconsistencies in data entry, and incorrect settings can hamper all of your hard work. To save yourself time and money you must keep your database shipshape.

How long ago was your database set up?

I have previously written a blog on the importance of data accuracy and the tools to help achieve it – but, what about actually tackling it. You can have a great piece of software, a system in place for entering utility invoice data but the database won’t maintain itself. So many external influences can impact on your database, it will need to evolve. The invoice data going into the software may be completely correct in terms of usage, but as we all find out eventually the complex nature of an organisation’s portfolio, from maintenance to upgrades can change everything.

Working-on-LaptopIn the Energy Bureau at TEAM we spend time making sure that our database configurations are kept up to date and accurate. For example, a site may show low consumption, we find out it has been emptied for sale purposes, the customer is still responsible for the energy consumption but the tolerances within the database for flagging anomalies can be modified to save time. We spend some of our time helping our customers ensure they have up to date lists of active and closed sites. Invoices can still continue to be sent through and entered if the closed site isn’t identified in the software.

Step 1: Communication

It is common for unfamiliar meter numbers to appear on bills, alerting you to the fact that that a meter exchange has taken place. Perhaps a mandatory upgrade to AMR or simply a faulty meter initially. Or even the times when an account just hasn’t had an invoice generated for a period of time due to supplier fault.

These nuggets of information are often known by one or a handful of people in any organisation but might not be successfully communicated. The relevance to the database might not always be fully understood, or there could be a delay in the information share of the new meter number. The outcome of any of these scenarios where the database becomes outdated is that the accuracy of the database suffers, if records are not updated.

GRAPHICAL Graph 5594027Step 2: Increase Database Flexibility

We know that accuracy is such a key driver to customers – whether it is for regular monthly reporting or for compliance requirements, the accuracy of the data should always be of upmost importance.  With CRC phase 2 looming, we see that customers are becoming more adept and flexible to the seemingly ever changing legislation.

So what can be done to get started on giving your database a bit of a boost?

  • Do you have policies on database updates?  Organisations often have energy management policies – but is there any responsibility taken for a policy driven updating of the database? That way, you enhance the chances of keeping a compliant database and raise awareness. After all, the energy policy will be of little use if the data that supports it is outdated.
  • Try tidying up the permissions: People come and go from organisations and permissions are not always removed to reflect this. With data becoming more accessible (over the web etc) a renewed interest in who has access to the data is key.

Step 3: Look for problems

Obvious problems or complex issues, you must look for holes in your dataset and start investigating.

  • Missing and overdue bills reports provide a good start to identify any data gaps in your database. Through awareness you can start to tackle any problems.
  • Year-on-year reports are another important tool in identifying where you could have erroneous data. Running direct comparisons on previous years’ data can highlight instances of over or under charging
  • ‘Estimates since last actual’ report – this provides a good overview of the accounts where an actual reading hasn’t been taken for any period of time.  Again, with utility bill accuracy being such a significant driver for both legislative compliance and for general day-to-day energy management, tackling the estimated accounts is a beneficial task.
  • Contact your Software Support team: For any of our Support customers, our Helpdesk provides a great service to assist you with any technical aspects of the database (such as database structure). The Customer Support Portal holds a wealth of FAQs and tips which can guide you around the software.

These are just a small number of places to start to identify some quick wins. By making sure that you have up-to-date information about the portfolio you are managing and that the utility bill accuracy is as you would expect it to be, the job of energy management becomes easier. There are of course more in depth checks that can be carried out on your data set and some that may take longer than others.

If time is a rare commodity then don’t forget that TEAM are able to offer a Data Processing Service to help your organisation tackle any specific areas of your Sigma database, such as inputting invoices, database configuration or tackling queries on your behalf through a flexible package.

Posted by TEAM on 28 March 2014
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