Data Trustworthiness in the Energy Industry: Challenges, Risks, and Recommendations

Introduction: The Age of Constant Change

Forbes, in 2022 identified decarbonization, decentralization, and digitization as the three major trends transforming the energy industry. Digitization, in particular, affects every facet of the energy sector, from production management to customer billing. Advanced digital analytics technologies, such as those provided by Alteryx, are optimizing operations and increasing market knowledge and agility in the industry. Consequently, there’s a growing pursuit of digital transformation across the sector, necessitating constant access to the most accurate and trustworthy data.

Specific Challenges for Energy Companies

Despite these potential benefits, the energy industry faces unique challenges related to digitization and data trustworthiness. Among these challenges are entrenched legacy systems that are costly to upgrade, increasing infrastructure diversity that demands complex data sharing between legacy and modern systems, and the IT-OT divide that complicates modernization and integration efforts. Moreover, the sheer volume of data generated from various sources, including smart meters and customers, presents its challenges.

Corporate culture can also act as a barrier to change. Resistance to cultural change can make modernization efforts daunting, thus risking the security and accuracy of critical data.

Cybersecurity Risks are Data Risks

The relationship between cybersecurity and data trustworthiness in the energy industry cannot be overstated. Cybersecurity measures focus on systems and devices that produce and handle critical business and customer data. Therefore, data protection and security efforts must align with cybersecurity initiatives.

A recent survey by DNV highlights the growing awareness of cybersecurity threats in the industry. Of the 600 energy industry decision-makers surveyed, 59% said their companies plan to increase investment in cybersecurity and data protection in 2023 compared to 2022. However, less than half (42%) believe their organizations are investing enough in cybersecurity and data protection, and barely more than a third (36%) feel their companies are investing sufficiently in OT protection.

The risks associated with inadequate protection extend beyond poor decision-making. They include potential operational disruptions, regulatory non-compliance, and reputational damage, reinforcing the need for comprehensive cybersecurity and data protection efforts.

What You Should Do Now

Data security and trustworthiness necessitate a combination of people, processes, and solutions. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Build the Right Teams: Gather relevant department leaders to contribute to the data protection efforts. Encourage collaboration and consistent communication among all stakeholders.
  2. Develop a Positive Culture: Encourage a culture that supports modernization, cybersecurity, and data protection.
  3. Implement Effective Policies and Processes: Update existing policies and processes related to data management and data lineage. Pay special attention to frequent reviews and updates.
  4. Strengthen Cybersecurity Measures: Consider expanding the use of encryption, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and anonymization of critical data to improve cybersecurity and data protection.
  5. Monitor and Automate Everything: Automate all processes and maintain comprehensive knowledge of your data traversing IT and OT infrastructures through continuous monitoring.
  6. Conduct Regular Audits: Identify potential vulnerabilities before they pose threats by regularly auditing your systems.
  7. Educate Everyone: Train all users about the importance of data trustworthiness and their roles in achieving it.
  8. Anticipate Continuing Change: Ensure your data protection measures are flexible enough to respond timely to significant changes.

Real-Life Examples

One of the largest energy companies in the world successfully deployed Incisive Software solutions to conduct regular reviews of thousands of critical spreadsheets. They achieved standardization around tools and guardrails protecting their use, thereby improving decision-making and enabling agile responses to business and industry changes.

How Incisive Can Help

Incisive Software is committed to helping organizations build a strong foundation for success based on accurate and trustworthy data. Incisive Analytics Essentials, a solution the company offers, provides managerial control over citizen-built applications and low-code/no-code deployments. The solution enables effective management, protection, and trust of business-critical data across your entire enterprise. For more information, email [email protected] or call 408-660-3090.


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