Tag Archives: Reports

6/7 Webinar: Building Accessible Power BI Reports by Meagan Longoria

I have been lucky enough to co-present with Meagan a couple of times last month (on Design and Administration); so when she mentioned the two topics that really excite her: Reporting and Accessibility, just like Reese’s peanut butter cups we had the perfect marriage for this weeks Power BI Webinar topic:

Building Accessible Power BI Reports

Accessibility is catering for your whole audience, including those with disabilities. According to the US Census Bureau, 19 percent of the of the population had a disability in 2010. Do you know if your reports are designed in an inclusive way such that everyone in your intended audience can use them? While this question is relevant for every organization, this can be especially important if you are making reports for government entities, educational institutions, or the general public. In this session, we’ll discuss accessibility features available in Power BI today and how to design your Power BI reports with inclusiveness in mind.

When: 6/7/2018 10AM PST

Where: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAvkyGGX8IE 

 6/7 Webinar: Building Accessible Power BI Reports by Meagan Longoria

About Meagan Longoria 

Meagan Longoria is a business intelligence consultant with BlueGranite who lives in Denver, Colorado. She is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP. Meagan spends a lot of time thinking about how to use Biml, DAX, and data visualization techniques to make data useful for people. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences at conferences and user group meetings as well as through her blog (DataSavvy.me).

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Microsoft Power BI Blog | Microsoft Power BI

Teradata Reports 2018 First Quarter Results

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Power BI Workspaces, Apps, and Ensuring Smooth Updates to Reports

2 Space Banner Idearv3 1024x580 Power BI Workspaces, Apps, and Ensuring Smooth Updates to Reports

Today, we’ll look at Power BI workspaces, apps, and how to keep changes from mucking up reports. In the software development lifecycle, a distinct space to test new reports ensures consistent results. Moreover, it’s part of good governance. This post builds on: How to Get Power BI Service to Work for You. Thanks to Krissy and Nar for prodding me to go further! Around here, we don’t require pre-publication peer review.  But we do learn from each other.

Note: This article requires the use of Power BI Pro, Office 365, and SharePoint Online. It’s ok if SharePoint on premises is your main intranet.

Two Issues with Power BI Workspaces and Apps

First, reports in Power BI workspaces and apps share a single dataset. And this data is updated whenever the workspace is updated. Second, workspaces and their apps have the same access. So, creators can publish reports without review.

1. The Power BI workspace and app share the same dataset.

When the publishing changes to the workspace, the data for the app changes too— even without updating the app. As a result, changes to the data model risk breaking the report. Also, you need to refresh the data before uploading or right after, so that stale data doesn’t replace fresh data.

Shared data in Power BI Service is by design, even if it has unplanned results. It reflects certain assumptions about self-service BI that doesn’t align with the real world. In this ideal, creating a report means applying visualizations to a stable dataset from a data warehouse. Even if you have a data warehouse, you still must refresh the report at the time of updating to avoid stale data. So, I added an item at ideas.powerbi.com to make updates upon changing a report.

2. A second issue is the partial separation of creating from testing.

As designed, the shared dataset does not deliver this separation.  It’s too easy to make changes. If there are few creators and report consumers, this can work. As more people use Power BI, stable processes are a must. See Rob’s Power BI Adoption Curve.

A Two-Space Solution for Power BI Workspaces and Apps

To get the benefits of a testing space, you need a second workspace. If the production space is Contoso Reports, the second space would be Contoso Reports-BETA. Report creators need editing rights on this workspace.  While the workspace is for development, the app of the beta space is for testing. Once changes are ready, publish the app to a group of users for testing.

How to move reports from development to production?

  1. In SharePoint Online, copy the pbix file from BETA to production team sites.
    The report in the Power BI workspace updates automatically if you sourced it using Get Data from the service.
  2. Refresh the report in the service.
  3. When refresh is complete, update the app to republish.
    In this process, there are two manual steps: copying the file and republishing the app. Report creators don’t need access to the production team site or workspace.

What did I miss? 

Dashboards. No way yet to move dashboards between workspaces. In fact, let’s add some steps.

Create a dashboard in the beta workspace, documenting the fields used and any slicers. When updating the report in the beta workspace, testers need to review the dashboard. If the dashboard breaks during development, the creator needs to change the dashboard and keep a list of changes.

After the report is in the production workspace, the publisher needs to pin similar tiles to the production dashboard (and fix any broken tiles before republishing the app).

Let’s look at the process.

Power BI Workspaces Apps Power BI Workspaces, Apps, and Ensuring Smooth Updates to Reports

Better living through syncing.

This chart shows syncing. First, there’s syncing between the PC and the SharePoint Online Team Site. Then, there’s syncing from the team site to the Power BI workspace. This syncing is done with Get Data from the service. Details on setting this up are in the post: How to Get Power BI Service to Work for You. However, moving files from beta to production is manual. And, publishing from Power BI workspaces to apps is also manual. Thus, these steps ensure stable results for report readers.

Wait, is this agile BI? 

Agile is all about flexibility: ways to respond to changes and support individuals and their interactions. So, in my chart, I show report creator and publisher. In a small company, one person may wear both hats. Let me put on my publisher hat to push out this report. In some places, it could be an admin from the business side. In other groups, it could be a Power BI team leader. Similarly, report creators could be business users and/or full-time Power BI developers. Further, testing would mean business users and developers working together to lay out acceptance criteria. After all, “everyone is responsible for quality.” Then, both groups test results at the same time while the report is in beta.

So, this is one way and not the only way to reach the goal. Let me know what you think.

More Resources for Power BI Workspaces, Apps:

We “give away” business-value-creating and escape-the-box-inspiring content like this article in part to show you that we’re not your average “tools” consulting firm. We’re sharp on the toolset for sure, but also on what makes businesses AND human beings “go.”

In three days’ time imagine what we can do for your bottom line. You should seriously consider finding out 🙂

* – unless, of course, you have two turntables and a microphone.  We hear a lot of things are also located there.

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Teradata Reports 2018 First Quarter Results

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Change the order of reports in the #powerbi service

Just wanted to share a hack of the problem that you can’t determine the sort order of your reports in the service so they will also be sorted alphabetically.

But by using little trick you can overcome this – and not by using a number or label them A., B. etc. in front of the name.

 Change the order of reports in the #powerbi service

As you can see my “Demo” report is actually before “Buildings Con….” Report.

You can do it like this

 Change the order of reports in the #powerbi service

Choose the rename report in the navigation pane.

 Change the order of reports in the #powerbi service

And then simply a space before the name of the report – so if you have 4 reports the report you want to be listed first should have 4 spaces and no 3 should have added 3 spaces etc.

The interface will not show the spaces so it will still look nice – you might have to switch to another workspace and back again in order for the cache of the webpage to be refreshed.

 Change the order of reports in the #powerbi service

 

Hope this can help you as well.

.

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Erik Svensen – Blog about Power BI, Power Apps, Power Query

How to automate ALL your sales & marketing reports – No more digging through data!

If there’s one thing that’s critical for modern sales and marketing professionals, it’s data. Not just for everyday decision making, but for upper management, as well.

After all, it’s not easy to secure a sufficient marketing budget if you have trouble piecing together the numbers to back it up.

Anyone who works in the field can tell you about the challenges of not just fully utilizing different types of data, but getting it into the hands of the right audiences. And while CRM systems come loaded with sales and marketing reporting capabilities, they often lack the flexibility to design, interact with and distribute them the way a dedicated solution can.

Now, imagine a scenario where, instead of routinely pulling together reports from CRM, social media, your website, etc., you’re able to have that information always up-to-date, structured and displayed on a highly customizable dashboard. Imagine that dashboard being accessible, whenever, wherever and to whomever needs to see it.

That’s the scenario with Microsoft Power BI.

Leader in Business Intelligence for 11 years running

Gartner has rated Microsoft a leader in self-service analytics for 11 years running and ranks top place for “Completeness of Vision”. Putting rich, interactive insights in the hands of everyday users, Power BI makes it easy to integrate data from nearly any source into a single solution and keep that data up-to-date with persistent refreshes.

Connect ALL your data sources

The modern marketing war is fought on many battlefields – websites, social media, search engines, email and beyond. By providing this data all in one place, and always refreshed, you can stop hopping between different applications and platforms to build reports, and start viewing your data on-demand.

Design interactive, all-in-one dashboards with ease

Power BI enables you to present data in ways your CRM can’t. Beyond any chart or graph format, Power BI provides interactive and engaging data visualizations. You can even animate your data over timelines, such as month-over-month, and other data ranges.

Visualize your data anywhere, on any glass

Power BI Mobile enables you to access all your data virtually anywhere, anytime, keeping you in the loop no matter where your job takes you.

If you’re interested in Power BI, but not sure how to present it to your boss, download this free guide from Microsoft.

By Turnkey Technologies, Inc. – Microsoft Dynamics Gold Partner for CRM, ERP and Application Integration, based in St. Louis, Missouri.

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

Teradata Reports Better Than Expected 2017 Results

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Share reports with your teams and partners

As we start the new year, we’re excited to announce we’re rolling out report sharing to users worldwide. Now reports and dashboards have the same sharing features, making it even easier for Power BI users to collaborate with their teams and partners. These changes make it possible for users to share reports directly, add reports to their favorites, find them in Shared with me, and works great with the recently released Azure B2B sharing features for external partners. In this blog post I’ll give some details on how you can use the new feature and provide some guidance on somethings you’ll want to do now that the feature is available.

Before we get too far into the nitty gritty, I wanted to take a moment to mention that this is the first of a series of improvements in the collaboration area, there are more to come!

Sharing Reports makes collaborating with reports easy

Since we launched Power BI users could share dashboards which proved to be immensely popular. When a user shared a dashboard, they shared all the related resources that were added to the dashboard. So, when content from a report was pinned on a dashboard, by sharing the dashboard you could share the report. This was great but raised a few simple questions: what if the report isn’t on the dashboard and what if the report is all that is needed?

Well there’s good news! The report sharing feature works just like the dashboard sharing feature but allows you to share a report directly. The new sharing pane opens for a report, allows you to give access right to the report, and to send invites to the users you add. When you share with your colleagues, the report appears in their Shared with me and they receive an email is you select that option.

You’ll find the new Share option at the top of the report. You can share reports in your Personal Workspace or in an App Workspace you are a member of. You may also be able to share reports if the owner has given you re-share permissions.

Report Sharing Entry Point with box Share reports with your teams and partners

When you press Share, the Share report pane opens. You’ll notice it has the same capabilities as you have for Dashboards. When you share the report, it shares both the report and the underlying data set. It does not change any Row Level Security setting for the data set, so the recipient will only see they data they’re authorized to see.
 

Report Sharing Share Pane With Email Share reports with your teams and partners

Since it works like Dashboard sharing, you can share with individual users, Security Groups, Distribution Groups, and even with Shared with me, and works great with the recently released Azure B2B external users. Just like with Dashboards, you can send an invite email to the user with text you specify. You can also indicate if the user can re-share the report to others.  This comprehensive sharing capability really makes collaborating with your colleagues and partners with reports straightforward.

Report Sharing Access Pane Share reports with your teams and partners

 
The Access pane allows you to quickly see who can view the report. The search option makes it easy to confirm if a specific person has access to view the report even if many people have access. Next to each person there’s a “…” menu that lets you quickly change permissions for the selected user. If you need to change permissions for many users or understand how this report is related to other datasets or dashboards, you can click the Manage permissions link at the bottom of the pane which takes you to the permissions management UI.

Favorite reports for easier navigation

One input we receive from users is that they would like to more easily find the data and content when they open Power BI. We’re already made several changes to make this easier – we added Recents, Shared with me, and Favorites.

Report Sharing Favorites Share reports with your teams and partners 

Now as we continue our focus on improving collaboration, you can add reports to your Favorites list. Just click the star icon next to the report and it shows in the reports list. Then when you access your favorites the report is just a click away. You can also Favorite reports from any of the content lists we have in the product, such as directly from the Recents view, from the list of reports in a workspace, or even from Shared with me.

Access Control
As you use the sharing feature, you’re building the list of users who have access to the report. As with Dashboard sharing you can see the list of users, security or distribution groups with access rights to the report directly in the Sharing Pane. Then you can use the Manage Permissions option at the bottom of the pane to review, remove or modify the permissions assigned to individuals or groups.

Re-evaluate your Publish to web usage
One thing we realize is that some users may be using Publish to web as a crutch to share reports with their stakeholders. Publish to web is designed for public reports that can be viewed by anyone in the world.  The new Share Report feature is intended for secure sharing within organizations or with partner organizations. As you look forward, if you’re a IT administrator, you should consider reviewing the Publish to web embed codes created by your users and informing your users of the new Share Report feature. In the coming months, we’ll be making changes to the Publish to web UI to make this clearer, so users choose the secure option rather than just using Publish to web by habit.

We’re excited that Report Sharing is rollout out globally and that the first users can already start using it. As always head over to ideas.powerbi.com to let us know how we can improve Power BI to meet your needs. 

Resources:

Share dashboards and reports
How should I collaborate and share dashboards and reports?
Share a filtered report
Recents
Shared with me
Favorites
ideas.powerbi.com

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Microsoft Power BI Blog | Microsoft Power BI

Three Reasons Your Income Statement And Profitability Reports Are Out Of Sync

Businesses share something important with lions. When a lion captures and consumes its prey, only about 10% to 20% of the prey’s energy is directly transferred into the lion’s metabolism. The rest evaporates away, mostly as heat loss, according to research done in the 1940s by ecologist Raymond Lindeman.

Today, businesses do only about as well as the big cats. When you consider the energy required to manage, power, and move products and services, less than 20% goes directly into the typical product or service—what economists call aggregate efficiency (the ratio of potential work to the actual useful work that gets embedded into a product or service at the expense of the energy lost in moving products and services through all of the steps of their value chains). Aggregate efficiency is a key factor in determining productivity.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image2 Three Reasons Your Income Statement And Profitability Reports Are Out Of SyncAfter making steady gains during much of the 20th century, businesses’ aggregate energy efficiency peaked in the 1980s and then stalled. Japan, home of the world’s most energy-efficient economy, has been skating along at or near 20% ever since. The U.S. economy, meanwhile, topped out at about 13% aggregate efficiency in the 1990s, according to research.

Why does this matter? Jeremy Rifkin says he knows why. Rifkin is an economic and social theorist, author, consultant, and lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education program who believes that economies experience major increases in growth and productivity only when big shifts occur in three integrated infrastructure segments around the same time: communications, energy, and transportation.

But it’s only a matter of time before information technology blows all three wide open, says Rifkin. He envisions a new economic infrastructure based on digital integration of communications, energy, and transportation, riding atop an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that incorporates Big Data, analytics, and artificial intelligence. This platform will disrupt the world economy and bring dramatic levels of efficiency and productivity to businesses that take advantage of it,
he says.

Some economists consider Rifkin’s ideas controversial. And his vision of a new economic platform may be problematic—at least globally. It will require massive investments and unusually high levels of government, community, and private sector cooperation, all of which seem to be at depressingly low levels these days.

However, Rifkin has some influential adherents to his philosophy. He has advised three presidents of the European Commission—Romano Prodi, José Manuel Barroso, and the current president, Jean-Claude Juncker—as well as the European Parliament and numerous European Union (EU) heads of state, including Angela Merkel, on the ushering in of what he calls “a smart, green Third Industrial Revolution.” Rifkin is also advising the leadership of the People’s Republic of China on the build out and scale up of the “Internet Plus” Third Industrial Revolution infrastructure to usher in a sustainable low-carbon economy.

The internet has already shaken up one of the three major economic sectors: communications. Today it takes little more than a cell phone, an internet connection, and social media to publish a book or music video for free—what Rifkin calls zero marginal cost. The result has been a hollowing out of once-mighty media empires in just over 10 years. Much of what remains of their business models and revenues has been converted from physical (remember CDs and video stores?) to digital.

But we haven’t hit the trifecta yet. Transportation and energy have changed little since the middle of the last century, says Rifkin. That’s when superhighways reached their saturation point across the developed world and the internal-combustion engine came close to the limits of its potential on the roads, in the air, and at sea. “We have all these killer new technology products, but they’re being plugged into the same old infrastructure, and it’s not creating enough new business opportunities,” he says.

All that may be about to undergo a big shake-up, however. The digitalization of information on the IoT at near-zero marginal cost generates Big Data that can be mined with analytics to create algorithms and apps enabling ubiquitous networking. This digital transformation is beginning to have a big impact on the energy and transportation sectors. If that trend continues, we could see a metamorphosis in the economy and society not unlike previous industrial revolutions in history. And given the pace of technology change today, the shift could happen much faster than ever before.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image3 1024x572 Three Reasons Your Income Statement And Profitability Reports Are Out Of SyncThe speed of change is dictated by the increase in digitalization of these three main sectors; expensive physical assets and processes are partially replaced by low-cost virtual ones. The cost efficiencies brought on by digitalization drive disruption in existing business models toward zero marginal cost, as we’ve already seen in entertainment and publishing. According to research company Gartner, when an industry gets to the point where digital drives at least 20% of revenues, you reach the tipping point.

“A clear pattern has emerged,” says Peter Sondergaard, executive vice president and head of research and advisory for Gartner. “Once digital revenues for a sector hit 20% of total revenue, the digital bloodbath begins,” he told the audience at Gartner’s annual 2017 IT Symposium/ITxpo, according to The Wall Street Journal. “No matter what industry you are in, 20% will be the point of no return.”

Communications is already there, and energy and transportation are heading down that path. If they hit the magic 20% mark, the impact will be felt not just within those industries but across all industries. After all, who doesn’t rely on energy and transportation to power their value chains?

That’s why businesses need to factor potentially massive business model disruptions into their plans for digital transformation today if they want to remain competitive with organizations in early adopter countries like China and Germany. China, for example, is already halfway through an US$ 88 billion upgrade to its state electricity grid that will enable renewable energy transmission around the country—all managed and moved digitally, according to an article in The Economist magazine. And it is competing with the United States for leadership in self-driving vehicles, which will shift the transportation process and revenue streams heavily to digital, according to an article in Wired magazine.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image4 Three Reasons Your Income Statement And Profitability Reports Are Out Of SyncOnce China’s and Germany’s renewables and driverless infrastructures are in place, the only additional costs are management and maintenance. That could bring businesses in these countries dramatic cost savings over those that still rely on fossil fuels and nuclear energy to power their supply chains and logistics. “Once you pay the fixed costs of renewables, the marginal costs are near zero,” says Rifkin. “The sun and wind haven’t sent us invoices yet.”

In other words, zero marginal cost has become a zero-sum game.

To understand why that is, consider the major industrial revolutions in history, writes Rifkin in his books, The Zero Marginal Cost Society and The Third Industrial Revolution. The first major shift occurred in the 19th century when cheap, abundant coal provided an efficient new source of power (steam) for manufacturing and enabled the creation of a vast railway transportation network. Meanwhile, the telegraph gave the world near-instant communication over a globally connected network.

The second big change occurred at the beginning of the 20th century, when inexpensive oil began to displace coal and gave rise to a much more flexible new transportation network of cars and trucks. Telephones, radios, and televisions had a similar impact on communications.

Breaking Down the Walls Between Sectors

Now, according to Rifkin, we’re poised for the third big shift. The eye of the technology disruption hurricane has moved beyond communications and is heading toward—or as publishing and entertainment executives might warn, coming for—the rest of the economy. With its assemblage of global internet and cellular network connectivity and ever-smaller and more powerful sensors, the IoT, along with Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence, is breaking down the economic walls that have protected the energy and transportation sectors for the past 50 years.

Daimler is now among the first movers in transitioning into a digitalized mobility internet. The company has equipped nearly 400,000 of its trucks with external sensors, transforming the vehicles into mobile Big Data centers. The sensors are picking up real-time Big Data on weather conditions, traffic flows, and warehouse availability. Daimler plans to establish collaborations with thousands of companies, providing them with Big Data and analytics that can help dramatically increase their aggregate efficiency and productivity in shipping goods across their value chains. The Daimler trucks are autonomous and capable of establishing platoons of multiple trucks driving across highways.

It won’t be long before vehicles that navigate the more complex transportation infrastructures around the world begin to think for themselves. Autonomous vehicles will bring massive economic disruption to transportation and logistics thanks to new aggregate efficiencies. Without the cost of having a human at the wheel, autonomous cars could achieve a shared cost per mile below that of owned vehicles by as early as 2030, according to research from financial services company Morgan Stanley.

The transition is getting a push from governments pledging to give up their addiction to cars powered by combustion engines. Great Britain, France, India, and Norway are seeking to go all electric as early as 2025 and by 2040 at the latest.

The Final Piece of the Transition

Considering that automobiles account for 47% of petroleum consumption in the United States alone—more than twice the amount used for generators and heating for homes and businesses, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration—Rifkin argues that the shift to autonomous electric vehicles could provide the momentum needed to upend the final pillar of the economic platform: energy. Though energy has gone through three major disruptions over the past 150 years, from coal to oil to natural gas—each causing massive teardowns and rebuilds of infrastructure—the underlying economic model has remained constant: highly concentrated and easily accessible fossil fuels and highly centralized, vertically integrated, and enormous (and enormously powerful) energy and utility companies.

Now, according to Rifkin, the “Third Industrial Revolution Internet of Things infrastructure” is on course to disrupt all of it. It’s neither centralized nor vertically integrated; instead, it’s distributed and networked. And that fits perfectly with the commercial evolution of two energy sources that, until the efficiencies of the IoT came along, made no sense for large-scale energy production: the sun and the wind.

But the IoT gives power utilities the means to harness these batches together and to account for variable energy flows. Sensors on solar panels and wind turbines, along with intelligent meters and a smart grid based on the internet, manage a new, two-way flow of energy to and from the grid.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image5 Three Reasons Your Income Statement And Profitability Reports Are Out Of SyncToday, fossil fuel–based power plants need to kick in extra energy if insufficient energy is collected from the sun and wind. But industrial-strength batteries and hydrogen fuel cells are beginning to take their place by storing large reservoirs of reserve power for rainy or windless days. In addition, electric vehicles will be able to send some of their stored energy to the digitalized energy internet during peak use. Demand for ever-more efficient cell phone and vehicle batteries is helping push the evolution of batteries along, but batteries will need to get a lot better if renewables are to completely replace fossil fuel energy generation.

Meanwhile, silicon-based solar cells have not yet approached their limits of efficiency. They have their own version of computing’s Moore’s Law called Swanson’s Law. According to data from research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), Swanson’s Law means that for each doubling of global solar panel manufacturing capacity, the price falls by 28%, from $ 76 per watt in 1977 to $ 0.41 in 2016. (Wind power is on a similar plunging exponential cost curve, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy.)

Thanks to the plummeting solar price, by 2028, the cost of building and operating new sun-based generation capacity will drop below the cost of running existing fossil power plants, according to BNEF. “One of the surprising things in this year’s forecast,” says Seb Henbest, lead author of BNEF’s annual long-term forecast, the New Energy Outlook, “is that the crossover points in the economics of new and old technologies are happening much sooner than we thought last year … and those were all happening a bit sooner than we thought the year before. There’s this sense that it’s not some distant risk or distant opportunity. A lot of these realities are rushing toward us.”

The conclusion, he says, is irrefutable. “We can see the data and when we map that forward with conservative assumptions, these technologies just get cheaper than everything else.”

The smart money, then—72% of total new power generation capacity investment worldwide by 2040—will go to renewable energy, according to BNEF. The firm’s research also suggests that there’s more room in Swanson’s Law along the way, with solar prices expected to drop another 66% by 2040.

Another factor could push the economic shift to renewables even faster. Just as computers transitioned from being strictly corporate infrastructure to becoming consumer products with the invention of the PC in the 1980s, ultimately causing a dramatic increase in corporate IT investments, energy generation has also made the transition to the consumer side.

Thanks to future tech media star Elon Musk, consumers can go to his Tesla Energy company website and order tempered glass solar panels that look like chic, designer versions of old-fashioned roof shingles. Models that look like slate or a curved, terracotta-colored, ceramic-style glass that will make roofs look like those of Tuscan country villas, are promised soon. Consumers can also buy a sleek-looking battery called a Powerwall to store energy from the roof.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image6 Three Reasons Your Income Statement And Profitability Reports Are Out Of SyncThe combination of solar panels, batteries, and smart meters transforms homeowners from passive consumers of energy into active producers and traders who can choose to take energy from the grid during off-peak hours, when some utilities offer discounts, and sell energy back to the grid during periods when prices are higher. And new blockchain applications promise to accelerate the shift to an energy market that is laterally integrated rather than vertically integrated as it is now. Consumers like their newfound sense of control, according to Henbest. “Energy’s never been an interesting consumer decision before and suddenly it is,” he says.

As the price of solar equipment continues to drop, homes, offices, and factories will become like nodes on a computer network. And if promising new solar cell technologies, such as organic polymers, small molecules, and inorganic compounds, supplant silicon, which is not nearly as efficient with sunlight as it is with ones and zeroes, solar receivers could become embedded into windows and building compounds. Solar production could move off the roof and become integrated into the external facades of homes and office buildings, making nearly every edifice in town a node.

The big question, of course, is how quickly those nodes will become linked together—if, say doubters, they become linked at all. As we learned from Metcalfe’s Law, the value of a network is proportional to its number of connected users.

The Will Determines the Way

Right now, the network is limited. Wind and solar account for just 5% of global energy production today, according to Bloomberg.

But, says Rifkin, technology exists that could enable the network to grow exponentially. We are seeing the beginnings of a digital energy network, which uses a combination of the IoT, Big Data, analytics, and artificial intelligence to manage distributed energy sources, such as solar and wind power from homes and businesses.

As nodes on this network, consumers and businesses could take a more active role in energy production, management, and efficiency, according to Rifkin. Utilities, in turn, could transition from simply transmitting power and maintaining power plants and lines to managing the flow to and from many different energy nodes; selling and maintaining smart home energy management products; and monitoring and maintaining solar panels and wind turbines. By analyzing energy use in the network, utilities could create algorithms that automatically smooth the flow of renewables. Consumers and businesses, meanwhile, would not have to worry about connecting their wind and solar assets to the grid and keeping them up and running; utilities could take on those tasks more efficiently.

Already in Germany, two utility companies, E.ON and RWE, have each split their businesses into legacy fossil and nuclear fuel companies and new services companies based on distributed generation from renewables, new technologies, and digitalization.

The reason is simple: it’s about survival. As fossil fuel generation winds down, the utilities need a new business model to make up for lost revenue. Due to Germany’s population density, “the utilities realize that they won’t ever have access to enough land to scale renewables themselves,” says Rifkin. “So they are starting service companies to link together all the different communities that are building solar and wind and are managing energy flows for them and for their customers, doing their analytics, and managing their Big Data. That’s how they will make more money while selling less energy in the future.”

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image7 1024x572 Three Reasons Your Income Statement And Profitability Reports Are Out Of Sync

The digital energy internet is already starting out in pockets and at different levels of intensity around the world, depending on a combination of citizen support, utility company investments, governmental power, and economic incentives.

China and some countries within the EU, such as Germany and France, are the most likely leaders in the transition toward a renewable, energy-based infrastructure because they have been able to align the government and private sectors in long-term energy planning. In the EU for example, wind has already overtaken coal as the second largest form of power capacity behind natural gas, according to an article in TheGuardian newspaper. Indeed, Rifkin has been working with China, the EU, and governments, communities, and utilities in Northern France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg to begin building these new internets.

Hauts-de-France, a region that borders the English Channel and Belgium and has one of the highest poverty rates in France, enlisted Rifkin to develop a plan to lift it out of its downward spiral of shuttered factories and abandoned coal mines. In collaboration with a diverse group of CEOs, politicians, teachers, scientists, and others, it developed Rev3, a plan to put people to work building a renewable energy network, according to an article in Vice.

Today, more than 1,000 Rev3 projects are underway, encompassing everything from residential windmills made from local linen to a fully electric car–sharing system. Rev3 has received financial support from the European Investment Bank and a handful of private investment funds, and startups have benefited from crowdfunding mechanisms sponsored by Rev3. Today, 90% of new energy in the region is renewable and 1,500 new jobs have been created in the wind energy sector alone.

Meanwhile, thanks in part to generous government financial support, Germany is already producing 35% of its energy from renewables, according to an article in TheIndependent, and there is near unanimous citizen support (95%, according to a recent government poll) for its expansion.

If renewable energy is to move forward in other areas of the world that don’t enjoy such strong economic and political support, however, it must come from the ability to make green, not act green.

Not everyone agrees that renewables will produce cost savings sufficient to cause widespread cost disruption anytime soon. A recent forecast by the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that in 2040, oil, natural gas, and coal will still be the planet’s major electricity producers, powering 77% of worldwide production, while renewables such as wind, solar, and biofuels will account for just 15%.

Skeptics also say that renewables’ complex management needs, combined with the need to store reserve power, will make them less economical than fossil fuels through at least 2035. “All advanced economies demand full-time electricity,” Benjamin Sporton, chief executive officer of the World Coal Association told Bloomberg. “Wind and solar can only generate part-time, intermittent electricity. While some renewable technologies have achieved significant cost reductions in recent years, it’s important to look at total system costs.”

On the other hand, there are many areas of the world where distributed, decentralized, renewable power generation already makes more sense than a centralized fossil fuel–powered grid. More than 20% of Indians in far flung areas of the country have no access to power today, according to an article in TheGuardian. Locally owned and managed solar and wind farms are the most economical way forward. The same is true in other developing countries, such as Afghanistan, where rugged terrain, war, and tribal territorialism make a centralized grid an easy target, and mountainous Costa Rica, where strong winds and rivers have pushed the country to near 100% renewable energy, according to TheGuardian.

The Light and the Darknet

Even if all the different IoT-enabled economic platforms become financially advantageous, there is another concern that could disrupt progress and potentially cause widespread disaster once the new platforms are up and running: hacking. Poorly secured IoT sensors have allowed hackers to take over everything from Wi-Fi enabled Barbie dolls to Jeep Cherokees, according to an article in Wired magazine.

Humans may be lousy drivers, but at least we can’t be hacked (yet). And while the grid may be prone to outages, it is tightly controlled, has few access points for hackers, and is physically separated from the Wild West of the internet.

If our transportation and energy networks join the fray, however, every sensor, from those in the steering system on vehicles to grid-connected toasters, becomes as vulnerable as a credit card number. Fake news and election hacking are bad enough, but what about fake drivers or fake energy? Now we’re talking dangerous disruptions and putting millions of people in harm’s way.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image8 Three Reasons Your Income Statement And Profitability Reports Are Out Of SyncThe only answer, according to Rifkin, is for businesses and governments to start taking the hacking threat much more seriously than they do today and to begin pouring money into research and technologies for making the internet less vulnerable. That means establishing “a fully distributed, redundant, and resilient digital infrastructure less vulnerable to the kind of disruptions experienced by Second Industrial Revolution–centralized communication systems and power grids that are increasingly subject to climate change, disasters, cybercrime, and cyberterrorism,” he says. “The ability of neighborhoods and communities to go off centralized grids during crises and re-aggregate in locally decentralized networks is the key to advancing societal security in the digital era,” he adds.

Start Looking Ahead

Until today, digital transformation has come mainly through the networking and communications efficiencies made possible by the internet. Airbnb thrives because web communications make it possible to create virtual trust markets that allow people to feel safe about swapping their most private spaces with one another.

But now these same efficiencies are coming to two other areas that have never been considered core to business strategy. That’s why businesses need to begin managing energy and transportation as key elements of their digital transformation portfolios.

Microsoft, for example, formed a senior energy team to develop an energy strategy to mitigate risk from fluctuating energy prices and increasing demands from customers to reduce carbon emissions, according to an article in Harvard Business Review. “Energy has become a C-suite issue,” Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s top environmental and sustainability executive told the magazine. “The CFO and president are now actively involved in our energy road map.”

As Daimler’s experience shows, driverless vehicles will push autonomous transportation and automated logistics up the strategic agenda within the next few years. Boston Consulting Group predicts that the driverless vehicle market will hit $ 42 billion by 2025. If that happens, it could have a lateral impact across many industries, from insurance to healthcare to the military.

Businesses must start planning now. “There’s always a period when businesses have to live in the new and the old worlds at the same time,” says Rifkin. “So businesses need to be considering new business models and structures now while continuing to operate their existing models.”

He worries that many businesses will be left behind if their communications, energy, and transportation infrastructures don’t evolve. Companies that still rely on fossil fuels for powering traditional transportation and logistics could be at a major competitive disadvantage to those that have moved to the new, IoT-based energy and transportation infrastructures.

Germany, for example, has set a target of 80% renewables for gross power consumption by 2050, according to TheIndependent. If the cost advantages of renewables bear out, German businesses, which are already the world’s third-largest exporters behind China and the United States, could have a major competitive advantage.

“How would a second industrial revolution society or country compete with one that has energy at zero marginal cost and driverless vehicles?” asks Rifkin. “It can’t be done.” D!


About the Authors

Maurizio Cattaneo is Director, Delivery Execution, Energy and Natural Resources, at SAP.

Joerg Ferchow is Senior Utilities Expert and Design Thinking Coach, Digital Transformation, at SAP.

Daniel Wellers is Digital Futures Lead, Global Marketing, at SAP.

Christopher Koch is Editorial Director, SAP Center for Business Insight, at SAP.


Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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