Randy Rhodes

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Randy Rhodes
Research VP
2 years with Gartner
19 years IT industry

Randy Rhodes is a research director in Gartner's Energy and Utilities Industry Advisory Service, focusing on power delivery applications, including energy management and supervisory control systems, geographic information systems… Read Full Bio

How to Leverage Inquiry

by Randy Rhodes  |  August 3, 2011  |  Comments Off

“Inquiry” is the Gartner term for your opportunity to get inside the head of any analyst – subject of course to your licensing arrangement.

How do you get the maximum benefit from inquiry? Here are some thoughts from my own experience.

  • File a clear request. Good analysts will spend some time preparing for the call (when possible). Having at least a couple paragraphs explaining the issue  will help launch the call effectively. Attaching a document or referring to a URL can help as well.
  • Remember that some questions may require both vertical industry and horizontal technology savvy. (For example:  the intersection of BI and GIS for the utility industry.) If you know the analysts that have what you need, request a two-analyst call. This type of call is not a frequent occurrence for me, but the ones I’ve participated in have been very effective.
  • Tie your request into published research. When reading research for the first time, jot down your questions. If there are subject areas left untouched, point out to the analyst how more elaboration is needed. I’ve heard that at most 20% of what an analyst knows on a topic makes it into a research note. I think it’s true. Most analysts have more facts to share, that never made it through the editing process.
  • Remember, analysts are human. It’s not unusual for analysts to have only 5-10 minutes between calls and if you’re 3rd or 4th in a series of inquiries, results may vary. Help the analyst launch well and steer the call to a satisfactory  touchdown. If the inquiry call is not opened appropriately, gently remind the analyst to frame up the call. Brief introductions may be in order, so that everyone can know how much background detail is appropriate for the audience. Gartner account execs often join the calls and they can help; if not, have someone on your end help keep an eye on the clock and give signals as needed.
  • Give feedback. Gartner launched a Quick Value Rating (QVR) tool to all Gartner clients on July 29. QVR gathers client-provided feedback on inquiry with our research analysts. After an inquiry, clients can rate the inquiry from a 1 (low value) to a 5 (extremely valuable). Clients can also add any comments they may have regarding their experience with the inquiry. Use this tool regularly, and your analyst will get the feedback he/she needs to improve over time.

Inquiry is a subscription benefit that goes largely unexploited at many Gartner clients. Follow these tips and you’ll get your money’s worth. See you on the next call!

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Augmenting Reality at Utilities

by Randy Rhodes  |  August 1, 2011  |  1 Comment

Gartner hype cycles are like chiropractors. They can snap your thinking into more correct alignment.

As an example, I’ve been thinking about augmented reality for the last six months or so, especially in relation to GIS (which I cover for the utilities sector). My thinking was probably optimistic and needed some adjustment. What does Gartner say? How mature is this – really?

Gartner has covered AR in relation to mobile computing – as an example, see Contextual Smartphone Applications Will Exploit Augmented Reality, Sept 2010.  Strategic Planning Assumption:  By 2014, AR will become an indispensable component of mobile contextual experiences delivered to smartphones, and some AR products will be integrated with context brokers.

A second article is Emerging Technology Analysis: Augmented Reality Shows What Mobile Devices Can Do (March 2010).

Finally, AR also shows up on the Gartner Hype Cycle for Human-Computer Interaction, 2011 (just issued, July 2011). Tidbits from that report:

  • “3D displays, augmented reality and tablets cluster at the peak…”
  • Mapping vendors are encouraged to add AR to their 3D map visualizations.
  • Early adopters are advised to examine how AR can bring value to their organization and customers by offering branded information overlays.

So – how can AR deliver context-specific information at the point of need or decision for mobile workers – especially at utilities?

Well, there are a few friends in the industry thinking about this – all on the tech provider side (not utilities).

  • Bentley posted a nice analysis of the inhibiting factors that must be solved.
  • Pitney-Bowes developers put together an experimental prototype during their Hacker Days this year.
  • Patrick Barnhart of GIS Inc. gave a talk at the ESRI Dev Summit this year on the use of Layar with Esri GIS.

Meet me on Google+ for comments on the videos from the above experiments, or to share your own examples.

P.S.  I have to wonder whether mobile workforce vendors are asking their GIS service providers where this is headed. I’d like your feedback on whether you think AR could grow wings over the next few years.

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Mashing Up Your Smart Grid

by Randy Rhodes  |  July 28, 2011  |  Comments Off

I found it interesting that CISCO recently supported a special report on Mashables.com explaining how the smart grid would impact our lives.

I’ve been thinking for a long while about how the smart grid initiatives may affect our overall computing architectures within electric utilities. I noted in my last post that CEP and several other new technologies are are now joining the Utility OT Hype Cycle.

Companies like Thingworx are taking a fresh look at how to manage an escalating flood of sensors. Traditional hierarchical monitoring and control systems seem limited in comparison with the sheer volume of data. SCADA and EMS engineers will note that these systems do include “distributed intelligence” – for example, RTUs report by exception only to limit communication bandwidth requirements.

What’s different today is that IT and OT systems must communicate and be manageable within an overall integration framework. Attached is a graphic from the SCE Smart Grid Strategy & Roadmap (p. 24). SCE and a couple other large utilities have been emphasizing that smart grid transformation will require a “system of systems” or “network of networks.”

SCE Smart Grid Strategy and Roadmap System of Systems Reference

This is a topic I am currently researching; I have a note underway on how various vendors are approaching this opportunity.

One thing is for sure. The overall maturity of Internet infrastructure and the rising bandwidth capabilities available today make this a fantastic opportunity for fresh thinking.

By the way, if you’re on Google+, look me up – http://gplus.to/randyrhodes.  Twitter? @rhodes_r.

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IT Meets OT in the new Utility Industry Operational Technologies (OT) Hype Cycle

by Randy Rhodes  |  July 26, 2011  |  Comments Off

Gartner’s annual release of hype cycles is a high point for clients who want to get their arms around the advancement of technology. The hype cycle methodology is a proven way to put tech investment opportunities into perspective.

This year I took over authorship of the Hype Cycle for Utility Industry Operational Technologies. We added a number of new technology profiles this year because of the impact of smart grid expansion. This was just released today (click if you’re a Gartner client), along with our other utility-related hype cycles.

The rapid rise in the number of field devices is prompting concerns about security, configuration, and life cycle characteristics. Therefore we added technology profiles in the areas of OT Security; Configuration Management for OT; and IT Asset Management Tools for OT. Each of these areas have become quite active, with vendors customizing their offerings for OT use. These profiles have been authored by analysts in core research who describe how these IT tools will migrate into OT.

Other new tech profiles show up this year, authored by experts in their field:

  • ‘Big Data’ and Extreme Information Processing and Management, by Mark Beyers.
  • Complex Event Processing (CEP) by Roy Schulte.
  • We added Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS), since that technology is crossing the top of the hype cycle. ADMS is becoming “nerve central” – the coordinating focus for field devices and distribution grid optimization.
  • Geospatial Mashups was added due to the increased use of this technology for situational awareness in control centers and for managing intermittent renewable resources.

I personally think this year’s hype cycle better characterizes how OT is being affected by the infusion of technologies from IT – both new and proven.

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One More Voice

by Randy Rhodes  |  July 20, 2011  |  Comments Off

Hey, I’m joining the Gartner Blog Network. Why?

  1. It’s time to make my web presence a bit more – well, corporate. I’ve been pushing thoughts through Google Buzz as well as tweeting for the past year. Meet me on Google+ and Twitter, if you like.
  2. It takes a while for new Gartner analysts to shape their personal brand, if you will, within the Gartner universe. The air gets a little thin at times, so it takes a while to get an agenda off the ground.  I’ve been continually building a base of research since I joined the company in September 2009. I’m finally starting to convince myself I have a unique and valuable voice.
  3. On a more practical note, my level of client inquiry is low at the moment. I’ve been wanting to build a more direct connection with clients, and this is one tool to help with that.

I’m hoping regular blog posts will help readers get a better sense of what we’re thinking about, here on the energy & utilities team. And, a sense of where we’re headed in the future.

More to come.


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