The comparisons between power & telecoms

IN the late 1990s KPMG entered into an alliance with Microsoft to ensure the management of her intellectual assets. That project helped to give direction to the development of Knowledge management as we know it. I was a part of KPMG in 2000 and was able to observe this project from a distance.

Microsoft & KPMG came up with a way of classifying the intellectual assets within an organisation into three; data, Information & Knowledge. Data being an accumulation of figures, essays, statisticsand the like which may or may not be useful. Information being data when it is applied to a specific context. Knowledge on the other hand is experiential information which can hardly be thought. A simple example. For a traveller, he picks the daily papers which tells him about the flight schedules and airlines going from Lagos to Stockholm. This is pure data. When he gets to the airport he realises that some of the airlines are delayed owing to bad weather or even employee strike and as such out of 10 possible airlines just three (3) of them are available. This is information because of the suitability to a context. However it is the experienced traveller that knows that the KLM flight has a shorter stop-over time than the Iberia for that destination. He is also the person that know which airline typically has the better customer service. That is Knowledge, it is experiential and cannot be easily thought. It comes from years of experience.

Microsoft realised that the most quality information (intellectual assets) that they had was residing in the heads of their most senior employees and would such assets would leave the organisation when such employees leave them. The process of harvesting such intellectual property for both organisations was the crux of the project and alliance between two of the biggest organisations in the world. How then is this relevant to the power sector or the telecoms? I am glad you asked!

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A lot of the knowledge assets required to make the power sector work effectively lies in the successful implementation of a similar sector in this case, the telecoms sector. The inability of these sectors to learn from each other or benefits from each other is a breakdown of knowledge management framework. It should be understood that that there is a lot of efforts to ‘proving’ that there is no similarities between then two but nothing can be further from the truth. For starters, making comparisons is an excellent way to learn. This is because with comparison. Pictures are painted in the mind. The mind really assimilates in term of pictures.

It is said that the ultimate aim of words is to paint a picture in the mind. When we say a red car. We don’t see the 7 letters that make up that phrase but rather we see a car painted in the red colour. It’s just the cognitive nature of the human mind. So when we make comparisons, it is not because the things being compared are the same but we seek to move from the known to the unknown. We make comparisons with previous successes so that a picture of success can be formed.

In the first place, both Telecoms and Power are services that are deployed as UTILITIES. So the utility features of telecoms can add some value when effectively studied. Secondly, the digital signals of transmission in telecoms (video, voice & data) and the electric signals transmission in Power are sister signals. The two signals are members of the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMF). This is a family of radiation which includes visible light. Thirdly, the same terrestrial transmission infrastructure can transport both signals. In simple terms the same wires we use to transmit electricity can also be used to transmit telephone signals. That has is being done in a number of countries actually. Fourthly they are both engineering fields. One is electrical and the other is electronics. In point of fact they are the closest engineering fields to each other so much so that a lot of Universities globally offer Electrical & Electronics as a single course from the same department. Do you know of anyone who read Electrical & Electronics (or Elect-Elect as we called it in OAU back in the days)? I could go on but I am sure the open minds would get the point, there are many similarities between both sectors.

One important thing to be learnt from the operations in the telecoms sector is the first and fundamental thing that happened there. The way Telecoms was privatised vis-à-vis Power. In the telecoms sector, a player controlled the whole network thereby making them responsible for their own destiny. In the Power sector on the other hand, separate licenses for Distribution, Generation & Transmission means that there is ample opportunity for fault finding and even corruption. The DISCOs complain that they don’t get enough power from the GENCOs. The GENCOs on the other hand complain that the DISCOs are refusing power.

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There are those who complain that the Transmission is responsible for up to 40% loses of the power given from the GENCOs, something the TCN says is not quite true. All these finger-pointing would have been avoided if the privatised companies were allowed to control

the tree areas themselves and thereby be masters of their own destinies.
Other areas that could looked into is billing methodology, something that can end the collections losses that the DISCOs complain of with so much passion! What about the method and dexterity with which the Telecoms companies developed local competence in the Telecoms industry. This was done even without a local content bill! In power today it is the local players who are doing their best to discourage the locals from participation, something that was spelt out by the Ikeja DISCO recently before the House Committee on

Power under the chairmanship of Honourable Daniel Asuquofrom Cross-Rivers state. Something the Honourable member vehemently disagreed with. Other issues also apply but cannot be dealt with in one essay. Power cannot fail. The power sector needs to learn from telecoms because Energy is simply the most important commodity. Period!