Public Utilities
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Public Utilities

Management Challenges for the 21st Century

David E. McNabb

An introduction to the current issues and challenges facing managers and administrators in the investor and publicly owned utility industry, this engaging volume addresses management concerns in three sectors of the utility industry: electric power, natural gas, and water and wastewater systems. Beginning with a brief overview of the historical development of the industry, the author looks at policy issues and discusses management ethics. He then examines a number of the major challenges in these organizational functions: management and leadership, planning, marketing, accounting and finance, information technology, governance, and human resources. In the final section of the volume he looks at issues specific to each of the three industry sectors.
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Chapter 9: Information Challenges for Public Utility Managers

David E. McNabb


In the public utility industry, information management is a thoroughly modern concept. A senior academic analyst of the utilities industry during the twentieth century, University of Wisconsin Professor of Economics and Commerce Martin G. Glaeser, never mentioned information technology in his 1957 encyclopedic review of the industry, Public Utilities in American Capitalism. Sixteen years later, the concept was still missing from a later overview of the industry by Martin Farris and Roy Sampson (1973). Today, however, hardly any public utility text or business journal is published without a discussion of some aspect of information technology (IT), information technology management (ITM), or simply information management (IM). Since it began to be widely applied in the 1960s and 1970s, information technology has come to be a powerful, indispensable function in the management of utilities, whether they are large or small, publicly or investor-owned, for profit or not-for-profit. Computers and complex telecommunications systems are now a critical component in the strategies of all electrical, natural gas, and water and wastewater systems (Frenzel 1999). IT has taken on a critical and strategic role in numerous organizations; these firms have become so dependent upon IT to support many core activities that the failure of these systems would critically impair operations (Kearns and Lederer 2003). KEY CONCEPTS IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Before proceeding with this discussion on the management of information in utilities, several key concepts must be defined. These include information systems, information management, information technology management, and computer-based information systems. Information systems...

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