When a Few Hundred Thousand Lives Depend on IT

Eversource Energy CIO Kathy Kountze shares her perspective on IT's role when weather knocks out heat and electricity for many thousands of New England neighbors.

No matter where you live, it stinks when the power goes out. The lights and the TV flick to dark; you check out your neighbors' houses -- dark too. Candles and battery-powered radios help, but soon things get uncomfortably cold, reminding you that furnaces use electricity.  (Or sweat beads up if it's your air conditioner shutting down in hotter climates). Finally, your fingers start to twitch when you realize you don't even have WiFi, unless you can eek out a signal with a cell-based hot spot. Just remember that you'll need power to recharge that phone.

How long will it be down? Hours? Days? Weeks in the wake of a bad ice storm or hurricane!

That's when Kathy Kountze and her team are put to the real test. The CIO and senior vice president for New England utility Eversource Energy was featured in a keynote presentation at the recent Interop 19 conference. Kountze highlighted the importance of IT when the company has to recover from a weather event that knocks out power, gas and water to several hundred thousand customers.

"For me it's really understanding the importance of what we are doing. If you can even imagine not having electricity, water, or gas to heat your home. We provide those services that really have an impact on public safety," she said.

Noting that she and her team live in the same region that they serve and endure the same outages in their homes, "It's really personal, it's all hands on deck."

She added, "From an IT perspective, because we have to maintain all the systems that support the restoration effort, on a day like today they are important. But on a day when you have a hundred thousand plus without power and without heat those systems have to hum."

Kountze discussed her unlikely path to the top IT job at her company, and what Eversource IT is working on, including enterprise data analytics, mobile computing, and the cloud.

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