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Spring 2004
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Enterprise Software Licenses for Five Operating Companies

Southern Company Mainstreams GIS Across Organizations

click to enlargeThe Atlanta-based Southern Company is a premier superregional energy company in the southeast region of the United States. Southern Company's subsidiaries—among them Alabama Power, one of the earliest users of Esri's GIS technology for utilities in the United States—have been involved with formulating some of the initial GIS applications for facility management. During the past 25 years, Southern Company's affiliation with Esri has influenced the progression of GIS development for the electric industry. Continuing its tradition of innovative leadership, Southern Company recently purchased ArcGIS software site licenses for all five of its power company subsidiaries.

With a generating capacity of nearly 39,000 megawatts, the company serves more than four million customers. Its 120,000-square-mile territory spans most of Georgia, Alabama, southeastern Mississippi, and the Florida panhandle.

This enterprise Esri software licensure is a major milestone toward integrating GIS into Southern Company's collective business operations. Actually incorporating an enterprise GIS approach for its utilities is more involved. All five operating companies—Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power, and Savannah Electric—have GIS systems that perform diverse tasks at various levels. Overall, GIS applications, up to this point, have been used predominantly for facilities and asset management. Southern Company has already realized benefits from using GIS throughout the years but is now looking at the benefits of an enterprise approach to GIS.

Competitive markets have been a factor in merging information systems but even more imperative is the company's need to run its business operations more effectively. Previously, Southern Company's Information Technology (IT) Department served as a peripheral supporter of GIS activity, but now the group is taking a leadership role. Department GIS lead Danny Childs says, "Last year Southern Company established a systemwide, cross functional team, which established our enterprise GIS strategy. One of the deliverables from this effort was the acquisition of Esri's enterprise site license. Our enterprise GIS vision is to adopt, implement, and maintain an enterprise approach relative to Southern Company's GIS resources regarding governance, technologies, and support that further extends business unit operational efficiencies and capabilities."

A business case is currently being developed that will be used to determine Southern Company's next steps for the implementation of an enterprise GIS. The business case will identify and quantify the operation and financial considerations, which can be achieved through an enterprise approach.

Childs further defines Southern Company's enterprise GIS as follows: "We will make the right decisions for Southern Company by providing a common vision, strategy, and governance structure and common policies and standards. We will also prioritize projects based on a system view; define consistent support models; and share resources, infrastructure, and data."

Southern Company's plan includes strategies that centralize the company data management activities, data collection from the field, and quality control. Centralization depends on the types of applications, business processes, business relevance and values, savings, and efficiencies gained. "Our investment in Esri's software site licenses demonstrates our determination to leverage GIS technology throughout Southern Company where it provides business value," says Ervan Hancock, IT's GIS strategy project manager. "We want to focus on gaining business efficiencies wherever possible. Esri's software continues to help us improve business processes and reap new and exciting benefits."

For more information, contact Danny C. Childs, GIS lead, Southern Company (tel.: 850-444-6357, e-mail:

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