February 12, 2001, 1:53 PM — Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco) is no longer a hometown utility selling a single commodity. The Washington-based company is now a competitive enterprise offering an array of energy and telecommunications products and services in an expanding marketplace. Pepco is reshaping its business, divesting itself of its power-generation business, and focusing on transmission and distribution.
In addition, Pepco has several new nonregulated businesses, including Pepco Energy Services, selling gas and electricity in Pennsylvania and Maryland; Starpower, a joint venture equally owned and managed by RCN and Potomac Capital Investment Company, providing local and long-distance telephone, high-speed Internet access, and cable TV; and PepMarket, a business-to-business e-procurement service.
As Pepco's CIO and vice president in charge of IT and e-business strategy, Ken Cohn directly oversees the regulated business and serves as advisor for the company's nonregulated businesses. He supervises approximately 160 people in Pepco's IT department. InfoWorld Senior Editor Susan E. Fisher spoke with Cohn, a 23-year veteran of Pepco, about deregulation and the expanded role of the Internet in the utility industry.
InfoWorld: How do you use Internet technology to be more market-focused and customer-centric?
Cohn:On the regulated side, the mantra we're operating under is that any transaction that can be done over the Internet, we want to be able to do over the Internet. For instance, we were one of the first utilities to have online bill presentment and bill payment for our customers. We're trying to use [the Web] internally as well as a self-service for our employees in terms of human resources. We're certainly looking at the additional applications to allow our customers Internet access to their account data.
InfoWorld: What has been your greatest technology challenge related to deregulation?
Cohn:We had to modify our entire CIS [customer information system] to account for competition [that came] July 1, 2000, to Maryland and then [came] Jan.1, 2001, to the District of Columbia. It was the single largest IT project that we worked on here [last] year. We used an intranet to allow our customer service reps to access customer data; that's the same technology that [this] year we'll translate over to allow our customers to access their own data. That project also involved retooling customer bills. We had to unbundle the bill so our customers could take a look at what those actual charges were.
InfoWorld: How does deregulation affect the information you provide?