4-page Case Study
Posted: 7/22/2010
Rate This Evidence:

Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) Mexico’s Electrical Utility Sees Saving Millions of Dollars through Collaborative BI

Mexico’s electrical utility—Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE)—faced higher costs, a difficult economy, and an increasingly complex mix of sources from which to generate power. To factor these and other variables into its decisions, CFE wanted a business intelligence (BI) solution for its energy generation infrastructure unit, CENACE (Centro Nacional de Control de Energía). That solution needed to offer timely information, the potential for company-wide use, and integrated tools for collaboration and communication. CENACE now has that solution, thanks to OSIsoft and Microsoft technologies. Executives and managers gain more, and more current, BI in less time than was needed before. Improved decision-making could save CFE U.S.$4.7 million per year; and IT staff can be redeployed to create self-service BI applications that magnify the benefits of the solution throughout the company.


Flip a light switch, press an “on” button, or insert a plug into a wall outlet, and you expect the electricity to simply be there, to flow smoothly and abundantly, without interruption, and at a reasonable price. To make that possible for its customers, Mexico’s national energy supplier, Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), needs another smooth, abundant, and unimpeded flow: the flow of information and analysis on which to base management decision-making.

That need has grown steadily along with the size of the company’s operations. From its founding in 1937, CFE has grown to become a company with 85,000 employees and 774 facilities for electrical generation throughout the country, producing energy to serve more than 28 million customers. The company’s responsibilities include not just power generation, but also the transportation, distribution, and marketing of that electricity. The CFE subsidiary responsible for maintaining and managing the nation’s energy generation infrastructure is the CENACE (Centro Nacional de Control de Energía).

* BI is no longer an individual activity. Our people have to work together in more powerful, data-driven ways. OSIsoft and Microsoft are making that happen for CFE. *

Fernando Barradas
Director of Information Applications
Comisión Federal de Electricidad


Complicating the processes of analysis and decision-making for CENACE, as for many companies, is the uncertain state of the global economy. Tough economic times reduce the margin of error that CENACE has in which to make the most cost-effective decisions regarding power generation. For example, CENACE needs to know the optimal mix of energy sources each day (hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, and so on) to produce electricity at the lowest possible cost. The economic climate also makes it essential that CENACE operate with the best possible analysis and predictive models, the better to guide the company into the future.

With the technology that CENACE used to provide information and analysis to its managers and executives, there was no easy way for users—especially business and operations users who weren’t well-versed in information technology—to filter the data and use various applications to see the exact information they needed. Queries and reports had to be written and run by the IT department, taking precious time. There was no easy way to follow an initial query with a look at the detailed information beneath the summary data. The manual processes associated with data analysis meant that there were often multiple “versions of the truth”—leaving users to debate which data were accurate, rather than which decisions based on those data would be most beneficial.

All of this left data and analysis beyond the grasp of most executives and managers who could have put information to good use.


In searching for a new solution, CENACE put a premium on meeting several business requirements: The new solution had to provide the flexibility, advanced tools, and ease of use to enable its broad application by most managers and executives. It had to provide a single, centralized “version of the truth” to enable business users to focus on decision-making, not on reconciling data. For the sake of both IT staff and business users, CENACE wanted the solution in a single user interface and to be as familiar as possible. For maximum return on investment, it wanted the solution to take advantage of existing information assets.

Those criteria brought the company to the technologies that now form the basis for its new solution: the PI System enterprise infrastructure from OSIsoft, a Microsoft Gold Certified Global ISV Partner, and Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) technologies.

In turning to this combination, CENACE is adopting something old, something new. CENACE has been using the PI System for more than 10 years to monitor and store real-time data on the operations of its power-generation facilities. It is hardly alone; the PI System is a major presence in the technology infrastructures of process companies for the management of time series data and events. OSIsoft has installations in 107 countries, in industries as diverse as manufacturing, energy, utilities, life sciences, data centers, facilities, and the process industries.

* Everyone knows Excel. With our BI solution accessible through Excel Services 2010 and tools such as PowerPivot for Excel 2010, training costs will be extremely low, and everyone who needs BI access will have it. *

Fernando Barradas
Director of Information Applications


CENACE now is adopting the latest Microsoft BI technologies in products such as Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2. The marriage of the PI System and Microsoft BI technologies will go beyond providing data collection and storage—it will make data broadly available to managers, executives, and operators throughout the company, and give them the tools to turn information into timely, decision-making insight.

Company executives envision a common CFE business intelligence platform, from which multiple BI applications will pull information and analysis to meet the needs of distinct audiences within CFE. Those audiences will start with hundreds of power generation managers and executives within CENACE, and then, as additional applications are developed and the solution becomes widely adopted, thousands of managers and executives working in other areas of CFE.

The back end of the solution includes the PI AF 2010 database, based on SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise. It obtains data directly from the operational sources, and stores the hierarchy of assets, objects, and other data classifications, such as region, technology type, unit of generation, that serve as data filters through which users can slice and drill down on information.

Users access and work with the data through team sites in SharePoint Server 2010 that use Microsoft Excel Services 2010, Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for SharePoint 2010, and PI WebParts 2010 to display information and provide intuitive ways to navigate through it. Many of the tools for analyzing information are Microsoft Excel 2010 features including PowerPivot tables, PowerPivot charts, slicers, and Data Analysis Expressions. These tools enable users to obtain data and analyses themselves, rather than relying on cubes, queries, and reports implemented by the IT staff.

It’s not enough for CENACE managers and executives to see real-time data when they choose to look for it. Because that data can require a real-time response, CFE personnel need to know about it in real time.

The company’s business intelligence solution provides this capability as well. Using Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 and PI Notifications, managers and executives can receive real-time, automated notifications about data changes of interest to them through instant messaging (IM). They can then use a provided link to see details on the data change, and use Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2 to share the information with colleagues through IM, voice, or conferencing.


CENACE envisions delivering more BI data that executives and managers can analyze in less time than before; making better, data-driven decisions that could save the company millions of dollars per year; and returning time to IT staff that can be reinvested in spreading the benefits of BI across the company.

* We knew that OSIsoft and Microsoft could help us save money through superior BI. But we didn’t appreciate the extent of the savings until we began to see what their solutions could do. *

Fernando Barradas
Director of Information Application


Managers Empowered with Faster Collaborative BI

Managers and executives throughout CENACE and, eventually, CFE, will be empowered by the solution to gain the information and insight they need, when and where they need it.

Business users can gain business intelligence without having to rely on the IT department to run queries and build reports, because the OSIsoft and Microsoft BI solution replace data cubes, which are beyond the ability of most business users to build and access, with easy and familiar Microsoft Office-based tools.

“Everyone knows Excel,” says Fernando Barradas, Director of Information Applications, CFE. “With our BI solution accessible through Excel Services 2010 and tools such as PowerPivot for Excel 2010, training costs will be extremely low, and everyone who needs BI access will have it.”

Executives and managers will also be able to work with BI in new ways, thanks to the integration of the BI solution with Microsoft collaboration and communications technology. They can use team sites in SharePoint Server to host discussions and share files—spreadsheets, documents, and presentations—related to the BI data. They can send voicemail, email, or initiate phone calls and instant messages to their colleagues to question or discuss data, without leaving the SharePoint site in which that data is located.

“BI is no longer an individual activity,” says Barradas. “Our people have to work together in more powerful, data-driven ways to achieve real-time situational awareness. OSIsoft and Microsoft are making that happen for CFE.”

Another benefit of the new BI solution is the time savings that executives and managers will experience as they engage in their traditional BI tasks. For example, department managers now spend up to two hours a day preparing reports that they must post on the company’s intranet each morning. By automating and simplifying much of what was formerly a highly manual process, CENACE will likely see the time required for report preparation will shrink to mere minutes. “Our people will get more BI in less time,” Barradas says. “That’s good for them and good for us.”

Data-driven Decision-Making Could Save $4.7 Million

Business users will also save time in other ways that benefit CFE overall. For example, with data originating from a central source, CENACE executives and managers will have a “single version of the truth” that eliminates data inaccuracies and inconsistencies. With the time that they save while collaborating on data, business users can make solid decisions, and make them quickly enough to take advantage of real-time information.

For example, data on facility operations that used to be updated weekly now can be updated hourly. That gives managers a current and enhanced picture of how well their facilities are operating—and where there are actual or potential problems. Managers can redeploy personnel, adjust production schedules, replace equipment, or take other actions in response, and do so as fast as they acquire new information.

That in turn, will boost the availability of the facilities—and greater availability means a greater amount of energy produced at lower cost. The result can be surprisingly substantial. Barradas estimates that boosting the availability of one major generation facility by one day a year can save CFE 6 million pesos (about U.S.$470,000). If just 10 such facilities, among the company’s total of 774 generation plants, achieve similar savings, CFE stands to gain 60 million pesos—$4.7 million.

“We knew that OSIsoft and Microsoft could help us save money through superior BI,” says Barradas. “But we didn’t appreciate the extent of the savings until we began to see what their solutions could do.”

* One of the great benefits of the OSIsoft and Microsoft solution is that it’s a platform on which we can create and run as many customized business insight, analytics, and reporting applications as we want. *

Fernando Barradas
Director of Information Applications


IT Savings to Spur Broader Deployment of Custom BI Applications

The new solution will also enable CFE to gain significant savings in the IT department. Traditionally, the company deployed two database administrators (DBAs), who spent a total of five to six hours per week to work with business users to create and run queries and reports. Another DBA spent three hours per week simply to maintain the data cube. All of that time will now be saved and reinvested in activities with greater value.

“One of the great benefits of the OSIsoft and Microsoft solution is that it’s a platform on which we can create and run as many customized business insight, analytics and reporting applications as we want, addressing challenges for which we currently don’t have good information,” says Barradas. “Because current IT personnel will be spared from the need to run queries and reports, they can devote their time to creating new BI applications that will magnify the self-service benefits of this technology throughout the company.”

The BI solution was deployed in six weeks. Managers and other business users are now providing ideas on how to use it to drive increasingly useful market analysis, as well as integration of market and operational data.

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to: www.microsoft.com

For more information about OSIsoft LLC products and services, visit the website at: www.osisoft.com

For more information about Comisión Federal de Electricidad products and services, visit the website at: www.cfe.gob.mx

Microsoft Business Intelligence

Microsoft provides a comprehensive set of business intelligence technologies that enable organizations to improve performance through better decision making. Microsoft Business Intelligence helps small and large businesses maximize the value of their data through timely analysis and knowledge sharing. Powered by Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint and Office, Microsoft Business Intelligence solutions provide increased value to users throughout the organization.

For more information about Microsoft Business Intelligence solutions, go to: www.microsoft.com/bi

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 85000 employees

Organization Profile

Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) is Mexico’s national electrical power utility, serving nearly 28 million customers throughout the country. It is based in Mexico City and has 85,000 employees.

Business Situation

To maintain its success despite increasingly challenging business conditions, CFE had to find a better, faster, more collaborative way to glean business intelligence from its under-tapped information sources.


CENACE adopted a solution based on OSIsoft and Microsoft BI technologies that uses real-time operational data, a self-service model, and easy, familiar tools for data access and analysis.


  • Managers empowered with faster, more collaborative BI
  • Data-driven decision-making could save U.S.$4.7 million
  • IT savings to spur broader deployment of custom BI applications

  • HP Proliant DL580 G3

Third Party Software
OSIsoft Software PI Server 2010 PI WebParts 2010 PI Notifications OCS Delivery Channel and Relay PI for Office 2010
  • PI WebParts 2010
  • PI DataLink Server 2010
  • PI OLEDB Enterprise 2010
  • PI DataLink 2010
  • PI System Access License

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2
  • Microsoft Office Professional 2010
  • Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Microsoft Excel 2010
  • Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2
  • Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel

Vertical Industries
  • Power & Utilities
  • Government


Business Need
Business Intelligence and Reporting