5 min read

How Legacy ETRM Systems Stand in the Way of Digital Transformation

Discover how legacy ETRM systems can impede digital transformation and the signs that you're ready for a more modern, flexible solution.
How Legacy ETRM Systems Stand in the Way of Digital Transformation

Moving to a cloud-native, SaaS ETRM is an important step for energy traders that are embracing digital transformation to control costs, increase flexibility and productivity, and shorten time to value.

Digital transformation has been a major theme across multiple industries for the past several years, and no wonder. When it’s done properly, digital transformation brings with it a slew of changes that improve productivity at the same time they reduce costs. Instead of remaining stuck with slow, cumbersome processes, manual update cycles, unreliable performance, and low utilization of IT assets, organizations can embrace the speed, agility, automation, and scalability of modern digital technologies. Considering the velocity and nimbleness required to succeed in energy trading, achieving these upsides is even more important than usual in this sector.

What’s standing in the way? The massive trapped investments represented by legacy systems. Addressing this issue, longtime energy industry consultant Geoffrey Cann doesn’t mince words:

“These legacy systems now stand resolutely in the way of progress. They’re big, rigid, change-resistant, costly to run, and lock-in-place practices that are long overdue for change. Any business process or system that has not been materially rethought with cloud computing, mobile connected workers, and widespread telecoms networks is now an anchor, not an enabler.”

If you want your energy trading company to grow, you must escape this trap. But how?

Table of Contents

The Challenge of Digital Transformation for the Energy Trading Industry

Some areas of energy have long been pioneers when it comes to technology. As examples, Cann mentions large-scale seismic modeling and the big, dedicated data centers that came well before the rise of public cloud computing. The cutting-edge of technology for geophysics, exploration, back-office functions, and so on truly is impressive. But not every area of the industry—and certainly not every company—has been so quick to modernize.

How Legacy ETRM Systems Stand in the Way of Digital Transformation: resistant to change, unfriendly, costly, rigid, inflexible, and burdens of customization.
How Legacy ETRM Systems Stand in the Way of Digital Transformation

Our own experience has shown us the scope of the problem created specifically by legacy ETRM systems. Big? Rigid? Change-resistant? Costly to run? Check, check, check, and check. Plenty of companies that rely on these entrenched ETRMs for critical functions have spent years on implementation, and sometimes millions of dollars in fees, just to get them up and running. That doesn’t even touch the financial costs or operational headaches of maintaining and updating them.

It’s common for companies in this situation to find that they can’t feasibly implement system updates on a regular cadence, meaning that they accrue an immense amount of technical debt on top of an already rigid, outdated business-critical application.

ETRM Software is a Critical Piece of Your Digital Transformation

Digital transformation isn’t about rushing into what’s new for its own sake. Rather, it’s about making the most of the inherent advantages of modern digital capabilities. For instance, it makes good business sense not to pay for more computing capacity than you need, yet that rationale must also be balanced against being able to operate at maximum scale whenever that’s required. In the past, you might have to tolerate having a big system that sits unused 95% of the time just because you really need it the other 5% of the time.

Today, however, multi-tenant cloud-based systems inherently address this problem far more effectively than legacy systems ever could. In this case, digital transformation is a clear bottom-line winner in terms of resource utilization.

Getting back to ETRMs, legacy version systems usually lack flexibility when it comes to scale and utilization. Combine that with their user-unfriendliness, the heavy burdens of customization, and all the challenges of periodic update cycles, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that they become a barrier to innovation in spite of technological advances in other parts of the industry.

If your trading firm is ready to take the leap into digital transformation, it makes sense to adopt an approach in which each piece of technology in which you invest fosters adaptability, reliability, interoperability, and user-friendliness. If your ETRM isn’t doing that, it’s time for a change.

The Best ETRM Software Checks All the Boxes

The contrast between legacy systems and cloud-native solutions can be stark. If the old way of doing things is rigid, change-resistant, expensive, and locked in place, the new way is flexible, adaptable, cost-effective, and nimble.

Beyond that, the old way is “big” (as in bad)—lumbering and slow like a dinosaur. The new way feels light and quick, but in fact, is vastly larger under the hood.

It’s important to realize that the payoff for these advantages isn’t even primarily on the IT side. Yes, a cloud-native ETRM is unquestionably easier to implement and maintain from an IT perspective. It’s automated yet customizable, gets updated frequently and without extra cost, and is substantially more reliable than legacy systems. All of these things will make your IT team’s lives much easier—but they’re just the beginning.

The deeper benefits of a modern, cloud-native ETRM are on the business side. A user-focused, design-first approach means that your team can get started immediately and ramp up to become power users before you know it—which results in dramatically shorter time to value. Instead of needing to put so much effort into the back-end processes of implementation, tuning, customization, and updating, your organization can put most of the effort into using the system to trade, manage risk, and ultimately drive your business.

That’s what digital transformation is really for.

What Should You Do if You’re Currently Using Legacy ETRM Software?

To quote Geoffrey Cann one more time, “Those systems that have kept pace should be retained, and those that have not . . . are now due for radical change.”

First, you need to assess where you are with your current ETRM, then decide what to do next. If you found yourself agreeing with all the downsides of legacy systems described above and you’ve made it this far, chances are good it is time for the radical change that Cann prescribes. To make your next steps easier, we have resources for better understanding your options.

To help you build your business case, check out “The Business Value of Moving to a Multi-Tenant SaaS ETRM System,” which covers a range of topics, including:

The benefits of multi-tenancy over single-tenancy or on-premises deployments

  • Cybersecurity
  • Scalability
  • Innovation
  • Cost-effectiveness

Supplement that with “Pros and Cons of Moving from In-House to Purchased ETRM,” which thoroughly lays out the steps of a successful migration, from identifying pain points to selecting an ETRM vendor.

Finally, get ready to harness the effects of digital transformation with “How to Prepare for a Successful ETRM Software Implementation,” our step-by-step to getting the most out of whichever system you choose.

We would, of course, be happy to talk with you about how Molecule can help you in your steps toward digital transformation in your trading firm. But above all, we want everyone who’s using a legacy ETRM and may be struggling with the mandates of digital transformation to understand this: There is a better way.