National Grid’s energy transformation is fueled by IT

Some might wonder why a high-level tech exec would quit and go work for a utility. That’s what some people asked of Adriana “Andi” Karaboutis, the former CIO of Dell who left the computer giant and was named National Grid’s global chief information and digital officer in 2017. Her answer? She gets to change the world. “It’s one of the most stressful, but challenging jobs — it’s securing and transforming critical national infrastructure,” says Karaboutis, who is excited to be a player in not one but two major global initiatives: securing national infrastructures from cyberattacks and transforming the global energy grid in an era of epic technological advancements to slow climate change. As global CIO, Karaboutis is the chief architect of the $20 billion British multinational’s digital transformation in the UK as well as in New York and New England. Currently, she is working with two governments to shore up cybersecurity of several NATO power grids and, at the same time, transforming the company into an “intelligent connected utility.” Chances are high that the US President or British Prime Minister would more likely pick up a phone call from the CIO of National Grid these days than from a tech exec. Being on what she calls the “frontier” of the global energy transformation may keep her up some nights, but it is “rewarding” beyond words, says Karaboutis, who will be speaking at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium next week. “You can imagine what the Infrastructure Act and the Go Green [initiatives] has meant for my budget. It’s gone up 30% to 40%,” she says. “I don’t want to give you exact numbers, but I had a smaller budget when I was the chief information officer at Dell.” Modernizing a utility’s data architecture National Grid is a big Microsoft Azure cloud customer due to its secure, proprietary nature, says Karaboutis, and is using a bevy of leading-edge tools, from Snowflake, Azure, and Matallion ETL for data tooling, Informatica for data quality, Reltio for master data management, and Blue Prism for RPA, to name a few. 

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