Blog Series: Managing Grid Modernization Programs (Part 3)

Blog Series: Managing Grid Modernization Programs (Part 3)

The People Part

In our first post, we introduced the unique challenge that utilities face when balancing the need to deliver reliable service while making strategic investments to modernize infrastructure and systems to improve operations. In our second, we combatted the notion that the “PMO” simply manages the scope, schedule, and budget triangle. PMO, rather, is a proactive approach to your program using innovative tools and accelerators to address complex timelines, budgets, and functionality needs.

Ultimately, the people drive a large transformational program. The managers who manage, the analysts who analyze, the architects who build, the vendors who serve, and the sponsors who make decisions and offer direction. Keeping everyone at the table engaged, informed, and accountable can be a challenge. We have found that coordinating these multiple stakeholder groups allows for everyone to “be on the same page” and creates the freedom for team members to build the next enhancement or solution and not get bogged down by bureaucracy – we offer some hands-on lessons that can be applied to similar situations across the lenses of resource, stakeholder, and vendor management strategies.


Consistent, fair, and transparent allocation of work to the WHOLE team allows the program team to identify areas of constraint or reaffirm accountability. Many resources involved in the program will also have a “day job” that must be accounted for when scheduling critical milestone dates. Setting up your grid modernization effort for success requires consideration of all resources involved and is enabled by robust reporting tools. Specifically, understanding weekly forecasts and burn rates fosters transparency to decision makers, which is exceedingly important, albeit often overlooked.

Key Man Risk” is a specific area to monitor throughout the course of grid modernization program execution to ensure there is proper cross-training, knowledge sharing, and equitable sharing of responsibilities across people and functions.

Stakeholder and communications

Collaborate with project/business stakeholders, vendor leads, existing PMO, and change management teams to manage internal and external stakeholders through proper communication channels, including regulatory filings, board presentations, and effective customer engagement strategies. This cross-cutting PMO work stream is increasingly important for grid modernization efforts due to the programs’ wide range of impacts on nearly every utility functional area. Poor or infrequent communication can quickly undermine programs of this nature putting execution and eventual benefit realization at risk.


For any large-scale deployment or technology upgrade, schedule a set cadence of program status meetings to keep all informed on upcoming activities. Remain consistent in the method of communication – use a standard email template (e.g., table structure in MS Outlook works well) for major updates and a shared PMO inbox as the main point of contact.


Grid modernization projects employ a multitude of contractors with expertise ranging from field technology installation to integration testing. The skill and experience required to manage and drive forward a culture of teamwork, transparency, and accountability remains critical for success. An effective PMO will have the knowledge and capability to hold vendors accountable to their commitments, while also establishing trust and shared success measures to drive partnership between the utility and their selected partners. In the end, the utility cannot be successful if their vendor partners fail.


Establish relationships with all vendors involved on both a professional and personal level. Structuring vendor contracts or providing incentives to support overall program goals helps create a culture focused on the final prize to ultimately limit conflict and risk.

Notable business author Jim Collins coined the concept, “First Who, Then What” – suggesting that successful business leaders must be at the helm of the bus, and first get the right people on board (and the wrong people off), get the right people in the right seats, and then start the journey. Like large grid modernization programs, the right team and vendor partners must be on board with a common understanding of the overall program goals and aligned as to how their individual contribution fit into the big picture.

Our final blog post in this series will focus on how to keep the bus on track toward the ultimate goal of measurable benefit realization while safely executing a high-quality program, proactively mitigating risk, and continuously improving through proper knowledge management practices. Stay tuned!

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