At a recent engagement with a large IOU (Investor Owned Utility) we guided our client through a technology evaluation and pilot deployment of a new communications system for monitoring the electrical distribution network of substations. The legacy system was deployed more than twenty years ago and was no longer supported by the manufacturer and lacked capabilities for security compliance and the demands for higher data speeds.
We approached the process by maintaining a strong relationship between the business needs of the utility and the capabilities of the technology and the impact upon operations and maintenance.
Traditionally one of the challenges facing utility engineering and information technology organizations is in demonstrating the value of a system upgrade to the core business. Often the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system and its associated infrastructure is secondary as the executives within the utility cannot relate to how those capabilities support the business case.
By engaging executive sponsorship to define the business case at a high level, the project team can then define the functional requirements for the system. An additional advantage is this also begins to shape the governance structure that begins to form through the evaluation process and into the long-term deployment of the technology. This top-down approach increases the confidence of executive management that the process will remain aligned to the core business.
To maintain focus, the business case should be a well-defined list of no more than five to nine high-level requirements that can be captured in a few sentences. The business case is converted to broad capabilities that address what benefit the solution will provide to the organization. As the process moves closer to the technology evaluation project team, the requirements become much more specific to convert in to go/no-go or weighted scoring measures.
In our approach this process was successful in keeping the technology evaluation team focused upon how features aligned back to the business – the actual customer of the technology solution. The project management team was able to liaise between the executive sponsors, governance, and the technology groups to achieve a much more effective solution.
We were able to maintain a vendor-agnostic approach through the process and to select the most appropriate technology to meet the needs of the business. Additionally, we were successful in separating key requirements from capabilities that would bring little direct value to the utility.
Now that we are in the deployment of the technology, everyone involved from the executive sponsor, through the project management team and the programmers, engineers and technicians responsible for implementing the technology share an understanding of the impact of the wireless solution and how it serves the needs of the business.
For a comprehensive understanding of our approach, please attend our session at DistribuTECH 2017.
For those who cannot attend and are interested in more information, please reach out to Tisha Hayes.