As we discussed in our previous blog, a common element across any successful grid modernization effort is the careful and deliberate approach to forming teams by identifying “the right people, in the right seats on the bus.” Grid modernization is certainly not a sprint, and is a long journey that requires the right team with a common understanding of the program scope, schedule, and budget. In this final blog of our four-part series, we’ll focus on how to keep the bus on track toward the ultimate goal of measurable benefits realization while safely executing a high-quality program, proactively mitigating risk, and continuously improving through proper knowledge management practices.
Quality & Safety
“Trust but verify” – a phrase popularized by President Reagan when dealing with high-risk diplomatic situations efficiently, can be applied when conducting work and making decisions in any environment that requires precision, planning, and safe work procedures. The PMO must focus on high quality and consistency across all work streams to execute against a comprehensive quality management plan while adhering to safety policy to drive a smooth and safe transition from deployment through operations. This mentality aligns well with the quality and safety culture within the utility industry. The bottom-line is safety must be proactive, not reactive.
There is no substitute for experience and no such thing as over-prepared. Mistakes or ignorance can cause serious risks resulting in system disruption, or personal injury. Detailed checklists, including safety protocol, substation walk downs and field deployments is absolutely necessary. The PMO must maintain the knowledge and experience to identify quality shortfalls to ensure standards are met. Moreover, conducting internal quality inspections (using an external auditor or senior director) will ensure the program is adhering to standard processes, adopting best practices, and continually improving.
Risk and Issues
Unforeseen developments, impacts, and roadblocks are inevitable on complex programs of this magnitude. The PMO needs to establish an ownership-driven and transparent process to drive critical thinking to resolve known issues and risks and prevent future occurrences across all work streams. The strongest defense is a proactive risk management process that encourages thorough analysis with timely identification and flexible mitigation of risks, issues, and other impactful events.
Accountability is your best friend to avoid, mitigate, and accept known issues or risks. Establish a weekly cadence to review ongoing issues/risks and consider the use of external tools, such as HP Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), or a customized SharePoint list to assign ownership, track dates and comments.
Realizing benefits requires adhering to an agreed upon baseline target and consistent on-going tracking of progress towards measurable goals. Beginning with the “end in mind” will help drive a culture of accountability around realization of benefits on a broad scale while also aligning with traditional scope, schedule, and budget measurements. With large and expensive grid modernization programs comes an expectation of the delivery of value to the utility, customers, and other external stakeholders Delivering this value requires a consistent end-to-end focus from initial planning, implementation, and transition to day-to-day maintenance.
Developing key performance indicators (KPIs) and a plan on how metrics are to be measured, tracked, and communicated is the first step to successful benefit realization. This process can then be followed to prepare periodic status reports for regulators and external stakeholders to report on the quantitative progress and benefits achieved through the overall deployment efforts.
Optimize knowledge sharing by driving a culture of program engagement, curiosity, and continuous learning. Program managers should ensure no work stream operates in a silo, and best practices are identified, shared, and implemented across the functional teams and program work streams.
Customized dashboards configured using SharePoint knowledge management tools and functionality have proven effective when combined with proper knowledge management processes to help structure information in standard taxonomies (e.g., folders) to help improve reporting, collaboration, and learning.
Complex grid modernization requires a management approach that not only directs scope, schedule, and budget but can effectively manage multiple stakeholders and create a culture of accountability to drive teams towards common goals and benefits for the utility and its customers. Structure, communication, collaboration, and controls are all key to navigating today’s challenges. Our experience suggests that any imbalance across the multiple lenses of the grid modernization management model could slow progress, erode benefits, and lead to potential derailment.
Implementing an effective grid modernization model is not an option, but is absolutely required to realize value. Combining effective management processes with the right experience could accelerate deployment schedules to realize benefits even sooner.
If you’re interested in learning more about how your utility can take the first steps toward grid modernization, please reach out to Danny Freeman.