Utilities are increasingly confronting the need to upgrade, replace or integrate their outage management systems (OMS) or start new implementations from scratch. Making such investments can be a daunting task - with the multitude of considerations involved in structuring such projects, the need for resources or expertise that is unlikely to exist in-house, and the requisite teaming of internal and external resources and stakeholders.
Successful OMS implementations are built on a thorough assessment and definition of critical requirements, and determination to stick to the scope. Organisations that successfully implement OMS projects ensure the following five measures are taken:
Once a project has started, additional scope can add significant time, resources and costs. The starting point for scoping the project is to understand the requirements of the key stakeholders: customers, the regulators, and end users within the utility.
Customers: Besides the utility itself, customers are the prime beneficiaries of a successful OMS and should be the starting point of the implementation. Identify the functionalities that add value to customers and be sure to communicate the benefits of faster and more accurate information to them.
Regulatory: An OMS investment will have regulatory implications. In some cases better information makes key indices like SAIDI and SAIFI look worse, even though actual performance remains unchanged or has improved. Working with the regulators in managing expectations and establishing relevant benchmarks is critical to avoid being penalised based on legacy regulatory requirements.
End Users: The success of the system implementation depends on people using it effectively. End users must be part of the program from start to finish. Change management does not have to be complex – it's all about making sure you get people to want to be part of the outcome and that they have the energy to get there.
Building a strong business case also includes identifying benefits, performance metrics, and risks as well as a risk mitigation plan. Be sure to identify a comprehensive list of both qualitative and quantitative benefits. These benefits should not only justify expenditure on the program, but also act as a benchmark to track actual benefits realised after implementation.
It is essential that you compile an exhaustive catalogue of the business risks associated with the program – complete with a risk mitigation plan. As part of the exercise, it is critical that you determine the probability and impact of the risks and assign owners who are responsible for monitoring them - and implementing the mitigation strategy should the need arise.
See beyond the glossy presentations and promises from vendors. Invest time in a thorough due diligence process to select the right companies and products that will meet your specific requirements. Your team and partners are critical to achieving a successful outcome, so select the best partners with the required areas of expertise to ensure the project is delivered on time, within budget and true to scope.
Vendors often offer configurable solutions that support 'best practice' processes and functionality. However, once you've opened the box, their 'best practice' is clearly not yours, not all of the functionality is 'quite ready yet' and the solution hasn't ever worked with 'these older systems.' Customisation can quickly tack on major costs to an implementation. By selecting the right partners, certain customisation options can fall into the 'nice to have' category instead of 'need to have.' Some degree of customisation is always necessary to make the system work within your business, but this should be minimised.
Data is Mission Critical! There are no painless ways to get the accurate, comprehensive data that is critical to an OMS. It needs to be validated, stewarded and owned. The data is precious and allows your business to ensure that you have a correct overview of connectivity. Thorough testing of the system before go-live will provide the opportunity to identify and correct issues in a test environment as opposed to after go-live.
If the OMS is going to work for the business, the business needs to drive the project from beginning to end and include all impacted departments. This will ensure that the end users work with the system instead of around the systems – realising benefits earlier. Executing a technology implementation project is usually in addition to all the other activities the company is already doing. Do not underestimate the time commitment from key resources. Some of the key project resources will have to delegate responsibilities to others throughout the implementation.
PA Consulting Group is a leading management consultancy that has been helping utilities implement and upgrade outage management systems for over ten years. PA has been working with utilities for over 25 years to develop, share and recognise best practices in utility performance and reliability. For example, our benchmarking programs in transmission, distribution and customer services are the most comprehensive, objective and useful performance benchmarking study available to the utility industry, while our annual ReliabilityOne™ and ServiceOne awards recognise North American utilities for excellence in reliability and customer service.