Utility companies are geographically located all over the world, some in busy, heavily populated cities and others in more remote locations. Supplying boots on the ground or utilizing virtual technologies continues to be a favored combination approach in helping utilities provide seamless service for customers that rely on the power they produce. It is becoming more common for utilities to look for ways to increase the service they can get from their consultants and this is especially true for rural electric companies.

In remote areas, access to specific qualified skilled labor and professional knowledge can be a challenge to address the problem at hand. As clients work to optimize their systems and expand or update aging infrastructure, some are choosing a partner that can provide both face-to-face and virtual support, giving them access to a deeper and broader bench strength to help solve problems on an as-needed basis.  

With a hands-on project team partnering with clients every step of the way (whether in person or virtually), there is a deeper understanding and commitment to what is needed, including:

  • Coordinating outages in a way that doesn’t occur during peak demand times for that community.
  • Providing constant and consistent communication, which gives the team a better understanding of local market conditions. This could include labor, economic outlook, material pricing and more. Comprehension of local market conditions is key to delivering a successful project.
  • Utilizing virtual tools and technologies as well as in-person opportunities allows the project team to address changes and challenges that could delay the timeline. With constant collaboration, these challenges can be handled almost immediately. Wisdom gained on-site or via virtual reality/augmented reality tools is priceless, and is critical to the overall understanding of designs and drawings.
  • Gaining a deep understanding of the lay of the land. At the forefront of any project, it’s critical to know what foundation, regulations and environmental concerns come with the territory. From the beginning, close connections with the entire team is a critical step on the road to project success.

In our current times like now with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are coming to fully understand the capability of being able to communicate virtually. Finding alternate solutions to solve problems — adding experience to your team by using virtual meetings to access talent remotely, for example — makes perfect sense. Having a unique approach and staying flexible to meet the needs of the project and client helps the utility keep power on for the communities it serves while updating aging infrastructure.

Some of the best experiences for projects come from engraining yourself and team with the community you are serving. From participating in chamber events to volunteering for local organizations, it is essential to make close relationships with the community while also delivering successful critical infrastructure project solutions that support sustainable growth.


Learn more about our Canada team and how we tackle critical projects while partnering and engaging with the local community.


Don is vice president of Burns & McDonnell Canada and a program manager for major electrical transmission initiatives. He has nearly 25 years of engineering experience and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Connecticut.