Utilities that rely on efficient capital portfolios for their bottom line also depend on efficient project management to make their projects successful. Until recently, operating in accordance with market limitations and proven business practices allowed utilities to thrive. Now, seismic changes in the utility landscape are driving utilities to become more strategic in their approach to project execution.

Infrastructure and technology demands at regional and global, rather than local, levels are causing an evolution within the utility business environment. Solutions are no longer sourced solely from within, and cost overruns may easily make a utility noncompetitive. However, emerging digital transformation solutions are providing options and efficiencies.

To harness productivity and flexibility from both new and existing tools, utilities must seek integrated solutions to manage project life cycles. A tailored integration plan can empower professionals across the organization — from CEO to project manager — to access centralized, streamlined data in real-time.

Common Challenges

Developing a customized integration solution requires utilities to define a clear vision of how information will be consumed, used and updated. This vision should align with the utility’s business processes.

Next, utilities need to identify their “single source of truth” — the primary location where the organization goes for pertinent data. This includes defining where and how data will be maintained and identifying the technologies needed to complete the integration.

Finally, utilities must implement a business workflow that clearly identifies how data will be presented to different levels of the organization, and how (and when) data needs to be updated in each system.

Many utilities aren’t prepared to provide the level of standardization and coordination these tasks require. A project management office (PMO) can facilitate the integration planning process by helping to clarify business priorities, streamline processes and optimize resource allocation. 

Integration Success

Recently, our team helped FirstEnergy develop a transition plan to optimize and leverage the efficiencies of internal processes within Oracle Primavera Portfolio Management (OPPM) and Primavera Unifier, as well as integrate each system into the utility’s enterprise.

We began by tailoring the capabilities of the technology to FirstEnergy’s unique processes. This started with clean data. We worked with FirstEnergy to normalize hundreds of thousands of key project data attributes. Now the data can be integrated into Primavera Unifier and OPPM to build business processes for individual project life cycles.

While Primavera Unifier supports project managers during the execution of a project, OPPM provides decision-makers and stakeholders with the big picture — including time frames, risks and resource requirements needed to prioritize projects and maximize capital investment plans.

Today, FirstEnergy’s integrated enterprise solution provides a consistent flow of actionable insight that allows anyone in the company to monitor current and future transmission and distribution projects. By making accurate, real-time data accessible, the integrated solution reduces the manual work required by the legacy system while allowing the company to continue providing customers with a high level of system reliability.

Since completing this project, FirstEnergy has received an Oracle Excellence Award for systems integration in energy resources, specifically for integrating systems to enhance project efficiencies and save time on running outage reports. They are actively transforming data into action with project management tools.

Lewis McKenzie is a director of technology consulting at 1898 & Co., part of Burns & McDonnell. He has 20 years of experience supporting large-scale technology projects within the architecture, engineering and construction industry and has a successful track record of helping companies maximize control and optimize processes related to capital projects and program management.