Sunday, April 29, 2007

Energy and Utilities Forum 2007 Delivers The Goods

In a packed day April 24th in Chicago, some 100 electric utilities and partners gathered to deliver the goods on building the intelligent utility. The list of speakers included Mike Clarson from Xcel Energy, Robert Felton from DevonWay, Tom Gentile from National Grid, Steve Hanawalt from OSI Soft, Rick Nicholson from IDC's Energy Insights, Larry Kuhl from Microsoft, Layne Nelson from Loadstar, Ted Reguly from San Diego Gas and Electric, Guerry Waters from Oracle / SPL, Kurt Yeager from Galvin Electric Initiative, and yours truly.

I was honored with the task of speaking on "The Intelligent Utility Network: From Concept to Reality, How One Utility is Making it Happen", which is a great title for the wireless and SOA transformation that I have been leading at Austin Energy since February of 2003. In the end, my key set recommendations were around building a pervasive network that reaches every point in the utility service area powered by a service oriented architecture that connects generation systems (DCS, CAD/CAE, etc), wholesale energy systems (RMS, Trading, Settlement, etc), transmission and distribution systems (GIS, CAD/CAE, OMS, DMS, SCADA/EMS, etc), the meters (AMI/AMR), appliances in the premise for demand side management (commercial and residential), traditional corporate systems (Billing, ERP, CRM, DW/BI, WMS, AMS, FSA, etc), and deliver timely information via portals to all stakeholders (employees, partners, and customers). The way to the smart grid is via a new IT governance that ensures centralization of IT purchasing, decision making and business alignment, while remaining flexible and driven by the Line of Business Executives and Managers as sponsors of their projects and accountable to the enterprise for funding of the projects, business cases, ranking and alignment against the corporate strategic goals, and committed to delivering the benefits outlined in the business justification case for the investment. Architect enterprise-wide but deliver one discrete project at a time to show success, adoption, and culture change. Remember that perfection is the enemy of good. And remember that building that smart grid is a journey and not a fast race.

The Architecture effort must drive improvements in your network, systems, data, and business process architecture layers. Doing one and not the others will cost you lots and take you longer. Start with mapping your top business processes as they are today. That exercise will give you a true insight into were you are as an enterprise. Then define the most ambitious end-goal possible. Follow that with mapping the gap from today vs. tomorrow and picking the quick win projects to attack first. Be surgical and stay the course. Celebrate every win and invest in marketing the journey for all to share. And don't forget to document your lessons learned.

Achieving success will require true top down commitment to business process innovation and managing and rewarding culture change that optimizes the reach of higher levels of efficiencies, higher levels of effectiveness, and better customer experiences. The smart grid can be delivered sooner that most people think. The technology is available today and the holding back is around risk management, business models, and politics. The path to success requires a new way of thinking about our challenges as a nation and the solutions to empower our total transformation.
This combination of energy, communications, software and hardware come together with a systems architecture, integration and modeling approach. In short, I predict a new direction for the industry that I call the creation of the "smart grid" for each utility to deliver the 21st century promise of new forms of energy and levels of efficiency and conservation.

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