This is the final article in a series of three. In the first, I described how experience reduces cost for utilities running programmes to implement smart energy solutions. In the second, I outlined several areas of delivery risk during implementation.
Over the last 10 years Capgemini has amassed a great deal of experience in the integration and deployment of smart energy applications platforms. During this time we have gathered some principles for mitigating delivery risk in smart metering systems implementation projects. Leveraging lessons learned has helped our customers and partners save time and money, which is why we say Experience Reduces Cost.
Smart energy requires utility business transformation.
A utility may not initially understand the wide-scale business transformation required by the introduction of smart energy. This is one reason why projects begin in the IT department with insufficient budget for business transformation or transition effort. There is a tendency to underplay the scale of change in the user organisation that is needed to support rollout, to monitor connectivity, to set up and manage the relationships with the field service and network partners.
Sometimes the introduction of smart meters is paralleled by a regulatory transformation in the local markets, meaning that an energy consumer’s meter status and consumption must now be shared with other market participants, a situation which introduces new deadlines and pressure to deliver high quality services, and to be able to manage and report on that quality.
Such wide-scale changes will have a significant impact on the budget, as new resources must be recruited, internal appointments made, and changes to the operating model implemented to enable new organisational structures.
End to end business process is the key
New business processes are required to operate and maintain smart metering systems. The solution must be able to operate within the context of a utility’s existing operational landscape. From a technology perspective, this means ensuring from the very start that the full value chain is prioritised throughout the planning, business architecture, systems integration and critically, testing. This is especially true where it interacts with market systems, subcontractor-run systems, and the utilities enterprise architecture around billing and process automation/workflow.
Transition of the operating model is part of the solution
From the day the first smart meter is installed, the distribution business will be looking after two sets of business operations in parallel, and possibly managing two operational organisations. The cost can be high. Some of this can be mitigated – there will be systems shared between the old and new platforms (e.g. at a functional level, for asset management and/or business process orchestration, at a technical level, data centre networks, security features, storage technology etc). But as traffic on the legacy metering systems ramps down and meters using the smart metering systems ramp up, temporary processes will be required to manage the rollout period – the cost of this must be accounted for as part of the solution too.
Smart energy systems and services do not work without interaction with a utility’s enterprise applications
It can be tempting for the project to secure its scope early and put a boundary between the smart energy part that it is directly responsible for, and the existing enterprise applications, which may not be well understood, and which may include problematic areas such as:
- inconsistent or inaccurate data
- no documentation
- “secondary” delivery partners who are not directly engaged in the program
- enterprise application issues which require correction or enhancement to become smart-ready.
But to the utility, these applications are represent the business value they get from their IT, and must be a priority to ensure the shift to smart energy does not upset the continued smooth running of their existing business.
Indirectly affected business processes will be impacted
Once the new smart metering systems are mastering the metering data (and taking at least part of the asset management responsibilities), customer systems may need to be enhanced to launch smart metering services like instant meter reading, and “indirect” processes, for example New Build and Change of Supplier will also need to be analysed and revised.
These elements can present challenges for a utility getting to grips with its own distinct business and IT requirements in the context of local regulatory frameworks. They can be difficult to estimate, but it is essential that they be addressed as part of the full end-to-end solution.