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AMI implementations are community projects – and they require community buy-in

Capgemini
Dec 12, 2023

Consider the different needs and goals of internal and external stakeholders

AMI projects typically involve multiple stakeholders, and this creates both internal and external obstacles and opportunities. Success in these large-capital projects requires alignment and support with each group. This is why it is critical to establish clear, realistic business cases to drive a major project forward.

Internal stakeholders include employees and contractors within the organization who will be actively involved in defining what the change will look like, especially as processes and roles are impacted. Unions too need to be part of the discussions. A utility may have different names for the internal individuals and the structures may be different, but the roles will be very similar.

The same applies to external stakeholders. Regulators in each province may operate slightly differently but they will be involved in major transformations, as they are capital expenses. External stakeholders also include all levels of government and the communities themselves, as these projects requires equipment changes on private property.

Also, utilities looking to engage with Indigenous communities need to consider that impact and plan for the process to take time. They have to build relationships or have existing ones to discuss what is going to happen and the opportunities that will be delivered for the community, such as employment or improved services. It is not a single meeting or interaction – it requires building a connection with a community and ensuring they understand what the change will look like and how it will be executed.

Preparing for change

Engaging all stakeholders and achieving a broad level of buy-in takes time. If a utility fails at this, complaints will be filed with the regulator or municipality. The goal is to bring stakeholders along the transformation journey, so they feel informed and involved and understand the changes coming.

An AMI 2.0 project is years in the making – not months. Even simply informing homeowners that their meters will be changed and receiving their approval takes times, as these units are usually attached to residences.

Capgemini is working with multiple utilities on stakeholder alignment to help ensure AMI 2.0 transformation projects are delivering the right messages to the right audiences. Finding the path forward means developing a strategic vision and implementation plan by business domain. The project team needs to know the existing culture and processes in a utility and combine them with an overview of all the stakeholders to ensure alignment.

Sharing the vision

There will be pockets of resistance but that is not unique to AMI transformation. In most cases, people want to know what is in it for them. It is critical that the stakeholder alignment team tells the story, identifying the opportunities for engagement and alignment. Even just trying to get everyone to understand the scope of the project and the value it will deliver is challenging.

In our experience, the project objectives can be incredibly technical but change management needs to turn it into a story of transformation that is meaningful to every stakeholder audience. It is important to not underestimate how big an AMI 2.0 transformation will be and the number of stakeholders involved.

It may sound easy – utilities are going to go out and change all the meters. But the stakeholders are probably not going to be aligned at the start and projects are complex because there are so many impacts. The process has to bring multiple groups together into the same story alignment and then take them through the entire journey.

Authors

Mike Lang

Utility Transformation Leader, Canada
Mike leads the AMI and Utility Centre of Excellence at Capgemini for Canada, responsible for offering development, delivery, and go-to-market strategy. He believes data and smart metering are the foundational pillars for a broader utility transformation in smart grid, electrification, and energy transition.

Sandra McWade

Change Acceleration Leader for Canada
Sandra works with internal and external stakeholders, focusing on engagement to address challenges through innovative strategy and tactics delivering a change journey for all stakeholders to effectively adopt and sustain the new ways of working delivered by advanced AMI solutions.