Insights

PFES' Project Management Leadership Helps Modernize a Fortune 500 Utility Charging Toward Carbon Neutrality

up close electric meter

Overview

This client is a publicly traded, Fortune 500 energy company offering retail electricity, natural gas, and water service to approximately 4 million customers on the East Coast. The company has an ambitious goal to have their operations carbon neutral by 2030.

Because the company as it currently exists is the result of a merger between several utilities, many of its business units effectively act as separate entities with different processes and procedures. This makes it difficult for leadership to receive consistent information to manage the business, including forecast trends in utilization and downtime and control project costs.

With the realization that centralizing key functions and implementing best practices would be key to accomplishing their goals, the company turned to PFES' project management leadership to modernize several critical areas.

Our Approach: The Road to Modernization

PFES began its professional relationship with this utility consulting on Project Management / Project Controls and Construction Management programs. Mutual trust was built during this engagement, and a need to assess the client’s gas department’s Project Management Office (PMO) was identified.

man in white oxford looking up at project schedule

PFES' project management consultants performed a thorough evaluation of the client gas department’s existing (1) scheduling platforms and (2) variables utilized to support standard reporting deliverables for upper management.

PFES created a Proof of Concept (POC) model by taking approximately 25 gas department projects from the company’s Microsoft Project database, migrating them to a new P6 Primavera database and reconfiguring reports in Excel to run off data pulled from that new P6 database. After reviewing the results of the POC, client leadership expressed a desire to expand the program to a second and third phase.

During Phases 2 and 3, PFES was given a huge repository of data, information, and documents to analyze in order to build an efficient solution that complemented the gas department’s organizational structure. While PFES' project management experts worked with the client to understand their needs and wants, continuous modifications were required within the P6 environment (where all users work and access project schedules) and throughout the project lifecycle.

This was similar to a “Design / Build” case where, as PFES continued building the environment, further conversations and assessments uncovered a need for the current setup to be repeatedly modified in order to ensure a proper solution.

The Scope of these Modifications Included:

  1. Data stream: Newly identified information pertinent to setup/functionality was continually being fed into the system
  2. Specialization: A need to investigate additional platforms outside of P6 for specialized data analysis and to provide the necessary results
  3. Project migration (from Microsoft Project to Primavera P6): The number of projects continuously changed and grew. At proposal, 400 projects were identified for migration, but scope eventually grew to 1,000+ projects. This allowed PFES to implement a process for tracking all projects and their status, conduct an analysis of which projects should be included, and a continual evaluation of whether new work should be included. This evaluation of new work required:
    • Implementation of processes for identifying all project metadata (geographies and regions, project managers, required resources, etc.)
    • A template generation process to standardize coding structure (UDFs, activity codes, etc.) in order to migrate projects and data with consistency. This part was critical; without it, the migration would fail, and the project would not be properly depicted (all data would be inaccurate).
      Two types of templates were needed:
      • Templates for migrating the projects from Microsoft Project to P6 Primavera
      • Templates to support the gas department’s PMO creating new projects
  4. Reporting: The client’s existing standardized reports were configured to run strictly on manual input from Microsoft Project. This required a major undertaking to reconfigure the reports in Excel to work with the new P6 environment. PFES reconfigured their reports to run off P6 data dumps and auto-populate numerous tables and summarized data. These reports streamlined the process and set the stage for future automation in Power BI.

Additionally, PFES provided training and developed customized Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and Database Administration (DBA) support for the client to maintain the new Primavera P6 application.

PFES’ ability to remain agile and responsive to the constantly shifting nature of such a project is what made the assessment, migration, training, and DBA a success.

Building on Success within the Client’s Gas Department

gas meter in front of brick wall

These initial successes set the stage for additional consulting support to the PMO. Due to a lack of visibility in the overall portfolio, and a need to build consistency in the way projects were being scheduled, PFES was tasked with maturing the gas department’s scheduling process. This maturation was based on a road map of best practices developed, which included an application and database conversion of their scheduling processes to Primavera P6.

Objectives included:

  1. Integrated scheduling that:
    • Allows multiple simultaneous users
    • Is based on execution units (not based on work time)
    • Can be integrated across the different functional departments with segmented access and profiles (PM/Engineering/P&S/PC)
    • Can be integrated across different Capital programs
    • Has the ability to integrate the different phases of the schedule (Conception-Strategic 5 Year Plan/Work-prep/Execution/Closeout) in a future state.
  2. Reporting that:
    • Fixed reports by PROGRAM, by STATE and by PROJECT customizable by any selected period within the schedule.
    • Earned Value and Estimate at Completion calculation based on unit rates per AWC and per program.
    • Forecast reports for units, cost, and crew distribution.
    • Crew execution units and productivity report.

As the road to modernization was becoming a reality, the client approached PFES for consulting assistance with creating a more comprehensive database in P6 Primavera to support multiple business units. PFES built out and now manages all scheduling dashboard reports utilizing Power BI. Furthermore, PFES implemented another new software into P6 to progress the platform and expand BI reporting by unifying data from multiple systems.

Expanding Into Electric Distribution and Transmission

Word of these compounding modernizations began to spread across departments within the client’s organization, and PFES consultants were asked to lead other projects within the organization, including the Electric Distribution & Transmission teams who soon tapped PFES to replicate previous successes.

Integrated Planning and Scheduling

PFES aided during a time when a subject matter expert and database administrator retired while the position was evaluated and eventually backfilled. Quickly becoming part of the team and leading governance as well as addressing technical challenges and complex integrations, PFES supported the team through a time of change while giving stability to a function that is key to the organization.

electric transformer in front of a blue sky

PFES also provided consultative expertise to implement scheduling best practices and performed a deep-dive analysis on several projects. This analysis included developing a Power BI report with a detailed exploration of multiple facets of the project. Data was reviewed to identify trends and major variances that contributed to increased cost and overall project durations. A lessons-learned document and an executive presentation was done on these findings.

As a result of the success of this effort, the business intelligence report was modified so it this would be available in real-time for all projects in the P6 Primavera database. PFES supported the implementation of Power BI within the Electric Transmission department and has a member consulting on that team on an ongoing basis.

Project Controls Implementation, Training, and Onboarding

Recognizing that a well-trained team is the backbone of success, the client had PFES conduct training and onboarding to nurture their schedulers into experts of the craft.

person interfacing with tablet device displaying project schedule

A team of four PFES Project Controls experts was brought in to enhance schedule predictability, improving the client’s existing one-week forecasting capability to a robust 90-day look-ahead approach with 80% accuracy in weekly schedule adherence. This heightened accuracy minimizes disruptions and empowers the client to maintain, and sometimes even surpass, project timelines.

The client is now equipped with the foresight to anticipate potential challenges and proactively devise effective solutions, ensuring uninterrupted project progress. This four-member team eventually grew to 14 over the span of the implementation period.

In addition, PFES developed a suite of invaluable schedule templates that have become the foundation of our standardized processes. These templates streamline project initiation, execution, and closeout, ensuring consistent excellence throughout every phase.

The client wanted to go beyond implementation, however, turning to PFES to conduct training and onboarding to nurture the client’s schedulers into experts:

  • PFES’ comprehensive Primavera P6 training program caters to schedulers at all levels of proficiency. This program equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in their roles and contribute to project success.
  • PFES meticulously crafted an onboarding document that provides new associate schedulers with a clear roadmap. This document outlines expectations and setup functions, facilitating a seamless transition into their roles and empowering them to hit the ground running.
  • PFES collaborated with technical writers to create a comprehensive document encompassing our project controls procedures and processes. This document serves as an authoritative guide, spanning from project initiation through project closeout, and is an invaluable resource for streamlined project management.

Outcome

PFES modernized each of these departments by evolving them off old software, normalizing their data, and implementing employee training practices. Not only did PFES implement these new systems and processes, but they also trained the client’s team on them and continues to do so, including:

  • P6 group training sessions for all users
  • Individual hands-on P6 training sessions for each engineer, which has lead to engineers being able to maintain and update their assigned projects in P6 (with PFES acting as oversight)

The PFES Difference

PFES is committed to not only investing in quality relationships at every level of an organization, but delivering unrivaled consultative expertise, leadership and guidance. Because while good relationships are critical for successful business partnerships, they don’t mean much unless they produce high quality results. PFES is led by industry leaders supported by a bench of utility experts, management, and business intelligence experts. With this level of expertise and partnership, it was easy for the client to develop a level of trust and confidence in PFES.

To help support the client on their path to modernization and carbon neutrality, PFES continues to partner with them across multiple divisions and currently has 25+ consultants serving in key project and leadership roles. Transparency in sharing information, performance feedback and staffing strategies has become commonplace. PFES is a true consultative partner with these departments, providing insight and feedback on system configuration, permissions, structure and leading practices that help guide and influence the organization.

The story doesn’t end here, either. PFES and the client have committed to working together on nearly 20 different projects over the next three years. This work will cover all departments within the client organization and involve leading multiple software implementations to further modernize this growing utility – and attaining the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

The Perfect Consulting Partner

Our team consists of industry heavyweights that bring substantial expertise to the table for our clients. We partner with you to reduce risk and uncertainty in your capital projects, delivering initiatives on time with significant cost savings while meeting industry and safety standards. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

Details
Date
May 9, 2024
Category
Case Studies
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