Small & Medium Utility Companies -- 10 Things to Consider Before Renewing on your IT Journey

Small & Medium Utility Companies are eager and ready to embrace the new Technology. It can be just an ERP implementation focused on better cost management or advanced Smart Grid implementation to drive efficiency. Unlike their big brothers, limited exposure to IT and lack of in-house expertise in the organization pose many challenges. Following paragraph lists 10 key areas to be considered before renewing your IT Journey.

  1. Have A Core IT Team:

    If you are a medium sized company, it pays to invest in establishing an IT core team within the organization. They act as anchors for the company and translate SI jargon appropriately. These positions to be staffed with profiles having work experience in consulting companies, rather than trying to develop someone in-house. Such laterals will know where to look for and what to look for during the project life cycle.

  2. Hire a Solution Assurance Team:

    Core team may not be able to handle specific requirements of individual major project in terms of technology or size. It pays off well to hire companies specialized in Solution Assurance Services. Their tasks would be:

    • Support Program Management Office

    • Proactive Planning & Analysis through effective verification process & hence bring transparency in the program

    • Proactive monitoring of Program issues and goals

    • Ensure effective communications across streams

    • Ensure stringent Change Control policy & its adoption

    • Solution Assurance & Validation

    • Adherence to business strategy & Vision

    • Optimization of IT strategy and system architecture

    • Infusion of Business Best Practices and hence alignment to future product development

    • Seamless integration of all the implementation phases

  3. Choosing a Vendor :

    The Vendor should have capability to serve your long term IT strategy, in terms of technology and size. Having a long term relationship with Vendors will have benefits; you will be able to appreciate this difference especially with offshore Vendors While commercials are important, that shall not be the sole factor for deciding, with whom to partner.

    Don't rely on just the experience of Vendors and case studies, specifically for Implementation projects. It makes a lot of difference in terms of who will actually landup in your program. While you agree on the terms of contract, set out the minimum profile/ experience levels of the individuals who will be on-boarded for key roles such as Program Manager, Design Lead, Change Manager, etc.

  4. Ready to Change :

    Package implementations deliver maximum benefit only when you adopt the best practices built into the product and align to the future product development cycle.

    Key benefits of adopting Industry Best Practices from the package are:

    • Avoid common beginners' mistakes

    • Consistent approach

    • Save time and money Achieve predicted results

    • Reduced risks

    • Fast track to extending your business solution with new business processes

    • Focusing on integrated end-to-end business processes

    • Start off with a fully documented process

    • No trial runs

    • Failure is not an option!

    • It works: what you see is what you get for implementation

  5. Give Your Time

    You are the expert of your processes; the vender comes with knowledge of what other companies have done or with what product can offer. You need to ensure that your business experts spend lot of time with Vendor's consultants especially during Blueprinting Phase. Ensure following key gating criteria of signing off the TO-BE process documents by Business owners before moving to realization phase.

  6. Data First

    In the working experience of the author, he is yet to see a company which can claim to have got it's data quality right. Get started with data profiling and data cleansing program at the very beginning of a product implementation project. Typical tendency for a project team is to design the system and see how to fit in legacy data. This can work effectively, with some data transformations, where data quality is right. Data Cleansing is a daunting task, especially, when the data source is geographically spread. Data cleansing is typically manual work requiring many hands over a long time. Only where one can manipulate data using a standard routine, follow the automated route.

  7. Not familiar with Product?

    When you are faced with challenge of choosing a product, do not hesitate to ask for demo or a Proof of Concept (POC) work from your vendor. If the vendor is confident of the product selection, they will spend time and energy to showcase the fitment. References and testimonials have limitations. If you have time or if you still see a huge risk, go for a Pilot Implementation before adopting at the Enterprise level.

  8. Business Core Team

    Business Applications are getting complicated. It takes time to understand what it can do and what its limitations are. The understanding of the limitation is critical for Business team to understand the language of the Application consultant. Ensure core team is trained on the product to certain level of proficiency before on boarding them.

  9. Business Champions

    While you depend on the Support Vendor, you still need 'floor walkers' to run your business with the new application. These are the people who will remain working in business but who will have a higher level of product understanding. Business core team from the implementation can be transformed into these business champions. As a core team, their involvement in the design & testing will provide the required exposure to have the edge to be a 'floor walker'.

  10. Application Maintenance

    In general, if the implementation vendor continues to support after golive, you will see better governance, continuity and accountability. Decide it upfront, as it assures you of cost benefit from the vendor. If the organization plans to bring in a new vendor for Support, ensure they are on boarded quite in advance. It's recommended to involve support vendor in Independent Quality Assurance work during the testing phase itself. This will help bringing ownership and specific implementation understanding before handover from the Implementation vendor.

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