Having recently celebrated the 1 year anniversary of an important project success, we decided to reminisce and write about this unique project experience. We first heard about a potential Balancing Authority project in early 2015, 3 ½ years before it would come to fruition. Percipio was already on the ground at Avangrid, managing a portfolio of control systems projects with a focus on new construction build-out and SCADA integration. We began planning and building the BA project charter, and after several iterations and a long process of executive and oversight committee reviews, it became an approved project in April of 2016. Percipio was initially proposed to support the project from a technical project management standpoint due to our history of successes at Avangrid, our energy expertise, and our deep understanding of their underlying processes and technologies. Ultimately, we would serve the role of overall program/project manager, overseeing both the business and technical workstreams.
We initiated the project well, with strong executive commitment and leadership, well-defined project governance, and a robust roadmap to success. The official project kickoff was in August 2016, but the wheels were in motion well before then. In addition to the longer lead technical items, the project team made a concerted effort to meet with, educate, and identify impacted secondary stakeholders and fringe business areas. This Change Management focused exercise proved to be invaluable and uncovered several potential downstream impacts and processes that were not initially considered.
There would be countless challenges along the way, including working through expectations and interpretations of agreements with external parties, implementing complex new systems, and building strong expertise across the business for operating a Balancing Authority Area. To pull this off, there were not just a lot of things that could go wrong, but a lot of things that had to go just right.
The project challenged and stretched all involved, covering a wide swath of functions and experience ranging from:
- Site metering to NERC compliance.
- EMS systems to reserve sharing power pools.
- Wind dispatching to Operator training programs.
- E-tagging to power purchase agreements.
- RAS arming to dynamic schedules.
- Area Control Error to intercompany accounting.
- ICCP integration to Operator situational awareness.
- Frequency measurement to Performance reporting.
- AGC to FERC MBR Studies.
- Telecoms circuits to BA Certification “Bucket” items.
- Network firewalls to Frequency Response Obligation.
- NERC CIP and every other related NERC TLA standards – TOP, BAL, PER, EOP, COM, PRC, INT, IRO, MOD.
There were several factors that significantly contributed to the project’s success. In short, a truly incredible and dedicated team of professionals was responsible and made it possible. From a pure project management perspective, the most important best practices and takeaways are:
- Having and maintaining top-level commitment and strong project sponsorship.
- Fostering education and communication across the organization.
- Honest status reporting and using status to enable progress.
- Knowing when to escalate and leverage executive leadership.
- Milestone tracking spread out over the long duration project to help drive urgency.
- Good meeting snacks!
- Rolling up sleeves to help with anything and everything – procedure writing, testing, screen design or whatever is needed.
In the end, a combination of relationship building, expectation setting, accountability and a little bit of luck (good and bad) is what brought the project team and project together. Percipio is very proud of what was accomplished and some even a bit sad that this marathon project is over!
Matt Waldman Delivery Director | Percipio Consulting Group, Inc.