Electric utilities deliver large and complex projects that deal with critical infrastructure. The livelihood of millions of energy customers depends on the continued success of these projects. Sometimes delivering a successful project comes down to how well you execute the basics. Here are a few simple tactics all PSC Project Managers practice:

1. Recognise the warning signs

Technical projects tend to have unique warning signs before getting into trouble, and all projects share the big ones. For example, when communication becomes scarce, that means critical information isn’t getting where it needs to be. This can lead to conflict, and reduce buy-in. The best way to avoid this is for the Project Manager to stay engaged throughout the project, understand technical challenges and political differences among teams well enough to identify warning signs, and have the confidence to step in early.

2. Assess the problem

To develop the right solution, you need to understand the problem. Start by engaging the project team, get their view on what can improve, and give them an opportunity to make substantive suggestions. Keeping your team engaged is critical to maintaining buy-in throughout the project – especially when things get exciting, and most importantly, when things get slow. It’s easy for team members to feel interrogated or alienated when you come looking for answers. It’s important to demonstrate an understanding of each member or group’s unique challenges, speak their language, and show a common desire for the team to succeed.

3. Prioritize

Once you have identified areas of focus, it’s important to determine which ones to address first and why. Take another look at the project scope and goals. Do each of the activities map to the project goals? Then, consider the severity of each issue and its impact on each activity. Develop a hierarchy of which issues are most critical to resolve.

4. Address the problem

Now that you have a prioritized list of actions, assign resources to address them and communicate the adjustments across the team. Once the actions have been addressed, continue to monitor progress closely to ensure the resolution effort has not impacted other areas of the project.

5. Communicate with all stakeholders

If working alongside a product vendor, there may be dependencies impacted by a slip in the schedule. Be sure to communicate issues with all project stakeholders early on.

The Domain PM

The most successful projects are led by Project Managers who remain engaged, speak their team’s language, understand the issues and their impact, and who have been there before. We call these folks Domain PMs. Domain PMs are highly skilled and trained Project Managers who are also veterans in their industry.

In the electric utility industry, Domain PMs take the traditional project management responsibilities of communication, leadership, negotiation, planning/ organization, risk assessment/mitigation, and commercial/ contractual capabilities to the next level by applying their deep industry knowledge to improve outcomes. Domain PMs have delivered successful projects in SCADA, EMS, DMS, and Markets spaces. They understand the safety concerns that impact utility operations. They work with all major technology vendors familiar to electric utilities. They understand the regulatory environment, working to address evolving security and compliance requirements, and they have grappled with the same change management issues and operational constraints as their customers. Domain PMs have built a career in the utility industry – and they use this advantage to help lead their teams to success.

Domain PMs have an advantage in the following areas:

  • They leverage domain expertise to understand a variety of perspectives, and prioritize intelligently
  • They validate technical estimates and more accurately assess schedule and budgetary risks
  • They focus key resources on the critical path activities and assure that they have the support required to succeed
  • Past experience with industry vendors

As energy industry specialists, we know first-hand the benefit of utilizing Domain Project Managers to guide our customers safely through their critical projects. We encourage our customers to ensure their project teams have the requisite domain experience in electricity, power systems, control systems, market systems, distribution systems, NERC CIP requirements, utility operations, utility business models and the regulatory environment to deliver a successful project.

To learn more about how PSC Domain PMs guide our clients to success, please contact Kevin Cheung, Managing Director of PSC North America at kevin.cheung@pscconsulting.com