Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is mobilizing its workforce to improve field operation effectiveness and efficiency. Other utilities are striving for similar improvements. Like Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), they also face a plethora of legacy processes, systems and applications that have been used for years to get the job done.

But in PG&E’s case, the ultimate goal goes beyond increasing operational efficiencies. The utility is working to improve safety, reliability, compliance and data accuracy by transforming the business from manual paper-based processes to an integrated mobile-to-backoffice environment. The scale and complexity of this program requires a new user-experience-centric deployment approach to realize benefits at a desirable speed.

Systems Integration Core

Using electric transmission as an example, PG&E started at the core with its SAP work management system and built an integrated systems framework to both support and govern its business processes. This core enabled mobile solutions to be brought to life.

The core of the utility’s electric transmission systems integration consists of SAP work management with bidirectional communication:

  • Portfolio management
  • Resource management
  • Work management
  • Project management
  • Financial planning
  • Graphical design
  • Reporting
  • Mobile platform.

This bidirectional communication allows all systems to be refreshed with information as updates occur. It further allows the SAP system to be the single source of truth for how various aspects of the operation are performing. Furthermore, by streamlining the back-end systems, mobile solutions can be integrated more easily with source information, thereby providing smoother solution deployment, accurate and real-time data in the field, and easier-to-use tools for the end users.

Mobile Systems deployment strategy

Workforce Adoption

Behind the scenes of a streamlined user experience is a complex work management device, applications and systems integration (the core). Each user group has a high expectation for availability and usability. However, groups that traditionally had not used mobile technology presented a unique set of challenges. Mobile adoption by a workforce with low technology skills requires dramatic behavioral and cultural change management. Utilities too often begin by throwing money and technology at the process, believing it will make a significant difference, without thoroughly understanding what needs to be changed and why.

In turn, that creates the typical mobile deployment challenges: process redesign, technology integration, user adoption and device support issues. Mobile projects have a high likelihood of failure unless these four key challenges are addressed and mitigated throughout the project. Although all four are important, the primary challenge is process redesign.

Throughout many projects it has been revealed great technology can only take a deployment so far if the underlying processes are broken. Far too often, utilities fail to truly look at the real processes and, ultimately, end up with very slick technology based on very flawed processes. The technology is not a magic bullet to resolve process issues. In fact, it will function more as a microscope over a petri dish. It will make those things once hidden become readily apparent. For this fact, the technology project is often blamed for making things worse and, ultimately, leads to protracted user adoption. The lack of user adoption can add significant cost and quickly erode benefits.