Digital Transformation for Utilities

Digital transformation is all around us, whether it is depositing a cheque by phone, asking Alexa to turn down lights in a room, or smart kitchen devices sending cooking progress via Bluetooth. Using remote sensors and analytics to capture data and discover valuable insights about customers, assets and suppliers has opened a frontier for new innovative services and approaches to doing business.

Broadly placed under the term digitalization, this development gives an organization better visibility into their operations and more control over outcomes, saving much time and effort while reducing human error and improving the overall customer experience and service quality. Is there a business case for digital transformation of utilities that operate vast system of assets and deliver vital services to many customers?

As digital applications become mainstream, it is getting vital for the utilities to have a digital strategy to effectively manage the increasingly complex nature of their networks and services.

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Typical Attributes of a Phantom Schedule

Some of the typical attributes of a Phantom Schedule are as follow:

1) Secret (unknown to the other contracting party)

2) It is a simplified version of the contract schedule

3) Considered more reliable and accurate

4) Viewed as a validation schedule that provides better forecasts5.

5) Updated in the background by sponsoring party

6) Decision-making tool by sponsoring party. Management decisions are no longer based on the forecast of the current contract schedule.

Read more… know more!

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What is the Purpose of a Phantom Schedule?

A client or contractor may develop it individually with each one, believing that it is more reliable than the current official schedule and/or the existing baseline.

Construction contractor can come up with a more aggressive version of the contractual schedule to create some form of relief time zones. It creates some form of time buffer zones by using earlier schedule plan dates. The sub-contractor then sign on a more optimistic schedule with the contractor.

The contractor hides the already optimistic phantom schedule for background update. At this point, and just on the contractor-subcontractor side alone, there are already four schedules at play and being maintained separately; i.e. 1) subcontract schedule, 2) subcontract phantom schedule, 3) contractor phantom schedule, and 4) contract schedule.

A recent technical article rightly stated the same thing, that one of the reasons why a phantom schedule is developed is “when the client no longer has any faith that the contractor’s contract schedule submittals are realistic (Beisler, S. & Zack, J., 2016.Cost Engineering. May\Jun 2016. p21).

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The Phantom Schedule

A phantom schedule (ghost schedule) is a non-official schedule prepared behind the official scheduling scene. The timing of its creation can be anywhere between project start date to completion. The urgency governing its creation depends largely on the specific purpose and necessity to which it was created.

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What about Boxing and Risk-based Management?

Boxing is a risky event for all involved, most especially the boxers. Yes, the protagonists themselves. Monitoring risk can be like watching boxing. Two competitors, both with the intention to strike whenever there is opportunity. They execute the plan, psyche each other, try to prevent and mitigate the threats of getting KO’ed, strive to make the right response, and to make the right decision through keen observation, at a flinch of a muscle (risk indicator).

As a risk-based management practitioner, the bloody sport of boxing is so exciting and fascinating. In my view, it relates so well, … so very close with the concept and philosophies of risk management. “No pain, no gain,” as the old saying goes!

Boxers, their coaches, and cornermen have to come up with a response plan to prevent or mitigate the punches. They put together a strategy prior to the bout similar to a project preparing the risk management plan. They know that boxing judges have a decision to make and it has to be the right one, that is of course, one in their favour! They have only one end goal in mind, to be the winner!

In risk management, as in boxing, playing and losing can still be an Opportunity! Amazing Statistics!

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How about understanding your Project’s Schedule Critical Path better?

Critical Path is a measure of schedule flexibility, discernable through each activity total float. On any network path, flexibility is the positive difference between early and late dates (PMI, Project Risk Management, 2013). It is the shortest time possible for a project to finish.

“Be careful of relative critical path. This is the critical path relative to some select points of constraint only.”

“The path it generates does not represent the overall project’s critical path. The real overall critical path of the schedule is one generated by the calculation of a schedule that has no constraint, a schedule that flows freely.

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Book-signing Promo Event, at Dana Point, CA a success!

My apprehension that the small group who attended that evening might not show any interest on the subject was unfounded. The ensuing discussions were lively and fruitful. There was excitement in the air, gasps of discovery in each turn, and a promise from the audience to read and promote my work. This small, simple book-signing event was fun and successful. This was first this year since my last book-signing at Indigo Hills, Calgary two years ago.

Topic of the evening: We are all risk managers! Risk management is the only thing we do for a living, the very reason why our company or client pays us, the reason why we go to work every day. We manage risk even as we prepare to go to sleep, to increase probability that we wake up the next day healthy and refreshed. The amazing thing is, we don’t even realize it!

In this sense, we are all risk managers as we support our very existence. We survive each daily rigors because we are already unconsciously competent of what we do through years of experience and training.

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PM Solution Pro participated in the AACE Dinner Meeting, “Proactive Trend and Change: Avoiding the Iceberg Effect.”

Risk is about the future. Imagine that from “NOW” (the present) and the future state, there is a timeline. The time duration to the future has to have a value. Threat and Opportunity is about the future. There is no additional sense saying future risk. Saying so is redundancy.
Reliability of work data increases over time, and it signals the right time for full integration. Reliability is a result of data maturity. Good integration results in an effective risk-based project execution, the execution that makes most sense. While the acquisition of good quality information is always in progress, the risk specialist and each team member should strive to help the project manager identify and highlight critical elements needed for success. Always remember that risks must be identified before they can be managed. Risks cannot be identified if no information or indicator relating thereto exists. Unknown risks cannot be managed.

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Book Signing Event at El Torito, Dana Point, California. See you there!

Book Signing Event at El Torito, Dana Point, California. See you there!

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Cost Reduction Strategies for Utilities Part 5: Enterprise Resource Planning System

In plain words an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is a central database system that houses financial, human resources, material, schedule, regulatory and work orders information about the capital and operational expenditures (capex and opex) of a company. It has various modules that display that information in a fashion that is suitable for various departments, functions and levels of an organization. An ERP system today is a crucial tool for utilities to bring greater visibility to the workflows, resource availability, productivity levels, stakeholder commitments and asset management. Access to good data leads to better decisions. Utilities have all kinds of useful and important data about their people, projects, asset health, contractors, facilities, inspection and maintenance, connection requests, regulatory commitments and documents.

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