Project Success with Strategic PMO

As utilities continue to grow, institutionalizing a Project Management Office (PMO) is essential to enabling project success and ensuring that project management principles are adhered to throughout a project’s life cycle. In the example below, not only did a strategic PMO implementation help keep Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) compliant with the Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) contract; it enabled the utility to more effectively undertake a large and transformative acquisition and, ultimately, better position REC for future projects.

REC, a member-owned electric utility in Virginia, was awarded a Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). By signing the 50% matching grant, REC committed to upgrading their electric infrastructure within the newly acquired territory over three years. This occurred at the same time an acquisition transpired, effectively growing the customer base by 50% and expanding the service territory to cover portions of 22 counties.

The multi-million dollar program was comprised of eight different projects, including the installation of AMI, Smart Meters, a data radio network, and electronic reclosers on the utility’s distribution network. The successful execution of the SGI Program within the grant timeframe and the management of the DOE reporting requirements required the coordination of multiple interrelated operations, project managers and implementation teams.

As with many utilities, project management practices were organized by department and sometimes not integrated across the organization. Therefore, project management tools and processes were not consistent and best practices that might exist within one area were sometimes not captured for sharing with others.

REC realized the current project management practices were not setting the stage for successful and timely project completion. ”With the growth in our organization and the need to sustainably manage projects, we wanted to create a permanent, yet scalable, centralized project management function. West Monroe Partners helped us make that a reality,” said Todd Jordan, REC’s SGIG program sponsor. This PMO would exist not only for the SGI Program needs in the short term, but as a standing component that provided the Cooperative with a center for excellence for project management discipline for all future large capital projects and utility-wide initiatives.

The Co-op began a nine-month engagement with West Monroe Partners to establish the operating structure of the PMO. This foundation included the tools, templates, and processes that enabled the long term sustainment of the PMO.

The utility made a significant investment in developing the PMO, which consisted of:

  • Developing a project management information system through the use of Microsoft SharePoint for document management and workflow automation
  • Automating status reporting of the eight projects within the SGI Program
  • Standardizing project management tools and processes
  • Automating financial and required DOE grant reporting processes
  • Hiring and training a full-time PMO manager
  • Introducing change management principles as an effective part of project management practices
  • Establishing comprehensive internal and external communication planning processes and tools

Development of the PMO allowed REC to monitor progress of multiple projects, provide cross-functional team collaboration, and centralize specific financial and operational SGI Program reporting requirements. It ensures stakeholders are included and that their needs are addressed.

As your Utility grows, consider development of an internal PMO. It will provide for reduced project risk, particularly when undertaking major projects that cross departmental lines. Such oversight ensures projects are not only completed on time and on budget, but ensures they will be accepted by your Stakeholders.

For more information, please contact Tom Kerestes.
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