West Monroe Partners drove end-to-end planning and execution to expand a small AMI pilot through the utility's service territory of over 4 million customers.

The Challenge

Transformational change

The Utility adopted a strategy of Grid Modernization, with the support of their Regulator and State Legislation, seeking to change the way it does business with its customers via the deployment of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) throughout the service territory. This program’s objectives were to drive operational, customer, and societal benefits through the deployment of smart meters, automated field technology, information technology applications, and functionality enabled by a two-way telecommunications network and supported by redesigned business processes and energy advisory services.

The Solution

Support from selection to standalone operations

To help implement this ambitious vision, the utility selected West Monroe Partners for initial strategy development and planning. West Monroe developed a publicly filed report, including a detailed implementation plan that served as the roadmap for this transformational journey, as well as an external communication tool for customers, stakeholders, and the Regulatory body. West Monroe’s role then evolved into overall AMI Program planning and mobilization, and eventual selection as Program Management Office (PMO) service provider, including management of scope, schedule, budget, risks, and issues across the 15+ active AMI Program work streams.

Throughout the course of detailed planning and program management execution, a number of strategic risks and issues were identified, including:

  • The need for a smart meter alternative (e.g., opt-out for customers) 
  • Management of heat-related meter issues and potential linkage to equipment damage 
  • Lack of data feeding answers to customer related concerns like RF emissions, privacy, and data security 
  • A lack of training around how to deal with high-bill complaints from customers after the installation of a smart meter 
  • Lack of a future-state operating model for Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and IT operations
  • Foreign processes necessary to monitor and improve the health of the AMI system through data analytics and operational enhancements 
  • How to achieve and sustain industry-leading meter reading rates with smart meters 
  • Need for detailed business readiness planning across functions to drive effective completion of impactful Program milestones (system release go-live, full deployment launch, etc.) 
  • Lack of active communication channels across operating areas, functions, and utility organizations 
  • Complexities around resource planning, modeling, and management to ensure alignment with labor union expectations and the associated job impacts resulting from smart meter deployment 
  • Complications around deployment planning and execution across a large and geographically diverse service territory

The Impact

End-to-end success, from planning through implementation

West Monroe’s partnership with the utility in the planning of the smart meter project contributed to formal Commission approval of the project, and the development of a detailed implementation roadmap that positioned the AMI program for successful implementation. Via flexible and effective services, sound strategic insights, and thorough analysis provided by West Monroe in the ongoing PMO function, this large Midwestern utility has successfully executed upon their transformational Grid Modernization vision via the safe and efficient deployment of meters across the diverse service territory, including high-rise, urban, suburban, and rural areas. The program has delivered impactful tools and technologies that are driving value to customers through improved operations and benefit realization that enable the utility to become a dynamic platform for operations and energy services. This includes offering innovative customer programs, enhanced operating capabilities, and an empowered energy marketplace through data and technology.

This program has also resulted in sustained job creation in both the field and back office areas including positions for meter installers, field personnel, electricians, supervisors, project managers, IT analysts, and engineers. Customers and the utility are benefiting from reductions in energy theft and bad debt, a reduced number of estimated customer bills, reduction of fieldrelated costs (meter reading, field orders, truck rolls), more effective utilization of resources, and the continued expansion of back office resolution of many issues that required field visits and truck rolls in the past. 
Additionally, via a focus and dedication to the customer impacts of AMI deployment, overall customer satisfaction scores have reached the highest levels on record, including significant improvement in all categories since the launch of full AMI Deployment. Survey results show that the AMI Program is having a positive impact on customers and their overall relationship and level of engagement with the utility. 

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