Large Texas-based water utility | Digital

Large Texas-based water utility transforms water delivery to realize $350 million in benefits and meet the utility’s conservation goals

What We Did 

A large water utility serving more than 1 million people in a Texas metropolitan area, embarked on a multi-year transformation program to modernize its water delivery infrastructure and engage citizens in conservation goals. Our team was ready for the challenge – with the right combination of experience, tools, and unique perspectives.

We helped the utility: 

  • Create a practical advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) strategy and plan 
  • Develop a business case for AMI and gain approval from stakeholders, including the city council 
  • Select technology and negotiate with vendors 
  • Improve customer experience by providing greater insight into water consumption
  • Pilot and implement smart meters

In August 2020, the utility began the pilot program. Ultimately, it will install more than 230,000 smart meters across its territory. 

$5M

quick wins

$350M

total utility and customer benefits targeted

5,000

smart meters to be installed during pilot

Project timeline - Full deployment will take three years

4
months
Defined the AMI strategy and mapped business processes
3
months
Developed the business case and project plan
1st
year
Completed procurement and vendor negotiations; gained council approval
2nd
year
Pilot program for deploying meters

The Opportunity 

The city has experienced increasingly intense drought conditions, punctuated by more intense flooding – both affect the services provided. In 2018, the utility presented its water infrastructure plan, with the goal of ensuring a diversified, sustainable, and resilient future for water in the region, with a strong emphasis on conservation.  

Two critical components of this plan:

  • Modernizing the water distribution infrastructure by deploying advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technologies 
  • Engaging citizens in water conservation by providing them with better insights into their water consumption 

To assist the multi-year effort, the utility wanted a partner that’s been there and done that. Even more, it wanted a strong, unbiased voice able to guide the utility through the many changes and challenges it would face. That’s why the utility called on West Monroe.

An Undeniably Different Approach 

Our team brought three essential ingredients for large-scale utility transformation:

  1. Experience. We’ve developed and executed large-scale AMI programs for other utilities, so we understood the challenges, the technologies, and the key to success. 
  2. The full range of skills necessary. Our multidisciplinary team included experts in everything from AMI technologies, telecommunications, and systems integration to complex program and change management. 
  3. A unique, human-centered approach that considers the impact of change on people – utility employees and customers. This provided input for planning. It also positioned the utility to reap the full benefit of new technology by delivering a positive experience for everyone involved.  

The Output 

Efficient, modern processes: We conducted workshops with hundreds of utility personnel across all key functions, using lean principles to identify “waste” that the utility can remove as it introduces AMI across its service territory.  

A comprehensive AMI plan and business case: We developed a comprehensive business case that withstood several rounds of scrutiny from internal and external stakeholders. Our team of specialists, including our AMI center of excellence, validated cost and benefit estimates and ran simulations and scenarios to satisfy stakeholder needs. We were also able to help the utility navigate available public financing mechanisms.  

Procurement support: We identified more than 1,000 technical and functional requirements and incorporated those into the request-for-proposal (RFP) process. In addition to facilitating RFPs, we coordinated vendor site visits, oral presentations, and contract negotiations with two distinct AMI vendors. Although the procurement phase encountered delays to various levels of reviews—as is common with municipal utility initiatives—we helped the utility maintain its schedule and budget. 

Customer experience design: We designed the optimal customer experience for the utility’s customers by defining the vision, mission, and strategic goals. We also helped select a customer-facing portal that enables stronger, service-centric, and smarter utility operations.   

Implementation leadership: When the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns coincided with early stages of implementation, we were able to maintain continuity through remote channels, without pause.  

Change management: We helped the utility prepare for the change. Our process? We first assessed the “change readiness” of employees across all major departments and then developed tailored change management plans for each. Change is a critical component of the pilot program.  

Returns You Can Measure 

During the initial workshops, our team identified $5 million in quick wins that we were able to help the utility pursue right away. Overall, the transformation plan is expected to deliver $350 million in benefits for the utility and customers, once the implementation is complete.  

As the utility begins its pilot program, it is already realizing benefits in line with its business case. As more and more customers take advantage of the new technology, the benefits will grow substantially.  

Despite the pandemic and procurement delays, the program remains on track – and the utility remains on track to realize its expected value.

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