December 19, 2016

Norway leads the way in AMI — here are three key lessons!

Vegard Høynes

Project Manager, Tieto

Jan Berntzen

Lead Solution Architect, Tieto

In our previous blog post, we looked into the world of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solutions and how customers can take full advantage of them. Norway is currently leading the way, with major rollouts on-going. In this blog post we review three key lessons on how to successfully carry out an AMI project.

Lesson 1: Expect (and prepare for) challenges and setbacks

Customers are often faced with the dilemma of choosing between new and advanced solutions versus more proven technology. Many opt for the newest technology, since they want an AMI solution they can live with long-term.

When planning an AMI-rollout, it is then important to keep in mind that a particular solution may be immature and not yet tested or tried across a broad range of real-world scenarios. Therefore, there most likely will be bugs and technical obstacles in the beginning. Don’t be too alarmed by this! Through with testing and piloting you will be able to make corrections and develop a system to suit your needs, and reap the full benefits of advanced AMI!

Most Norwegian utility companies have chosen new and advanced technologies, with more features than required by regulations. Although this might not be the cheapest approach, it is wise. Investments in heavy infrastructure pay off over long time horizons, and it is generally smart to leave room for additional features in the future.

Lesson 2: Build a team with the right capabilities and experience

Successfully rolling out and implementing an AMI solution is almost an art. Those without experience will surely struggle with parts of it. The most reliable approach is to assemble a team from experts/ professionals who have implemented AMI projects before.

In addition to a senior project manager, key members of the team include an experienced test manager, a dedicated rollout manager, a hands-on solutions architect with knowledge of the complexities of the IT-systems and competent people within both AMI- and IT-operations. When these roles are filled with the right people, the project is destined to succeed!

Unfortunately, many teams are assembled for AMI rollouts without the necessary routines, competencies and experience in place. This brings risk and uncertainty —, and often endless discussions between the involved parties around minor issues, while important matters are ignored. Get the right people involved, and trust in them when making decisions on how the project shall proceed.

Lesson 3: Keep project management tight and define clear responsibilities

In addition to an experienced team, complex AMI projects demand management with a firm hand. In Norway, some utility companies formed consortiums of nearly 30 companies to start the implementation process. Generally speaking, this is a good idea — companies working together can make rollouts easier through this collaborative effort. But complications often emerge in real life collaborations.

In a consortium, a dedicated group should be trusted to run the project on behalf of all companies. This permits one of the major keys to success: the freedom to run the project based on the realities that emerge as the project evolves. Like any complex operations, AMI rollouts are hard to get right on the first try, so once again, experienced management is key. Give the project managers room to run the project, trust them, and let them do what they think is the best.

Shared management arrangements can create difficulties for everyone, leading to endless discussions about who is responsible. Therefore you have make up your mind — either you give the responsibility to someone else, or you implement the project alone. There are no in-betweens here. Have a clear project model and stick to it.

Fulfilling regulations or staying a step ahead?

When utility companies know their ambitions and what they want to achieve through their AMI solutions, it is easier for them to prioritize. Each company must know what is critical, and what is not. Answering this question allows technology and service providers to be more open and honest about the core challenges of the implementation. This level of clarity is not possible when merely running the project through a contract.

For distribution companies, AMI solutions can represent innovative ways of working and even new value chains. But first they must decide, do they merely want to fulfill regulations with smart meters? Or do they want to use this as a stepping stone for a future utility, that enables enhanced infrastructure management and new services for customers? The choice is yours.

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