Considerations in Preparation for the Utility Network

June 28, 2017
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Utilities will soon be able to improve processes via a more modern architecture. To prepare for the transition, utilities need to address several questions regarding their current operations and system. Questions surrounding integrations, personalized processes and the user experience are a few of the most important for utilities to consider.

Factors to Consider

Think about how many mission critical systems rely on GIS data to operate — outage management systems, customer information systems, work management systems, engineering analysis, document management systems, advanced distribution management systems and many others. These systems have integrations built against the GIS data model as it exists today and rely on the data being accurate and ready for consumption as-is.  To transition to the Utility Network, these integrations will need to be evaluated to determine what changes will be required as part of the move to the new technology.

Another important factor to consider is how familiar your organization is with Esri’s new desktop experience. Like moving from Microsoft Word ’97 to Word 2016, some user experiences are the same, but many are different and need to be learned to operate effectively. With a new desktop experience at the center of the Utility Network, utilities will need to properly introduce and train their employees with the new user interface.

What about customizations? Utilities often customize solutions to meet the specific needs of their organization, whether it be a button in the user interface that searches for a specific asset or having data modeled a certain way. To maximize the effectiveness of the new network offerings, utilities should asses their current customizations, auto-updaters, and reports to ensure the necessary functionality is provided with the new system; if not, they must determine what needs to be rewritten.

Considering these factors will help utilities better understand the scope of their specific transition and provide visibility into what needs to be done to plan for a successful move to the new architecture.

Making the Most of the Transition

Applications are available today that enable utilities to operate under the current architecture as well as the future Utility Network. In preparation for the transition, utilities can begin to implement these new applications. Does your organization need a new mobile application to more easily get data out to field crews? What about a new design tool that can be used in the field, or a new web experience that is based on HTML5 and can be used on any device? By working with a vendor that provides applications that can operate both on the current technology as well as future technology, utilities don’t have to wait; they can take advantage of new features and capabilities today.

Another action utilities can take is improving their data quality. The new model requires a higher level of data quality and fidelity, so utilities should prepare accordingly. This can be done by setting checkpoints for data improvement. Rather than attempting to clean up data all at once, utilities should set goals and begin improving parts of their data year by year. Once their data is clean, the stage is better set to begin testing how data will transition into a simplified model with five or six feature classes rather than 40 or 50.

Conclusion

The launch of the Utility Network can help enable utilities to improve their business in a variety of ways, but they can do so faster if they take steps to improve business operations today, while simultaneously preparing for the future. 

Begin preparing for the transition by:

  • Creating a well-defined roadmap for the transition.
  • Improving data quality and fidelity with a checkpoint style approach over time.
  • Planning the transition of data to a simplified model with fewer feature classes.
  • Utilizing applications today that will also work with the future architecture, like those in Schneider Electric’s ArcFM XI Series.

In doing so, utilities can feel confident on the road to the Utility Network. 

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