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By Jesse Berst
Sometimes, software shapes itself to an organization. Other times, it forces the organization to reshape itselfâ€¦ and that can be a good thing.
Consider enterprise resource planning (ERP) when it came on strong in the 1990s. ERP integrates management information from every department in a company. As ERP was installed, it became a forcing function that caused many corporations to integrate their operations, often to great advantage.
A similar force is quietly at work in the utility sector. The expansion of distribution management systems (DMS) is forcing utilities to integrate data and operations between departments -- a move that is long overdue.
"The DMS is becoming a key linchpin for utilities," asserts David Shepheard, VP of Corporate Development and Strategy at The Structure Group, a Houston, Texas-based integration consultancy.
The changing nature of the DMS
In the early days, DMS was synonymous with SCADA. Gradually, its borders are expanding. Today it often embraces GIS, outage management, fault detection, isolation and restoration (FDIR), volt/VAR optimization, grid applications and links to AMI and DR.
For example, Alabama Power is accomplishing most of those functions today, using software from Alstom, the acknowledged market leader.
Shepheard compares the projected growth of DMS to the past history of ERP and manufacturing logistics. "As people realized the value of the data, those applications grew and grew in importance."
Although many others are jumping onto the DMS bandwagon now, The Structure Group was on board early. The consultancy took an interesting approach to the smart grid boom. Rather than chasing AMI projects, it focused from the start on core distribution operations. That decision puts them in great shape now that the stimulus-funded AMI boom is fading and utilities are turning their attention to system efficiencies.
Next page: a new approach to DMS and steps you can take >>