Future smart meter rollouts: Chaos is NOT inevitable

Future smart meter rollouts: Chaos is NOT inevitable



By now you'd think the electric power industry would have perfected the art of smart meter deployments. Yet far too often I see utilities repeating mistakes already made by their predecessors. One mistake is to fail to take advantage of the specialized tools that have been created to speed the process.


That's why I wanted to run this guest editorial from Sangeet Dutta. To be sure, Sangeet is not disinterested. He sells the kind of tool he recommends. But the general concept is valid, whether or not you purchase his version. As he explains, utilities can not only make deployments more cost effective. They can also use them as an opportunity to improve customer relations. - Jesse Berst


By Sangeet Dutta


Utilities, vendors, and customers alike are unfortunately all too familiar with the issues accompanying Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) deployments. The earliest deployments were, at times, marred by controversy and these instances have not been forgotten...or forgiven. In a world where every public mistake is magnified, these hiccups have quickly resulted in a widespread acknowledgement that an era of consumer engagement is upon the utility industry. And with smart meter usage at only 30% among U.S. utilities, there are plenty of AMI rollouts still to be completed - and critiqued.


Fortunately, utilities are much better equipped now than ever before to avoid the potential pitfalls of smart meter installations and to finally reap the rewards.


The answer is the business process management approach

Until now, no one has taken the business process management (BPM) approach of combining our knowledge of human behavior with workflow optimization techniques. The lack of this methodology has quite possibly been the greatest mistake made in AMI deployments to date. It holds the key for utilities to not only conduct more successful rollouts but to also productively manage customer touch points in an effective way so that AMI deployments leave a lasting, positive legacy.


So how is this accomplished? Through the use of mobile workflow optimization solutions. These are techniques such as "forced march” and fault-resistant workflows that can be applied when deploying en masse with contract labor. This approach enables the uniform training, deployment and management of large groups of installers. It reduces liability, prevents damage and injuries, and increases safety compliance for utilities.