The Disruptive Nature of Advanced Distribution Management Systems Demands a Strong Focus on Training.

THE BREADTH and speed of the digital change and transformation taking place within electric distribution are unparalleled. What started as a series of initial innovations like Smart Meters and Smart Switches rapidly progressed to the introduction of significantly more sophisticated and complex distribution solutions, including advanced distribution management systems (ADMS). Amid the industrywide rapid transition to ADMS, utilities are struggling with the speed of change and the associated disruption to the control room and operations, as compared to what was traditionally only incremental change in the previous decades.

Utilities recognize that success demands building and maintaining a workforce competent in ADMS. Ensuring successful adoption is difficult because the long-standing set of criteria used to determine success within power distribution is rapidly transforming into a whole new set of standards and competencies dictated by ADMS.

Within utility organizations, the impact of ADMS-related changes to people, processes, and technology cuts across multiple divisions, service centers, departments, and roles. Impacted workstreams include telecommunication and control room technicians, planning and area engineers, geographic information system (GIS) mappers, operators, dispatchers, and field operations.

The successful training and transition of employees to ADMS is difficult due to the magnitude of ADMS’s reach and the fact that ADMS completely redefines multiple existing job functions across already complex business processes within a utility. This is due in large part to the depth and critical nature of the industry’s convergence between operations technology and information technology brought on by ADMS. Successful training solutions must understand and embrace this convergence to produce the level of understanding and competency needed for successful ADMS adoption across the organization.

Transitioning to ADMS is costly, and user adoption, success, and ROI are not guaranteed. Utilities that enter into ADMS implementation without an understanding of the level of complexity and effort required for a successful transition, including the critical need for role-based employee training across multiple roles and workstreams, are at significant risk of limited adoption and potential failure in gaining the sought-after benefits from an ADMS investment.

ADMS implementations must embrace and leverage the interdependencies required for success.

ADMS implementations and associated training must be orchestrated carefully because ADMS impacts every job role and business process associated with distribution. Entering into training efforts without acknowledging, understanding, and embracing the inherent system interdependencies will lead to workforce frustration, alienation, and confusion. Organizational leadership’s commitment to ensuring training efforts proactively address the technology, people, and process requirements for success is essential. In most ADMS implementations, the amount of training required is more than expected and includes significantly more roles than expected.

Industry trends show that ADMS is, and will increasingly become, an essential and very powerful asset used by utilities to respond to the rapidly evolving distribution landscape. Effective role-based training associated with all elements of ADMS and all work streams impacted by ADMS is critical for success. Lessons learned from utilities and vendors out in front of this transition are extremely beneficial and should be sought out well in advance if possible.

Rich Cummings is Vice President, Grid Operations at the Mosaic Company. Rich has spent over 25 years working in Distribution Operations and Control Rooms and is a highly respected expert in ADMS.

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