The MCIT Architecture team is improving BPA’s business through collaboration and big-picture thinking. The team includes experts and leadership from the Transmission Technology, Critical Business Systems Operations and Development, and Business Transformation Office organizations. (Photo by Lisa Kayton, BPA)
Architecture looks holistically across the agency to fit new business functionality into the best technical solution based on the architectural principles rather than organizational boundaries or existing system boundaries.
Why the change?
Managing the federal power and transmission systems is a complex undertaking and it requires a collection of hardworking staff that rely on software systems and other technological tools to enable data sharing of real-time and forecast information, and support models that help inform decisions to best optimize operations. Over the years, IT specialists and engineers have modified or added to existing applications in order to keep up with energy market and utility advancements. This resulted in a complicated web of systems with highly-customized features that is difficult to support.
It became apparent when BPA launched its Grid Modernization Key Strategic Initiative that the existing structure of highly customized and dissimilar business systems was too complicated and rigid to simply layer the new grid modernization technology changes on top of the agency’s existing systems. It could also put the agency at risk of being out of compliance. So power and transmission critical IT groups came together to develop a set of mission critical IT projects that provide a foundational capability to support all inflight grid modernization projects.
What is MCIT Architecture?
“MCIT Architecture is a foundational organizational capability that will set a vision for the future and guide our efforts moving forward,” said team member and Transmission Technology Internal Operations Manager Kim Hunter.
MCIT Architecture uses an industry standard modeling language to translate business needs into processes, then into data elements, and finally into systems and integrations. It is the IT equivalent of city planning in that it takes into account the entire community instead of focusing on one building.
IT work is prioritized by business value and architecture helps outline those business drivers. Architecture will ensure that the high level priorities translate all the way down to the details of implementing the solution. To use the city planning analogy, there may be a principle or business driver to maximize the amount of greenery that is low maintenance and provides shade while the solution might be to plant oak trees every 15 feet along the main streets.
The proposed approach to a simplified environment will also result in lower costs and less complexity of future IT projects, grid reliability and hydropower and marketing operations, which will translate to ratepayer savings. It also will allow IT to deliver technological solutions faster to increase BPA’s agility and adaptability to regional changes.
“It boils down to getting things done better, faster and cheaper,” said Jeff DiGenova, Director of TT Services.
Architecture in action
The new capability is already proving beneficial to enabling new market opportunities as architecture is being applied to ensure that the agency is ready to join the Western Energy Imbalance Market.
“One of the greatest things of MCIT Architecture is the EIM day-in-the-life business architecture – a plan by MCIT staff for EIM implementation,” said Nicki Habluetzel, an operations analyst in the Business Transformation Office and MCIT project team member. “This project identified business activities needed to join the EIM and leveraged that to negotiate EIM projects.”
The EIM day-in-the-life analysis captured a unified model that details each business process and the flow of data, bid to bill, within the context of EIM participation. This flow includes a cross-agency look incorporating processes across Power, Transmission and Customer Support Services.
“We are seeing the immediate benefit of applying architecture,” said Jim Viskov, manager for the Critical Business Systems Operations and Development group that serves much of Power’s critical business IT needs. “In my group we’ve changed how we’re doing things. We’ve changed the way we’ve organized our support model and how we accomplish new work. Everything now flows from the architecture.”
Propelling BPA into the future
The recently completed MCIT Architecture project developed a cross-agency vision for developing lasting, collaborative IT solutions, making the best use of available resources. It will ensure BPA no longer jumps to solutions for a quick fix only to pay the price with too much complexity later. Long-term planning now incorporates yearly iterations to make sure technological solutions and projects remain in line with the agency’s big-picture vision. As the MCIT architecture capability matures, iterative planning and ongoing collaboration will help make sure the agency stays on track.
MCIT Architecture is one of several grid modernization projects that support the implementation of BPA’s strategic goals to modernize federal power and transmission system operations and supporting technology, and to provide competitive power and transmission products and services. To learn more about the portfolio of projects or to see all that’s happening with grid modernization, click here.