The following guest perspective was authored by Mike Seblani, Solution Lead - Enterprise Mobility at BC Hydro.
At the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, a Canadian electric utility generating and delivering electricity to over four million people, we recently implemented a consolidated mobile work management platform. This would be an involved project for any organization. With that in mind, I’ll walk you through how we built the case for this project and our incremental implementation approach.
Over the past 10 years, BC Hydro has seen its workforce users go from using couple of mobile applications on ruggedized laptops to having 10 or more applications on multiple devices to complete their daily tasks. Yet many processes continue to be completed on paper while leveraging inefficient solutions and manual processes, which rely heavily on back-office support.
We needed a mobile strategy and architecture vision to enable our mobile workforce to work anywhere, anytime, to complete the job onsite safely and with an improved user experience.
Through the formation of a Mobile Center of Excellence (MCoE) at BC Hydro, we were able to inventory a vast number of mobile use cases demanded by the business, related to both existing and future needs. Establishing the MCoE helped us identify key pain points and challenges to focus on. Commonly identified reoccurring needs included the need for deep data integration into our enterprise systems, a simple and consistent user experience, and the ability to complete daily field tasks without having to switch from one application to the other.
It did not matter to our field workers whether data resided in one system or five. And through establishing our Mobile Work Management Solution, we expect to provide a guided experience to execute and complete tasks in various work order types, compliance/safety checklists, GIS data updates, and much more.
We incorporated all the insights gathered through our MCoE into the following set of guiding principles to help formulate the vision:
- Ease of use for field workers
- Consolidated platform addressing most of business needs
- Platform and vendor maturity
- Efficiency of technology integration with SAP
- Cross-functional geographic information system (GIS) compatibility
- Home grown mobile apps and other inspection solutions replaced with a Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) evolving solution
- Robust security
- Flexible and scalable
- Cross-platform (mobile, tablet, desktop web)
- Easy to customize and tailor to different business groups' requirements
- Modernized architecture promoting mobile shared services (composable services packaged into targeted mobile experiences)
What we wanted is a new Mobile Work Management platform that supports:
- Different user workflows (e.g. field worker, field planner, field manager)
- Different types of work orders (e.g. restoration, inspection, damage assessment)
- Different types of labor (e.g. contractor, employee)
- Ability to enable seamless online/offline work
- Dissemination of relevant and accurate data
From our experience building custom mobile applications over the years, we knew that the Mobile Work Management platform had to offer a strong, evolving integration layer to our ERP, GIS, outage management system (OMS), and enterprise content management (ECM)/document repository platforms. At the integration layer is where most challenges and costs reside when it comes to building and maintaining mobile solutions
The diagram below depicts the core user functions we wanted to focus on, categorized by the user roles. At the top of all the functions is user experience and at the bottom of the functions are key capabilities common to all mobile applications:
The diagram below provides an overview of the business processes and functions that we were looking for the Mobile Work Management platform to enable:
Since ERP and GIS are the two anchoring platforms for Mobile Work Management, the platform had to have prebuilt integration to our ERP (SAP) and our GIS (ESRI):
- SAP Integration – Mobile solutions should provide both a field software solution and integration components that communicate with SAP and the relevant modules therein. Without this capability, BC Hydro would have to take on the complex challenge of SAP integration.
- GIS Integration – Mobile solutions should contain map views and geo-aware functionality. Where applicable, the integration of these map controls to BC Hydro backend GIS databases should be driven by configuration and frameworks rather than custom development.
We made the decision to study the market for our target future state, in which all our electrical power assets (Generation, Transmission, and Distribution) will be supported by SAP Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and ESRI ArcGIS. After the study, we developed a business case for a technical foundational project to acquire the Mobile Work Management platform with a small pilot, to prove out the operating model. This proved necessary, since previous projects tended to focus on a specific unit’s business needs rather than cross-functional and cross-business unit needs for enterprise mobility.
Through the competitive bid selection process, we landed on SAP Field Service and Asset Manager, Mirata Forms, and Locana Lemur. This integrated toolset gives us a great, forward-looking platform for our enterprise mobility needs.
Now that the technology is in place, we are in a great position to deliver on our Enterprise Mobility and Mobile Work Management technology roadmap.
BC Hydro is a commercial Crown corporation, owned by the Province of British Columbia and regulated by the British Columbia Utilities Commission. Our corporate purpose is to provide reliable power, at low cost, for generations. It is one of the largest electric utilities in Canada, serving more than 1.7 million customers in a diverse geographic area containing over 94% of British Columbia’s population.
BC Hydro has several mobile work management solutions including custom-built Mobile tools for Spatial Asset Management, Mobile Contractor work order in SAP, and many more mobile point solutions. These solutions tend to be business-unit-focused and have varying capabilities for ERP integration, GIS, and the ability to work offline for various mobile devices and platforms.