Commission recap 9-22-2020: Customer Cloud Service (CCS) nearing implementation

The implementation of the project that will move Grant PUD's customer billing and information system to "the cloud" will be slightly delayed allowing for an extensive testing phase of the new program.

Initially slated for implementation in early August, a revised launch date of Sept. 21 was set early in the project. On Tuesday, Commissioners learned the upgrade is now aiming for a Nov. 16 completion.

Chief Customer Officer, Dave Churchman, said the cloud-based Oracle system will replace the utility's outdated, in-house-managed customer service system which reached a point in which it is no longer supported. He added that spending extra time in the testing phase will ensure a higher degree of confidence that the new system launches without issue.

Staff have been working with contractors on the project since last fall and are currently in the final stages preparing for implementation. The new system combines customer billing and care with a meter data management tool that will utilize Grant PUD's advanced-meter system to provide capabilities for analytics, fieldwork automation, customer service insights and more.

Churchman said the project has been a team effort by everybody involved and the new system will give the utility additional functionality that will position the organization for the future while providing increased efficiencies.

Total implementation of the new program is estimated at $7.3 million, approximately 18.1% higher than forecasted. The increase is due to extra labor costs to allow for additional testing.The switch to the cloud-based system is anticipated to reduce costs over time as the utility will not bear the expense associated with major upgrades of an on-site system every few years.

(Hear the discussion beginning at 1:43:15 of the commission audio. See full details are available on pages 61-72 of the presentation materials)

During Tuesday's meeting Commissioners:

Received an update from the Public Affairs and External Affairs groups about the year's community-outreach efforts. Work includes involvement in a host of industry organizations and groups to ensure hydropower is recognized as a clean, green resource and amplify our voice as a utility.

Efforts paid off Tuesday with an announcement by the Northwest Public Power Association that Grant PUD had won two first-place awards, one for best ad campaign and another for "special publications." The award-winning campaign features the whacky "Fiber Guys" and materials that support expansion of Grant PUD's fiber-optic network. The special publication was a didactic "cereal box" created as a fun prop for employee leadership training. Fiber Guys earned 51 of 50 possible points, the cereal box a perfect 50 out of 50 — both firsts in the history of the award program. The Grant PUD 2019 Annual Report won second place. (4:22:00 on the commission audio. Pages 98-114 in the presentation materials packet).

Heard from Security Manager Fallon Long about continued work to update security-related technology, including badge readers and security cameras at District facilities. Grant PUD received a clean Critical Infrastructure Protection audit and is currently conducting a partial physical-risk assessment, Long said, also recapping a series of recreation-related security incidents. Emergency Manager Dave Ponozzo described Grant PUD's timely and effective response to the COVID epidemic that ensured continuity of operations.

"You've done an excellent job, and your results show that," Commissioner Nelson Cox said. "Everyone stepped up to the party and stood in line and it shows at this point. You guys did a heck of job leading them there." (3:17:25 on the commission audio. Pages 74-86 in the presentation materials packet).

— Heard the latest on efforts toward continuous improvement, corrective action and human performance in Grant PUD's pursuit of excellence. (3:47:45 on the commission audio. Pages 16-42 in the presentation materials packet).

-Heard from the Manager of Procurement and Warehouse, Carol Mayer who provided an overview of the utility's procurement process while also highlighting gains in efficiency the department continues to realize.

  • The department's efficiency achievements include:The use of strategic partnerships to access and at times store materials.
  • Updates to procurement RCWs that have resulted in a higher number of purchase orders taking less resource time than the contract process.
  • Utilizing approved cooperative purchasing options that reduces time to develop specs, solicit contracts, advertise, and in some cases, manage contracts.

Mayer said the department typically processes approximately 150 contracts and more than 200 change orders annually while also processing a volume of 8,000 or more purchase order line items each year.

(See full details are available on pages 43-59 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 1:08:25 of the commission audio.)

-Received an update from Senior Manager of Leadership and Organizational Development, Thomas Stredwick as he delivered the group's quarterly business report. Stredwick shared the status of key activities within the department including:

  • A new onboarding guide which will be used to support new employees joining the utility.
  • An employee engagement assessment survey set to be shared later this year. The tool is anticipated to be used every other year.
  • Updating and consolidating existing employee reward and recognition policies into one streamlined approach.
  • The development of an organizational learning strategy that will result in a strategic method of enhancing employee learning and growth opportunities.
  • Priority workforce development that will help with the long-range resource planning of the utility.

(See full details are available on pages 116-136 of the presentation materials Hear the discussion at 4:52:30 of the commission audio.)

Commissioners also:

— Unanimously approved authorizing the General Manager/CEO, on behalf of Grant PUD, to execute change order to Contract 430-08470 with Volt Workforce Solutions for specialized, temporary labor services. The company has been contracting with Grant PUD since 2006, most recently in 5-year increments. The change increases the contract's not-to-exceed amount by $1.5 million for a new contract total of $2,35 million and extends the contract completion date to Dec. 31, 2022. (2:36:45 on the commission audio. Pages 7-12 in the commission packet)

— Unanimously approved authorizing the General Manager/CEO, on behalf of Grant PUD, to execute Change Order No. 4 – GMP Amendment to Contract 130-09724 with Quanta Electric Power Construction to build new substations, expand existing substations and build a new transmission line within the scope of the Design Build 2 package of 11 projects. The change order increases the not-to-exceed contract amount by $51,930,956.00 for a new contract total of $58,162,251.26.(Pages 14-99 in the commission packet)

— Unanimously approved authorizing the General Manager/CEO, on behalf of Grant PUD, to execute Change Order No. 19 to Contract 230-4249 with Andritz Hydro Corporation for repair work on Unit PR8 wicket gate servomotors at Priest Rapids Dam. The change order increases the not-to-exceed contract amount by $140,440.00 for a new contract total of $1,721,831.00. (Pages 101-111 in the commission packet)