Technology has invaded nearly every corner of the business world, with tools such as robust data analytics driving more strategic decisions than ever before. For power plant project managers, technology has created a few challenges along the way. Fortunately, with the right approach, project teams can overcome these gotchas and take advantage of everything technology offers.
The gotcha: Systems don’t always work together as cleanly as expected
The technology tools used to oversee power plants often end up creating their own difficulties. One common challenge project team’s encounter is trying to work around a mish-mash of systems, each one from a different generation of hardware and software. If one of these platforms needs upgrading as part of a project, it’s likely there will be additional trickle-down implications across other systems, too. Maintaining good integration across the entire network is one challenge. Ensuring the project produces the anticipated efficiency gains and that new technology features make a positive impact on workflows can also cause frustration.
The solutions: Focus on the details and have a dynamic plan
Teams tasked with incorporating technology upgrades or expansions into a power plant project will want to look at the details of existing systems so they can identify where potential issues are likely to lurk. Will there be extra work required to make existing hardware integrate with the new system? Will bandwidth, connection points, or other components need to be updated in adjacent platforms? Are the security measures currently in place appropriate given the functionalities of the new system? Who will handle training and when will that happen? A close partnership with the IT team will help to ensure that important details aren’t missed.
As the project moves forward, it’s vital the team have a dynamic plan that is able to accommodate any unexpected issues—from beta testing that uncovers a glitch to a delay in the delivery of technology equipment. Project managers may need to resequence activities several times throughout the overall schedule. Being able to do that, while also getting new timetables disseminated to those completing the work, will be key in preventing any slip in the project’s final completion date.
The gotcha: New technology often requires big investments to reach its full potential
Technology projects in the power plant, such as next-generation data harvesting and analytics platforms used to better forecast production and outage planning efforts, typically require significant investment and expertise on the backend. Simply installing the software is just the first step of many before useful results can start to be generated. This presents challenges for the project team if the organization’s leadership group doesn’t understand the resource levels required to achieve the effects they desire.
The solutions: Develop strong communication channels and good facilitation skills
Ensuring robust communication across the entire stakeholder base is a core requirement for successful power plant technology projects. Executives must be aware of the project’s needs as well as its progress throughout every phase, from pre-planning to the post-project review. Clearly communicating the project’s scope and expected results are also important. Everyone needs to have the same understanding of what the project will accomplish, whether that means improving insight into the efficiency of plant operations or producing information that will be used to plan and execute the next outage.
Few stakeholders are likely to have a granular understanding of the backend infrastructure and expertise needed to move technology initiatives forward in a power plant environment, so facilitation skills are also a must as the team works through the questions and potential pushback that could come from any of the groups involved in the project.