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SSP Utility Network Jumpstart: How Did It Go at IREA?

IREA IREA's SSP Utility Network Jumpstart ImageLast month, we kicked off our first SSP Utility Network Jumpstart program with Intermountain REA (IREA). I took the short drive south of the SSP offices to IREA, and together we had a successful two-day venture into all things Utility Network.

From there, we handed things off to IREA where they took the reins on the software for eight additional days. Throughout this experience, IREA's GIS team gained valuable knowledge and experience around ArcGIS Pro and the Utility Network. We're happy to welcome Duane Holt, Director of GIS at IREA, to tell us more about this experience:

IREA SSP Utility Network Jumpstart Image

Background Behind the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart

I’m sure many of you remember Jack Dangermond’s letter to the utilities three years ago.  It told us to get to a desktop version (10.2.1) and stay put until further notice.  Six months earlier — at the Electric and Gas conference in San Antonio — the Esri team laid out a conceptual view of radical changes to how the network topologies will change for utilities. It’s clear now what Jack and the technical teams were alluding to: the new Utility Network.  It’s also clear that your GIS software will need to change if you want to take advantage of these advances in technology.

This is where ArcGIS Pro comes in.


The SSP Utility Network Jumpstart program provides the opportunity for hands-on experience with both of these epic changes to Utility GIS.  Considering the Utility Network is in restricted beta, and that ArcGIS Pro is still relatively new, I will say that not everything ran as smooth as possible.  There is still some cleanup required for both these technologies. 

It will be critical for utilities to provide feedback as Esri enhances ArcGIS Pro. This puts the polish to the Utility Network.  Each utility operates slightly different than the next, so the more utilities providing feedback, the easier it will be to migrate to the next era in Utility GIS.

At IREA: Starting the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart

The GIS team at Intermountain REA (IREA) had the fortunate opportunity to get hands on with Esri’s new Utility Network through the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart.  The first two days of this ten-day experience were the most anticipated.  All the machines were powered on and logged in, and we were ready to go. Once our mentor Corey arrived, the Jumpstart began with a lecture. 

The next two hours became the most impactful part of our Utility Network experience.  We had seen all the Utility Network blog posts by SSP, and Brian Higgins’s “CliffsNotes” version is required reading for the IREA GIS team (including the links he references).  The presentation and resulting discussions brought so much light to the somewhat mystical information we had seen so far.


IREA SSP Utility Network Jumpstart Image

Deep Inside the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart at IREA

Beyond just showing the model presentation, the lecture discussed the feature and object classes that would be behind the model.  There are significant changes, but clear explanations behind the reasoning were provided. 

We learned about how the Utility Network blends geometric coincidence and associations to provide connectivity, along with clear examples when to use them.  One of the new concepts in the Utility Network is that of containment and attachment.  The power to analyze and gather information regarding these non-energized components in relation to the circuits they are supporting will be a welcome change. 

There are more details to the UN model, such as tiers and subnetworks, but this is a blog post, not a thesis!


IREA SSP Utility Network Jumpstart Image

IREA Results of the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart

Participating in the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart accomplished two things for the IREA GIS team. 

Understandably, there is concern and maybe even fear about the new Utility Network.  We have read every blog post and white paper that we could find on the subject, and there were still many more questions than answers.  While the jumpstart can’t possibly answer every question, it did ease our minds and answer our most critical concern. It did so by showing us that the Utility Network is not that difficult to understand.  After all, the physical networks of our utilities — the facilities in the field — haven’t changed. 

The other accomplishment we realized was a conceptual understanding of how our data will look under the Utility Network.  This will allow us to keep the Utility Network at the forefront in our minds as we plan and implement other business systems and upgrades.  We will have the vision to know if integration will be problematic or not.


IREA SSP Utility Network Jumpstart Image

Speaking of integrations, one thing that became clear with the jumpstart is the need for partners to extend the value of the Utility Network.  Esri has purposely left the Utility Network wide open to allow almost any possible configuration that a utility may require.  That means that they did not go too vertical with the network definition. 

Phase is an electric concept, and not part of gas or water networks.  That means tracing by phase is possible out of the box, but you will need to enter several parameters into a geoprocessing tool.  Partner solutions would build the automation of the GP tools for tasks common to electric, water, gas, or telecommunications.  The jumpstart showed both the out of the box process and also some examples of toolsets that would automate these processes.  I look forward to the possibilities that the partners like SSP will dream up.

IREA SSP Utility Network Jumpstart Image

Recapping the First SSP Utility Network Jumpstart at IREA

It was a pleasure working with the entire GIS team at IREA for our first jumpstart. IREA’s positioning as an early adopter of this technology will allow them to provide instrumental feedback regarding the Utility Network. Esri will take this feedback to heart for product updates and bug reports and, as Duane mentioned, SSP is always looking for the best ways to create solutions that streamline common Utility Network tasks.

Ask Questions of IREA about the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart



Have more questions for Duane? Leave a comment below, or find him at the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart panel at the SSP iLLUMINATE conference this May.

It’s never too late to get involved! If you’d like to be part of this experience, be sure to take a look at the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart page for more information. Feel free to contact us to learn more!

IREA SSP Utility Network Jumpstart Image

Author Information

  • Corey Blakeborough

    Corey Blakeborough

    Corey Blakeborough is a Senior Consultant at the Utility & Telecommunications GIS consulting company SSP Innovations in Centennial, Colorado. Corey has over five years of experience with SSP, providing a variety of GIS and work management solutions.

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  • Duane Holt

    Duane Holt is a Colorado native who has been working in the electric utility mapping arena for 30 years.  He has been with Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) for the last 23 years.  Duane is the GIS Director for IREA and manages a team of 6 GIS analysts for the utility.  The earlier days at IREA were spent creating paper maps from CAD.  In 2006, The Association migrated from a CAD based system to an ESRI GIS system.  The GIS system expanded to include facility design in 2011 and has now become a key central information system for the utility involving projects from Engineering to Operations and Finance.  Duane received a Master of Science degree in GIS from the University of Denver in 2008 and has been a certified GIS Professional since 2009.  

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Comments

Did IREA convert a portion of your own data to play with, or just use the sample dataset? Were there any lessons learned there?

Erika, we did not convert any of our data at this time. We have a lot of projects in the works right now and felt we couldn't dedicate enough time to conversion efforts. We do have tentative plans to do a small conversion later this summer. While working through the JumpStart, I did keep in mind just how the data migration would work. For the most part, I don't see any big hurdles to moving our current modeling over. There is certainly more opportunity to include information not yet modeled into the new network and I'm still pondering all of that (structures, tiers, subnetworks, etc). My biggest concern would actually be at the higher levels of the UN. Determining how to setup the Domain networks could have long term impacts on integrations (i.e. one Electric domain vs. separate domains for Transmission and Distribution). I think a good vision of what could be required from GIS over the next ten years is important but at the same time, migrating our current modeling won't be as difficult as I had originally feared.

Hi Erika,

To add onto Duane's reply, the end goal here is to make this future more approachable and define a clear, realastic path forward. Because of that, we also take all feedback directly back to Esri, and consider more ways that we at SSP can help utilities move forward with this technology.

We're also creating ways to showcase these experiences further, which is why we will be featuring successful Utility Network Jumpstart programs in both an upcoming Esri webinar and in a panel at the SSP conference. One or both of these would be great opportunities to learn even more if you're interested!

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