If you’re an Esri user from a utility who has been visiting SSPInnovations.com or Esri.com for the past year, attending Esri conferences, or really been anywhere near the internet, you’ve heard of the Utility Network. There’s a wealth of articles and information, both from Esri and here on the SSP site, on what Utility Network will bring. In short, the Utility Network represents the largest leap in Esri Utility technology and capability since ArcGIS 8.0 was released, over 20 years ago. Exciting times!
The geometric network created a foundation with which Esri customers could manage their transmission and distribution models effectively (often with the support of third-party solutions), and share data throughout their enterprise. However, there were limitations at the depth of which customers could model their network in an efficient user-friendly approach, in a way that could also support other systems in a way to take advantage of their capability. This was especially true for those systems that required an extra level of granularity of the network – such as analysis, operational or asset management systems – all of which benefit from a model that includes facilities often far too complex or detailed to represent on map, and/or to have users draw and maintain effectively.
UN provides not only the detailed model described above, but also different mechanisms to represent that data using containment views, integrated diagrams (formerly schematics) and powerful mapping capability. The UN also provides more powerful mechanisms to *relate* the data in the form of associations, such as connectivity (what items are connected in terms of a network), attachment (what items are attached to each other), and containment (what items exist within another), all of which no longer need a geometric or “physical” connection, nor a custom “relationship” to be created. These associations create a wealth of new capability available to users that traditionally required customized data models, customized code, or both.
Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. Or perhaps more relevant – with great functionality, comes great complexity. While a number of utilities that SSP has has spent time with are extremely impressed and excited at what UN brings, there is also a great deal of apprehension of what the effort will be to move their data, integrations and – probably the most critical – their users across to the new platform. This multi-part article describes how SSP is working towards making this transition easier, both in terms of planning and execution.
For this reason, SSP Innovations is investing in a solution we are branding as SSP Sync, which provides assistance to utility customers in their preparation and execution of the moving to Utility Network. Sync will allow customers to not only migrate their data to the new Utility Network model from a 10.2.1 geometric network based model, but also to “push” incremental changes made in the 10.2.1 environment after migration to the Utility Network model thus keeping both models “in sync.” Sync truly allows for a more gradual transition of the overall GIS environment than a traditional “big bang” migration would require.
At a very high-level, this solution will allow customers to:
1) Perform an initial migration of their 10.2.1 data and evaluate the results, gaps, opportunities this presents and, if required, perform this task multiple times.
2) Keep their new Utility Network model up-to-date while continuing to use their 10.2.1 environment for Production users, integrations and processes.
a. Begin to trial new (and replacement) integrations, productivity tools and take advantage of new Utility Network-based capability.
b. Gather feedback from users
c. Prepare and execute training and organizational change managements activities for targeted groups.
d. Turn on specific integrations and user communities in the new UN environment while continuing to trial and validate others.
3) Once all integrations (and users) are moved to Utility Network – a customer can disable SSP Sync, along with their 10.2.1 environment.
Of course, nothing in any of our environments is ever quite simple – every utility has a unique combination of users, data and integrations to other systems, often including custom solutions based on their needs. Next we’ll use a more detailed example approach in using SSP Sync to move towards Utility Network, and some of the considerations to be made at each step.
To “set the stage” in our example migration to Utility Network, we’ll use an example or “simulated” Utility Network environment that you can hopefully identify with. As stated above there is no one-size-fits-all for a utility, but there are often common elements involved and, at a minimum, areas of capability to address.
The example utility GIS environment I’ll use is an electric utility which has a 10.2.1 model with a range of users:
Also in this example environment are a number of integrations to systems that are fairly standard in most Electric Utility environments:
These represent only three of the integrations that may exist. There are often far more involving a customer information system (CIS), mobile workforce solution and others.
Finally, our example environment also includes an ArcGIS Portal instance which provides a simple browser-based view of GIS data to the greater staff population at the utility.
Our first step as part of our migration to UN is to implement SSP Sync including an initial push of data to the target UN environment. This step obviously involves a mapping of features and subtypes to the new “Asset Groups” and “Asset Type” classifications along with the standard attribute/domain mapping to ensure our new UN model is ready to accept the 10.2.1 data. SSP Sync would then keep the UN model up-to-date with any subsequent edits to the 10.2.1 model after the initial data migration.
This is more than likely an iterative process where we may determine that certain changes are required to: the UN data model, the Sync process and/or migration mappings, the 10.2.1 data model, or any combination of the three. Scripts and/or batch processes may need to be introduced, changes to editing processes made and even a flush and re-migrate introduced before we are satisfied that what is in UN reflects what we intended.
Beyond simply getting data in, this process provides a wealth of benefit to a utility in terms of understanding their data, socializing the impact of this to other groups/users, and identifying the impacts on systems already (or proposed to be) integrated with GIS. This can be invaluable input for planning and budgeting for the transition to UN appropriately. Questions such as:
… can be addressed at this stage, helping to better plan for not only the GIS related departments in the utility, but also other system owners whose technology will be impacted by the new platform.
Beyond the integrations and data, we can also examine our users’ receptivity to UN, ArcGIS Pro and the data model changes which are coming. Organizational change management (OCM) challenges can be identified early along with eager first adopters, who are excited to get involved and provide feedback on the solution. The traditional gap analysis can be far more thoroughly conducted with a real instance of the target technology utilizing real utility data.
Ultimately, the knowledge gained around the data, users, and integrations will enable us to construct a detailed plan (and, if required, a business case) around the overall program of moving to Utility Network. This plan will prove that we have a high level of confidence in the transition based on our understanding of both our source and target environments.
In part two of this article, we’ll talk about our next steps: implementing this plan!