Saturday, November 28, 2009

R-APDRP Challenges

The Restructured Accelerated Power Distribution Reforms Program of the Government of India is an ambitious program aimed at achieving significant loss reduction of the distribution utilities in the public sector. The program has two parts. The Part A, aims at using IT to create base line data and Part B aims at stengthening the electrical network for reducing losses and improving the level of service delivery and quality of power to customers.

The program is bereft with challenges, primarily because of the aggressive timelines set as well as the scale of the program aimed at all the utilities in India. The scale and the aggressive timelines together with use of IT in a big way in the Distribution side are all new to the people on the ground, and hence pulling it of managerially is a big challenge.

It is easy to say that IT will create baseline data in itself. It is also naive to think that IT System Integrators on their own in 18 Months can deliver a fully integrated and functional system and the Utility can take over and realize gains soon after. Without the utility first understanding the scale and size of the program, the tremendous expectation from it to deliver and use the investment properly and taking steps to do so, the programs success will be limited.

IT system integrators in India who have won many of these projects do not have ground up expertise in implementing such large projects in India or outside. Primarily in developed markets where they normally work, their key role in utility projects have been maintenance or upgrade or pilots in new technology areas. There are never such ground up, large scale programs. And in developed countries each of these programs are given more time to deliver. In India TCS, Wipro, Infosys and HCL who are active bidders in the R-APDRP still do not understand the operational complexity of creating and delivering a system and expect their GIS, NSP and MDASP to deliver and their Internal IT team to deliver and as long as specifications are clear, delivery is a straight forward process. However this is never so with Utility customers.

In my decade plus experience in Indian power sector, i have always been perplexed at a large number of Utility engineers apathy, while i have been amazed at some engineers knowledge and depth, and the domain expertise and knowledge they have gained over the years are un-matched. Without being able to build upon that knowledge base and deliver, the R-APDRP program also might end up being a bonanza for IT and Automation equipment manufacturers, but not for the Utility. To be able to make it successful, the IT System Integrators who won these projects need to consider each of their projects not from a P&L point of view, but from a long term domain competency and technical competency development point of view, put their best engineers and managers, dig deep over a 3-5 year period and work hard, understand the complexity of integration, be flexible in customization, take the customer into confidence and invest a lot in training, take risks for using standards for integration rather than point to point integration, taking losses if it is required to deliver the right system, and make it work for the utility. Under R-APDRP, if India gets one or two state success stories, i would consider this to be a great success.

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