Staying ahead of the curve in the digital world requires a different mindset: from thinking about tech upgrades and siloed projects to thinking holistically, experientially, and in an integrated way. That’s what Con Edison hoped to achieve through our partnership.
From empowering 10M customers to make smarter energy choices to creating $640k in combined savings for intranet management, our multidisciplinary team rolled up our sleeves to do just that.
In addition to helping us achieve critical business goals, modernizing our workplace will save on costs by reducing the time employees spend locating tools and information, employing standard templates to develop departmental content and sites, and introducing new digital forms with automated workflows.
Engaging employees, supporting safety, encouraging interaction, and supporting innovation. That was Con Edison’s goal when they partnered with us in 2018 to build a single intranet-based digital platform.
One thing was clear. Bringing together 15,000 utility workers across several subsidiaries and geographies with no centralized repository for operational data and information was going to take more than just a tech upgrade. It would take a holistic and integrated approach, with the user-experience front and center, to create a portal that employees could easily engage and interact with – reducing confusion and miscommunication.
As well as promoting safety by providing an easily searchable repository for operational information, tools, forms, policies, and procedures the portal needed to have simple, intuitive search capabilities, a standardized look and feel, consistent department templates, and redesigned employee communication.
Successful digital initiatives don’t start with technology. They start with the end in mind.
As our multidisciplinary team immediately immersed themselves in the challenges faced by intranet users throughout the company, two things became abundantly clear:
After analyzing how people were navigating current materials and defining what people really needed from the intranet, the team created user personas to bring the user journey to life. These were central to decision-making on every level, from visual layout to information architecture—true human-centered design in action.
Collaborative content strategy sessions were held to assess, reorganize, and refine existing materials—and ensure buy-in from key stakeholders. The result? A reduction of intranet pages by over 90% (to just 120 pages) – helping employees find what they need quickly and easily.
A new, efficient governance structure was implemented to minimize new page creation and duplication in the future, ensuring a better user-experience. The portal – intuitive, secure, scalable – was launched successfully, creating a dramatically different user experience that moved fluidly between the digital and analogue world of work.
The new intranet immediately made a difference in how employees were able to work and communicate – better, faster and with more self-service. Search use went up by 50%, employee self-service engagement increased, and overall satisfaction with the intranet jumped by 30%. But the portal had an impact beyond simply being smarter tech; it helped foster a more digital mindset overall, which meant that its impact only increased with time. One year following launch, 76% of Con Edison’s 15,000 employees continue to use the intranet on a daily basis. The reduced time for employees to locate the information and tools they need on the intranet equates to approximately $285K per month.
Con Edison and its intranet site (Conor) was recognized among the top 10 intranets of 2020 by Nielsen Norman Group.
Con Edison’s vision for implementing advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) was clear; Empowering 10M customers to better manage their energy use. The core of the plan? To deploy five million smart electricity and gas meters, unlocking the potential of technology to provide more frequent and granular data—as well as actionable business insights.
To secure approval from the state utility regulators, the utility needed to develop a detailed and integrated customer engagement plan to build awareness, keep customers informed about the program and its progress, and encourage participation – fast.
With deep industry expertise and years of experience working with utility regulatory bodies, our multidisciplinary team was ideally positioned to get the plan developed, approved and accepted. Given the tight time filing deadline (six months), it was clear from the start that a nimble, agile and responsive approach would be the only way to go.
Working iteratively and collaboratively, our team gathered information from departments across the company, building alignment before the engagement plan was created. This laid the foundation for four public collaboration meetings with various stakeholders, including elected officials, customers, and interested third parties, which enabled Con Edison to identify any concerns. Overall, inputs from 26 external parties, including energy service companies, the Department of Public Service, professional organizations, and advocacy groups, were considered and addressed.
Ultimately, these insights were consolidated into a thoughtful, results-driven engagement plan, that included eight Fair Information Practice Principles in accordance with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Privacy Guidelines, based on our privacy assessment of the AMI program.
The plan was delivered on time in the 4-month project schedule.
By fully considering the needs and concerns of stakeholders, the plan satisfied the State Public Service Commission’s broad regulatory requirements, which addressed and included data sharing, rate pilots, AMI deployment communication, privacy planning, third-party solicitation for revenue opportunities, and broader collaboration with third parties.
It was approved, and quickly put into action.
The fast approval of the customer engagement plan meant that Con Edison could implement AMI smoothly, and on schedule. Over 2.5 million smart meters were deployed across New York from July 2017 to December 2019, with 5 million total electric and gas meters to be installed by early 2022.
Con Edison recognizes that advanced analytics are critical to getting the most from their technology investments – for example, by converting asset and sensor data into insight for tactical and strategic decisions. But the utility needed to determine which analytics projects to tackle first. And it wanted to accelerate those initiatives to realize quick wins – a key characteristic of a digital mindset. That’s where we came in.
We’ve been a trusted partner throughout the utility’s grid modernization program, so executives knew we would come prepared to help Con Edison build a culture of data-driven decision making.
To make sure we captured the best opportunities, we cast a wide net – holding discovery workshops and interviewing more than 50 engineers, managers and leaders to identify potential uses of analytics and the data sources required to build them.
Then, we applied our unique multidisciplinary perspective. Our team of utility consultants, technology and operations specialists, data engineers, and data scientists collaborated to create an approach for prioritizing potential analytics projects, based on complexity and business value. This approach allowed Con Edison’s executives to understand potential benefits associated with specific analytics capabilities across safety, operations & maintenance, and other areas. And it allowed us to help the utility prioritize its initiatives and investments over the next three years.
While we love seeing great strategy take shape, what we really want our clients to see is tangible results. The utility’s analytics team was new to agile delivery, so we rolled up our sleeves and worked with their Digital Factory to adopt its approach for delivering new analytics capabilities. Our technology experts designed and developed data pipes from outage management, work management, and distribution equipment management systems to Con Edison’s Enterprise Data Analytics Platform (EDAP) to facilitate development of new algorithms and models.
Finally, we created user-friendly dashboards that automated reporting of reliability indices such as CAIDI (Cumulative Average Interruption Duration Index) and helped in proactively identifying power quality issues such as open neutrals and flickering lights. The dashboards improve accessibility of grid edge data to help build a culture of data-driven decision making among distribution engineers.
To date, Con Edison has established new analytics capabilities that will deliver on the promise of improving reliability, increasing safety, and reducing operations & maintenance expenses.
Now, distribution engineers have greater visibility into operations and electric assets. This allows them to take proactive steps to present outage information accurately and calculate reliability indices (e.g., SAIFI/CAIDI) for regulatory reporting. And it helps improve safety for customers, the public, and crews.
Con Edison sees potential to build on these quick wins and use data in other areas, such as transmission engineering and the AMI operations control center.
Most significantly, this work has set Con Edison on an accelerated course toward a culture of data-driven decision making.