The Best of Both Worlds – Smart Meter Rollout Proves that Agility and Stability are Not Mutually Exclusive

Smart Meter Rollout at WESTNETZ and MITNETZ Strom

To master the energy transition, electricity generation, consumption and electricity grids must be intelligently networked together. Intelligent Metering Systems (iMS) and Modern Metering Equipment (mME) for the digital recording of consumption data are crucial – so-called “smart meters” are crucial. Updated 2017 legislation on the digitisation of the energy transition can be seen as the go-ahead for the installation of smart meters.

Mission

By 2032, WESTNETZ GmbH and Mitteldeutsche Netzgesellschaft Strom mbH (MITNETZ STROM), two of the largest distribution network operators in Germany, plan to exchange all old appliances in the households and companies of their customers with mMe and iMS. As part of the Smart Meter Rollout project, the system-engineering and procedural implementation of hardware and software components for the installation, exchange and settlement of mME and iMS will be ensured on a nationwide basis.

When integrating mME and iMS into the existing process and system landscapes of distribution grid operators (VNB) and responsible metering point operators (gMSB), it was necessary to keep a constant eye on the dynamic changes in legal and regulatory conditions, technical feasibility and market requirements. In addition, during the course of implementation, comprehensive process- and system-optimisation potential were identified and executed – in particular, to avoid manual interventions. The five Scrum teams were also required to manage its introduction at market and exhibition locations by 01.02.2018.

Implementation

To deal with this challenge in the quickest way possible and with continuous quality assurance, management chose to implement the project in accordance with the agile Scrum framework.

For the first project phase, it was necessary to establish the framework conditions required for agile projects. This included, among other things, team allocation, the mediation of a common understanding of the project, designing an application capable of mapping Scrum artefacts, as well as creating a comprehensive communication platform.

In order to successfully implement the Scrum framework, coaching and the daily monitoring of all roles (Chief Product Owner, Product Owner, Scrum Master, Developer-Team, and Stakeholders) were critical.

Once the basic requirements for agile software development were established, in August 2016, we moved forward with five Scrum teams to the implementation phase. With this in place, by Spring 2017 the first mME went live.

The project spanned eight locations throughout Germany. With each Sprint, around 130 participants spread across five Scrum teams designed and developed new solutions that exceeded conventional boundaries.

In addition to regular workshops and an organisation-wide stakeholder exchange meeting, the scaling of agile was carried out with the help of tools such as the Product Owner Board, Scrum of Scrums and Scrum Master Boards.

Conclusion

Smart Meter Rollout demonstrates how agile methods can be used to implement changing regulatory requirements in evolving systems. Early, regular deliveries and firmly established requirement processes are not mutually exclusive and can, in fact, be modelled. With this understanding and the readiness for innovative measures, we succeed in delivering fast, valuable results, increased transparency, improved communication and successfully implemented the tasks as a whole.

In addition to the creation of a comprehensive system-technical foundation for increasing performance and quality, the project initiated a noticeable cultural change. Visible evidence of this is the close constructive and respectful cooperation, which took place between departments and IT service providers.

“Through consistency’s energy industry expertise and their extensive competence in introducing agile methods, we were able to create the right framework for agile software development at an early stage. The untiring commitment as well as the respectful handling of the teams have significantly increased the acceptance of the new method and contributed to the dynamic and constructive cooperation. The scaling of Scrum would not have been possible without experienced consultants as consistency.”

Jan-Wilm Buschkamp – HEAD OF SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT WESTNETZ

“The complexity of the extensive process and system adjustments for the Smart Meter Rollout presented us with major challenges. Support from experienced consultants at consistency was of crucial importance for the introduction and establishment of Scrum. Their conviction and extraordinary commitment to this agile and constructive way are paired with a high-level of technical and IT knowledge. It enabled us to implement the complex requirements of multiple systems and participants with high quality.”

ALEXANDER TITZE – HEAD OF SYSTEM MANAGEMENT AT MITNETZ STROM

“Agile methods put important issues such as meaningfulness, transparency and self-organisation back on the agenda. Continuous development and respectful collaboration bring people closer together. With the right level of enthusiasm and understanding, we help employees critically scrutinize their working methods and existing processes – and to look for new solutions. Those who want to technically implement complex tasks, while simultaneously changing employee attitudes, cannot afford to ignore agile management methods.”

Cristina Ioana Popa

Cristina Popa

5

Scrum Teams

8

LOCATIONS

130

PARTICIPANTS

1000

USER STORIES FORMULATED

16

SPRINTS (Completed)

100 %

TRANSPARENCY