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Ameren Corporation, a Midwestern utility company funding major initiatives, such as building wind farms and installing smart meters, needed a solution to help manage their portfolio visibility and capital governance. The utility is the parent company of Ameren Missouri, the largest electric power provider in Missouri, and Ameren Illinois, the state’s third-largest natural gas distribution operation based on the total number of customers. 

Ameren Corporation provides power to 2.4 million electric customers and more than 900,000 natural gas customers across a 64,000-square-mile area. With more than 9,000 employees, the combined Ameren companies (Ameren Illinois, Ameren Missouri, and Ameren Transmission Company) generate a net capacity of nearly 10,200 megawatts of electricity and own more than 8,000 circuit-miles of transmission lines.

“Leading the way to a secure energy future” succinctly describes the company’s vision and their approach as leaders and innovators. The progressive organization doesn’t wait for other utilities to blaze the path for them.

The utility company, an established Oracle Primavera P6 Enterprise Portfolio Project Management (EPPM) user, began their technology journey many years ago. In 2015, the company’s previous portfolio management tool turned obsolete, and the utility faced a project justification and portfolio management challenge.

Ameren’s business unit staff needed a solution that could support multiple attributes to aid in portfolio decomposition and help evaluate various project priorities across leadership teams. Ameren selected Oracle Project Portfolio Management (OPPM), and Matt Pasley, manager, Ameren Financial Services, led the fast-paced OPPM implementation for Ameren Missouri Energy Delivery (distribution).

These initiatives further necessitated the expansion of OPPM utilization to provide one unified view of both “core” projects (generation and distribution) and those executed by corporate “service” organizations (IT, transmission, and facility construction).

Ameren streamlines project prioritization and selection to improve service

Like any organization, Ameren’s service and success depends on their ability to form and execute on good decisions – and forming good decisions takes process and data. In the past, Ameren had a lengthy project justification process. By automating this process within OPPM, Ameren reduced project justification times of 30 to 60 minutes to just three to five minutes –one-tenth of the time.

Ameren now routes and approves concepts instead of full scopes and estimates savings of approximately 80 to 100 man-hours of work. On average, there are 15 to 20 concepts per quarter, totaling at least 60 per year. This is a huge savings of 675 man-days a year.

The utility knew they needed a new process once they started seeing proposals begin to decline. Scoping out a project for review only to have it not approved was a laborious and time-consuming process.

Now, thanks to OPPM, the right quantity of concepts are submitted. The engineering groups are no longer frustrated because they have an opportunity to request feedback within a reasonable timeframe. Engineers expend an appropriate level of effort to submit the concept, resulting in a significant percentage of approved projects.

Ameren ensures more consistency in project evaluation by quickly reviewing scoring inputs for groups of similar projects using OPPM’s filtering and query-based portfolio capabilities. Implementing this gated process in OPPM has helped to create greater confidence in projects that reach candidate status, eliminating time wasted on “think tank” projects.

Ameren’s engineering team developed a new process administered by OPPM. The results they achieved are quite impressive.

  • From 2011 through 2014, 79% (369 of 467) of projects evaluated for budget submittal did not result in an approved project. Just think about the time spent proposing and evaluating those projects with only a 21% approval rate.
  • Beginning in 2017, with the new process run on OPPM, a total of 418 projects were submitted, 76% (317) were approved, 67 (16%) were budgeted in 2018, and 34 (8%) were rejected/deferred. The dramatic change in the percentage of approved projects, from historical vs. current submissions, indicates project submitters are “self-filtering” based on consistent criteria. They are developing and submitting proposals that are likely to be approved. This is saving a significant amount of time.
  • A typical project, from creating a concept to developing a budget-quality estimate that’s ready for approval, takes an estimated 50 to 350 total work-hours. Using 100 hours as an average across their estimated 400 projects being managed simultaneously, totals 40,000 work-hours. Looking at historical data, if 79% of projects did not go forward, that’s over 30,000 hours that no longer need to be expended.
  • Now, using the new process and reduced rejection rate of 8%, the potential unnecessary man-hours is around one-tenth of what is was in the past, just 3,200. 

Ameren can now focus on what is important to both the company and their customers –providing uninterrupted, cost-effective energy – by removing significant inefficiencies.

Reducing risk through portfolio decomposition

Ameren implemented a portfolio decomposition process using OPPM and eliminated time-consuming and error-prone activities, including spreadsheet re-creation each time the portfolio changed, or new scenarios were required. Removing activities such as spreadsheet re-creation yielded an immediate reduction in portfolio management time of at least four hours per week –that’s 10% of one employee’s time in business services across the whole portfolio. Ameren can now focus on higher-value activities, such as analytics and portfolio dissection.

OPPM enables Ameren to add multiple layers of categories to meet the specific needs of grid modernization, energy centers and distribution territories, as well as user-specific needs to aid in portfolio management. This level of customization helps to drive adoption throughout Ameren, while workflows improve review cycles.

OPPM helps to reduce both the time spent in meetings as well as time tracking meeting information. This total time of up to two meetings to evaluate projects – each lasting two and a half days – was reduced to only about five hours (or two meetings lasting two to three hours each). This resulted in greater than 85% time savings across the 15 to 20 people participating in these meetings.

“Now, instead of coming to the meeting and being asked questions, we come to the meeting with the answers.” 

– Matt Pasley, Manager, Ameren Financial Services

Incorporating and tracking all the information and tasks from each of the four or five meetings used to take one week. Now, meeting participants can track information and tasks during the meeting, saving four to five weeks of effort from an accounting/finance head.

Saving resources by streamlining capital allocation

Historically, Ameren would spend up to two days reviewing the requests for a single function or business unit. OPPM reduced this time to a single two to four-hour meeting, a time savings of over 80%. The process pane, displaying a consolidated list of projects and transparent project scoring, drove massive reductions.

The process pane enabled a quick confirmation of lists of projects that are either mandatory or blankets. Changes to a project budget that used take several hours to manually update across multiple systems now takes just minutes in OPPM.

“The change in time required for leadership review of capital allocation requests at Ameren was simply amazing.” 

– Matt Pasley, Manager, Ameren Financial Services

Previously, Ameren was required to do a lot of manual data manipulation in response to specific internal information requests. On average, there are five to six requests per month, and each request easily took one to one and a half hours, totaling five hours. What used to take 14 hours per month on average now takes just 30 minutes –a greater than 95% time savings.

Using visualization as a tool to better manage data

Ameren has effectively used OPPM dashboards, including tables, charts, and graphs, to convey key information, including business plan initiative-level spends, specific-versus-blanket CAPEX splits, and grid modernization compliance. The utility can now sort through groups of projects, look at the data and pull what they need instead of pulling together layers of information. Roughly five man-days of effort have been reduced to about an hour – a time savings of over 95%.

Ameren recognizes that their organization must continually improve all aspects of their business to meet the needs of their customers.

The utility is already pursuing new process improvements and technology implementations and are planning for what’s next. A quick preview: their current program will integrate OPPM with Primavera P6 EPPM using the Oracle Platform Integration Framework (PIF) on the transmission side of their business.

In addition, Ameren is extending their use of Primavera Unifier. The utility company is already leveraging the tool for cost forecasting, but Ameren plans to manage their compliance requirements using Oracle’s Primavera Unifier as well.

Learn more about Oracle Construction and Engineering solutions.

Oracle Construction and Engineering, the global leader in construction management software and project portfolio management solutions, helps you connect your teams, processes, and data across the project and asset lifecycle. Drive efficiency and control in project delivery with proven solutions for project controls, construction scheduling, portfolio management, BIM/CDE, construction payment management, and more.

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