The electric utility industry has a tendency to talk about new technologies in the form of “buzzwords”, which imply a sense of futurism and impracticality. “Blockchain” and “AI’ are the most prevalent examples of this phenomenon. Talking about these technologies in this context creates a notion that they are not realistic enough to be used today. Fortunately, today technologists are working to use these innovative technologies to solve grid challenges. They are using a technique called “agile software development” to make these futuristic technologies working realities.

The past December, I sat down with Gretchen Stewart, HPC & Data Analytics Technical Leader at Intel, at the GridCONNEXT conference in Washington D.C. I asked Gretchen how utilities can move using buzzwords to actually implementing and using new technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence. Watch the #ZP1x1 interview:

Gretchen’s main message focused on Agile, the software development technique. She says utilities should look at the technique and apply its principles to the adoption and implementation of technology within their own organizations.

So, what is agile? After doing some quick research, I quickly came across the “Agile Manfiesto”. The Agile Manifesto is the work of seventeen independent thinkers about software development believe organization models should be based on people, collaboration, and building the types of organization in which people would want to work. They believe in delivering good products to customers by operating in an environment that does more thank talk about people as the most important asset but actually act as if people are the most important.

The Agile Manifesto

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The website goes on to state, “while there is value in the items on the right [unbolded], we value the items to the left [bolded] more.” The manifesto is based on a set of twelve principles.

12 Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

These principles are intended to help professionals think about software development, methodologies, and organizations in new, more agile ways. As the energy industry continues its transformation driven by the three “D’s” (digitalization, decarbonization, and decentralization), they can be help in defining what how the utility of the future functions.

I hope y’all found this introduction to Agile useful.

I wish you the best of luck in adopting the technique.