Given that projects were increasing in scale, complexity and financial impact, a standardized web application was the obvious solution for Entergy. This application could eliminate bespoke spreadsheets, capture more information through workflows and serve as a system of record, creating a digital representation of each project.
Developing the software that reflected the reality of utility industry project experience and directly integrated with Entergy’s project cost data required programming to create a framework for metadata that describes and sets the capability to import other, more specific data, such as materials and equipment costs and labor rates.
The application needed to identify cost discrepancy drivers based on region and provide a platform to view financial health as the project moves through its life cycle. In addition, the application had to employ an intuitive user interface, giving anyone using it a logical, easy-to-understand sequence of well- defined steps to enter project data that interfaces and builds on information previously entered in the form field.
Beyond the administrative framework, the second phase of the project involved enabling users to create estimates based on information entered into the application.
Within the estimating application, base assemblies are built from component units. As more assemblies are built and used, the application leverages these assemblies to provide faster and easier access to project managers for cost estimation. Thus, the application becomes more accurate and efficient over time, saving substantial time in scoping and estimating future projects. As users pick the correct assemblies, they will see guidance on the respective components required, and as each project is entered, that experience continues to expand the knowledge base.
For example, a new project would start with preset metadata guiding the user through a series of fields. Each field prompts the user to enter a quantity for any number of items: standard equipment like poles, conductor and transformers, or even nonstandard equipment such as sensors, reclosers to detect faults, and communications devices.
During initial entry of a project into the system, an estimated cost must be entered, though this figure could be adjusted later as the project progresses through subsequent scoping and preliminary engineering.
Class 5 Planning Stage: Once a proposed project is entered into the system by the project sponsor, it proceeds to a Class 5 review-and-approval process. Class 5 is the initial planning stage, when base assemblies of digital representations of components are selected. This is the point where rough estimates begin. The estimating application provides flexibility to add scopes of work, such as installation of additional components or upgrades on other nearby systems. The application makes cost calculations based on existing data, allowing the estimating team to deliver an estimate of direct and indirect costs, along with risk contingency based on defined criteria at the conclusion of this evaluation.
As part of the near future road map, this application will provide informed decisions based on realistic assessments of permitting requirements, potential environmental issues, and the ages and types of equipment installed on existing or new distribution circuits in the area. Thus, the application gets progressively smarter and selects components based on historical experience.
Class 4 Scoping Stage: Following the initial Class 5 estimate, based on reasonable assumptions of costs that have been identified, a Class 4 second stage of evaluation and assessment begins. This scoping phase continues the estimating process, examining all project elements in more granular detail. These further reviews and adjustments are based on detailed investigations into requirements of the project, resulting in more refined estimates. This more accurate estimate of total project costs is then ready for review by senior management for budget planning purposes.