The Copperleaf® Decision Analytics Solution first went live at Essential Energy in 2018. Since then, the Copperleaf team has been working with Essential Energy to expand the use of the system by including a broader set of constraints in the optimisation process, evolving their value framework, and improving workflows to expedite approvals. Aaron Pisani, Operational Improvement Manager at Essential Energy, and Brad Hocking, Customer Experience Team Lead at Copperleaf, share their thoughts on the success of the implementation and how it has helped Essential Energy systemise its investment planning process and drive value-based decision making.
Can you tell us a bit more about Essential Energy?
Aaron: “Essential Energy is responsible for building, operating, and maintaining one of Australia’s largest electricity networks that spans 95% of New South Wales’ land mass and parts of southern Queensland. We deliver essential electricity network services to more than 870,000 homes and businesses in 1,500 regional, rural, and remote communities across extremes of terrain and climate.”
Can you share a little bit about your roles in this project?
Aaron: “I led the ‘Investment Optimisation Initiative’ at Essential Energy which focused on embedding a new value framework and making improvements to workflows to support the technical and financial approvals of investments flowing through the pipeline. This initiative was part of a broader asset management transformation our company was undertaking.”
Brad: “I was the Copperleaf project manager responsible for delivering the outcomes of this implementation with Essential Energy.”
What were your main goals for this project?
Aaron: “Our main goal was to replace an outdated legacy system and fully embed Copperleaf as our solution for over 150 users to manage capital investments. Our secondary goal was to use the Copperleaf system to support the preparation of our regulatory submission and improve the way we optimise investments—by introducing resource constraints and establishing a solid foundation with our value measures, investment portfolios, and workflows. We are now able to optimise our portfolios using both financial and resource constraints which has greatly improved the deliverability of our investment plans each year.”
Being able to optimise investments and getting a very quick turnaround when analysing scenarios is extremely powerful. To do this manually would take weeks, if not months, and now a new scenario can be generated in 10 minutes.
Operational Improvement Manager
What were the key things you felt made the project successful?
Aaron: “We believe we have been successful by implementing incremental changes to the business. In our first year, we managed IT investments in the system; in our second year, we introduced financial-constrained optimisation; and in our third year, we optimised using both resource and financial constraints. Incremental changes have allowed our users to embrace the solution and support the improvements.”
Brad: “Our teams worked well together, and we were clear about what we wanted to achieve. Rather than trying to ‘boil the ocean’, there were tangible things we changed which made a significant improvement in Essential Energy’s ability to create an optimised plan.”
Were there any lessons learned?
Aaron: “Our biggest lesson learned was to establish a team focused on continuous improvement post-project completion. There are so many new features being introduced in each version update of Copperleaf and we want to ensure we’re maximising the value we get out of the solution.”
What are the key benefits you think you’ll get out of implementing Copperleaf?
Aaron: “Copperleaf has enabled us to systemise our investment planning process and drive value-based decision making. Being able to optimise investments and getting a very quick turnaround when analysing scenarios is extremely powerful. To do this manually would take weeks, if not months, and now a new scenario can be generated in 10 minutes.”
Brad: “The most significant benefit is the ability for Essential Energy to use resource constraints in its optimisations, which reduces planning time and improves execution accuracy by ensuring resources are available to carry out the plan.”
Have there been any other added benefits?
Aaron: “We’ve been focused on improving workflows at Essential Energy. The Copperleaf solution manages technical and financial approvals along our investment pipeline and controls the data quality of key fields which has shortened approval processes and allowed us to better manage our overall portfolio.”
The adaptation of Essential Energy’s value framework to have two versions working in parallel is quite unique! This allows their teams to continue using current processes while realizing the benefits of the updated value framework.
Customer Experience Team Lead
How would you describe the experience you had working with Copperleaf?
Aaron: “We’ve had a positive experience working with Copperleaf’s product experts in Canada and their local consultants in Australia.”
What’s next on your asset management journey?
Aaron: “Our next step is to add assets into our system and have value calculated in the system. At present, we import value calculated in spreadsheets, which introduces its own challenges such as version control which requires considerable overhead to manage. By bringing this process in system, we hope to have less data issues, more accurate decisions, and improve the user experience.”
Is there anything unique Essential Energy is doing with Copperleaf?
Aaron: “Essential Energy has sophisticated workflows that manage all our approvals, notifications, and handovers in the investment pipeline from ideation to execution. We have about 150 users who depend on these workflows to do their jobs and move investments forward and backward through the investment creation/delivery process. With Copperleaf, we are now able to manage our workflows within one system, giving us improved visibility and tracking of progress and approvals.
Additionally, our value framework has evolved to a new version which provides a more detailed and granular calculation of value. To allow a smooth transition for users, the system has been configured to allow the use of either value framework version 1 or version 2 criteria. There were significant structural changes in how value is calculated, and the new value models had to handle these new requirements, while continuing to support the original parameters.”
Brad: “The adaptation of Essential Energy’s value framework to have two versions working in parallel is quite unique! This allows their teams to continue using current processes while realizing the benefits of the updated value framework. They can also evolve those processes in parallel which reduces downtime.”
View other success stories to learn how Copperleaf clients have been able to improve their business outcomes.