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Capital Power's CIO Helps the Firm's Bottom Line

By Peter High  |  Posted 02-02-2017
Strategic tech

Capital Power's CIO Helps the Firm's Bottom Line

Capital Power is a growth-oriented North American power producer headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta. The company develops, acquires, operates and optimizes power generation from a variety of energy sources. Capital Power owns more than 3,200 megawatts of power generation capacity at 18 facilities across North America. More than 700 megawatts of owned generation capacity is in advanced development in Alberta and Kansas. Darryl Vleeming is the company's vice president of information services and CIO. As such, he is responsible for all information services spend, excluding technology, connected directly to the company's plant control systems. As he tells CIO Insight contributor Peter High, he also has to be a big contributor of the company's bottom line.

Peter High: How have you organized your team in terms of direct reports and roles?

Darryl Vleeming: I have five direct reports. They are responsible for the following:

  • Architecture: responsible for planning and architecture
  • Project Delivery: responsible for all project delivery
  • Infrastructure: responsible for infrastructure operations such as servers, network, service desk, desktop, etc.
  • ERP Applications: responsible for operation of all ERP-related applications, including our computerized maintenance management system (CMMS)
  • Commercial Portfolio Management and Corporate Applications: responsible for operation of all CPM and all non-ERP applications

High: Please provide some examples of the strategic use of technology in the context of Capital Power.

Vleeming: Our team implemented energy management operations center software and a business intelligence solution that was so successful that we now offer it as a service to multiple other participants in the Alberta Power market. We also developed a custom business intelligence solution used to manage our wind farms in real time, and [another one] used to manage our long-term forecasts (everything from economic indicators to power prices) and analysis as it relates to acquisitions, divestures and new construction around North America.

We also have implemented a custom business intelligence solution used by our traders to manage all aspects of their trading operation, from their position to their profit and loss statements. The team developed a custom business intelligence solution for our executive team that allows them to see key financial metrics, key operational metrics, and current trading position and P&L.

We have validated that we have an extremely cost-effective information systems group. Booz & Co. has ranked us in the top quartile in our costs, compared to peer power companies. As such, we are a direct contributor to the bottom line of the enterprise.

Related to that, we implemented a new ERP solution and processes with a return on investment of 22 percent, saving Capital Power millions annually. We also implemented a new Energy Trading Risk Management (ETRM) system with an ROI of 14 percent, while reducing the risk to Capital Power of non-compliant traders.

Capital Power's CIO Helps the Firm's Bottom Line

High: What are some other strategic priorities in your IT road map?

Vleeming: We have eight different strategic priorities, ranging from what we call foundational goals to differentiating goals. Let me take those in order. Our foundational goals include:

  • Provide cost-effective, innovative, information systems. Maintain and deliver cost -effective information systems, shifting focus from in-house core infrastructure to a combination of on-premise and hosted infrastructure for a robust, innovative and secure solution.
  • Ensure appropriate security. Ensure the privacy, security and integrity of Capital Power information, while making authorized access to information easy.
  • Enable operational efficiencies. Use business applications to enable operational efficiencies for Capital Power business units through improved processes and reduction of effort or cost.
  • Provide collaborative solutions. Provide collaborative solutions to all areas of the business to foster improved communication and efficiencies.
  • Focus on customer experience. Align IS services with business needs through excellent customer service and technologies that improve employee engagement.

Our differentiating goals include:

  • Optimize construction and operations technology. Drive increased profitability and cost reduction in the construction and operations of Capital Power's generating assets for maximum reliability and efficiency.
  • Work your way. Ensure that people have the technology to work, regardless of location or platform
  • Focus on IS talent. Attract and retain high-quality talent, and engage and empower them by committing to staff development and professional growth through clear career paths and recognition.

High: What methods have you used in order to attract IT talent to Edmonton?

Vleeming: We have not had too much difficulty in finding IT talent in Edmonton. We have a strong culture in IS. For instance, we were only one percent off of the top quartile in TalentMap's Canadian Engagement results in the last engagement survey that we were a part of. That reflects the extent to which we can attract high-quality employees.

High: What other trends excite you as you look to the future?

Vleeming: We have a cloud-first strategy, and by 2020, we will have eliminated one of our two data centers by moving 95 percent of our applications to the cloud. We also believe that analytics for operational data is going to have a bigger impact on how we operate as a company—improving availability and reducing maintenance costs, e.g. preventative maintenance.

Finally, improvement in the use of data for real-time operation of our plants will be a game changer. There are literally thousands of pieces of data generated every second at our plants that can be used better to manage operations. Think IoT.