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The CIO Forum: IT Weathers the Storm

In the rough-and-tumble energy biz, IT departments are paddling hard to stay afloat.
Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 2002

continuing to build and are launching in December. The day-to-day support almost feels like status quo, in terms of plans and effort. But, because our plan of bankruptcy reorganization splits the company, we are also having to figure out how we would go about splitting the IT systems, or a reverse merger, if you will.

Without a firm decision from the court, are you able to do a lot of planning for that?

Yes, we are actually doing planning, and we're actually doing work. In fact, we're required-before we spend dollars on those kinds of things-we have to file motions with the court. Those have been done over the last several months, and I can't remember the numbers of motions, but several have been approved that allow us to do that kind of work, that is outside the normal course of business.

What were your biggest accomplishments in the last year?

That question would be much more relevant in December. We have several new, major systems that are coming together toward the latter half of the year. The fact that these projects are going to land is a major accomplishment. Even under normal circumstances, they would have been challenges. The fact that we've been in bankruptcy, kept people focused, not worried about where the bankruptcy may take us, eventually, keeping our eye on the ball-that applies to the networks we operate, the 700-plus applications that we have to support the various businesses processes within PG&E. Fundamentally, keeping our eye on the ball for that stuff we operate, as well as keeping our projects on track.

What are the biggest projects you are working on?

The big one is our CIS system. That is a gigantic system, it's our core billing and customer relationship system. That's scheduled to go live December 6. We also at the same time are launching several new call center applications, and we're updating many of the call center applications we have. We also have field dispatch systems that we're going to be upgrading, and launching new ones. Related to all this, we also have enterprise application integration (EAI) project. We've actually gone live with that, but it really gets tested when all this new stuff comes online. It's the confluence of several major initiatives and projects that are coming in. Once we do this, the only remaining legacy system that we will have is our HR/payroll system, which we eventually hope to tackle, maybe as an 2003 or 2004 initiative.

What motivated these projects and when did planning begin?

They had been planned for many years. EAI has been planned for about a year now, that was relatively late in the mix. CIS has been a project for several years. There were a variety of drivers. EAI, the driver is the ability to integrate the applications in a smarter way. Historically, we tied everything together on a point-to-point basis, which is the cheapest thing to do short-term, but becomes very cumbersome long-term. Basically, we had to start over with how we approach that. That was a strategic IT