Like a physician with her stethoscope at the outset of a check-up, astute shareholders and directors should use the level and trend of a utility’s market-to-book ratio (MtB) as one of the first...
CIOs Under Pressure
IT officers are getting more efficient, but guess what keeps them up at night?
choice program, and a pumped hydro storage facility. Our summer peak is dramatically higher than 90-plus percent of the other days.
Fortnightly: What was the trend in IT staffing and funding during 2006?
DesRosiers: Last year was a pretty big year for us with the METC acquisition and the implementation of new and upgraded PeopleSoft modules. We got some great people with the METC acquisition, but other than that we didn’t add any staff. We now have about 20 IT employees, whereas before we had 12 IT employees. We use contractors for peaks in workload like these projects, and we have extremely dedicated staff.
As far as the operations and maintenance side goes, support costs go up when you add almost 100 employees from an acquisition. Sarbanes Oxley and the decision to make supply-chain system support an internal function has had a huge impact in terms of workload. In 2007 we will be adding staff to support the financial and procurements systems.
Fortnightly: What's the extent of outsourcing at your company, and do you see it increasing or decreasing?
DesRosiers: We have a solid outsourcing philosophy at ITC—if it is mission critical then we maintain it internally. If it isn’t, we outsource it. From the beginning we have internally maintained all transmission management systems and financial systems. In 2005, with the growth of our capital program, it became clear that we needed to bring support of supply-chain applications internal.
We also avoid customization unless it is absolutely necessary. That reduces the need for an internal development staff, and makes the process of upgrading much more simple and efficient.
Fortnightly: What major systems changes did you make last year, or are you contemplating for the year to come?
DesRosiers: Last year it was business systems and integration. This year it will be refining the business systems, planning for the next integration, and the elimination of our one and only legacy system.
Fortnightly: What's happening with integration between new systems and legacy systems?
DesRosiers: We are lucky in that we had a fairly clean slate when we went independent. We have one legacy system that we plan to eliminate this year. That system is used in our Balancing Authority activities and interaction with the external entities like MISO. So it is a very important system. It is also close to 30 years old and totally customized, so the transition is going to be a lot of work.
Fortnightly: What lessons did you learn from Sarbanes-Oxley?
DesRosiers: Working at ITC is a non-stop learning experience, but the most important lesson from the last two years is that the earlier you involve the people that are going to maintain a system in the planning and selection process, the happier everyone will be.
Becoming Sarbanes-Oxley compliant also taught me a lot. I think we are pretty unique in the utility industry in that we are a large company, but because of how we started, we have a small IT staff. Before the METC acquisition, we had about a dozen IT people, and now we are