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CIOs Under Pressure

IT officers are getting more efficient, but guess what keeps them up at night?

Fortnightly Magazine - March 2007

in all of the business lines.

Fortnightly: What percentage of BPA’s budget goes to IT?

Buttress: We’re trying to keep the funding levels flat. That’s really the challenge for us. In the face of a lot of improvement activities that we have and projects going forward, we’re trying to maintain a flat budget.

Essentially, that is what each of the business lines is going through in these EPIP processes, which generate response projects that eventually become IT projects for automating a lot of the business lines. What we are doing is taking on those projects, but we want to do it without increasing our staff or budget levels.

Fortnightly: Talk about funding for your organization, which is an arm of the Department of Energy. What challenges does that present?

Buttress: We’re actually pretty healthy. Last year was a very, very good year for us.

Even through we are a government agency, we’re a little bit of a rarity in the sense that we do not get government allocations. We are self-funded. It’s kind of a pay-as-we-go funding strategy.

Fortnightly: What type of software or systems do you use?

Buttress: One of the things on the horizon that is very exciting for us and offers a lot of promise is our GIS initiatives—the enterprise geographic information systems. With Bonneville, we have something like 15,000 miles of transmission lines. It’s very diverse. What we want to do is utilize improved GIS systems so they would be the primary source of access for facility, environmental, and land-related information.

This is ambitious, but it also holds a lot of promise for our users out in the field—mobile access to information, where right now people are using maps, Post-It notes, and old notebooks. The transition is under way, but to this point it’s been more of a pilot. We feel we received good results from it and now want to jump in and make more of a commitment. ESRI is the main vendor we’ll be looking at, in terms of delivering the software for us.

Fortnightly: What’s been the simplest but most profound technological advance at your company since you came on board, and what’s one basic change you would make that hasn’t yet been approved?

Buttress: I’d say two things. One is the movement toward applications service providers (ASPs). That’s a model that we believe is pretty efficient and one that we see a lot of benefit in. We want to keep pushing that, particularly with our transmission scheduling system and our forecasting systems. The vendors out there have pretty robust applications, and we can get much more benefit more quickly by using an ASP than by developing in-house.

The other thing we haven’t moved on as quickly as we would like but do see a lot of promise is wireless. We’re moving more and more toward a wireless environment.

Fortnightly: A large portion of your energy is hydroelectric. What challenges does that create for you?

Buttress: We have some pretty sophisticated weather systems that the IT group supports. Rainfall is very, very critical to us,