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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

around 20. Because of that and our no customization policy, there wasn’t a lot of focus on formal documented controls. Then along came the IPO and our board made the decision to be Sarbanes-Oxley compliant in the same year (one year ahead of what is required).

I learned a lot about controls philosophy, and that if you involve the people that do the actual work in regular conversations with the internal auditors, you actually can incorporate controls in a sensible manner. Those controls can add value rather than just being overhead.

The trouble with Sarbanes-Oxley is that the requirements are poorly defined, which any IT person can tell you is a recipe for disaster. As a result, many consultants show up with “best practices” designed for companies that have 10 times the staff we have and are surprised when we aren’t excited to implement them.

Fortnightly: If you had a blank check to change anything you wanted to and make your utility completely modern and the envy of everyone else, what would you do?

DesRosiers: Given the importance of operating the transmission grid, we actually try to avoid being on the leading edge of technology. We like to stick with tried and true platforms and let others work the bugs out of new technologies before we adopt them.

We are not interested in the bleeding edge. If other companies are envious of our operations performance and our ability to efficiently invest in transmission infrastructure, then I am satisfied.

Larry Buttress, Vice President and CIO, Bonneville Power Administration

Fortnightly: What’s your IT background?

Buttress: I’ve been in my current role about 5 months. I’m new to Bonneville and to the utilities industry as well. I have about 30 years of IT, but mostly in oil and gas, and chemical and refining environments. The past 10 years, I’ve been in semiconductor manufacturing.

Fortnightly: How many people work for you at BPA, and is that number increasing or decreasing?

Buttress: Last year, 2006, was a reduction year for us over 2005, mainly because we were ending a reorganization that took us from a decentralized IT model to a centralized IT model. That really started about two years ago and took several months to complete, so for 2006 we actually saw a 25-percent reduction because of the benefits of consolidating from a decentralized to centralized model.

Fortnightly: Is the consolidation ongoing? Will it result in further staffing reductions?

Buttress: The reorganization has completed, but there are rippling effects and benefits that we should see over the coming couple of years as a result of that. Quite honestly, I think that was one of the reasons I was brought in five months ago, to shore up some of the governance within the IT group.

Fortnightly: Was the staff reduction BPA-wide, or was it focused on the IT area?

Buttress: It was basically Bonneville-wide, but it started with IT. We were first out of the chute. It was really under our Enterprise Process Improvement Program (EPIP). The purpose of the EPIPs is to look at improvements and opportunities