by Cyndee Miller
When I think bleeding-edge tech, water and sewage systems aren’t the first things that come to mind. But DC Water—the 2020 PMO of the Year Winner—snapped me out my narrow views. The utility is responsible for delivering clean water to residents and businesses in Washington, D.C., USA. And it saw an opportunity for technology to help it do that job more efficiently.
Led by its IT PMO, DC Water leaned into what is now a US$11.3 million project portfolio full of industry 4.0 tech—always intent on making sure the utility’s innovations deliver on its business purpose.
“We work at the luxury of the business itself. We’re not here to simply deliver technology. We’re here to deliver technology that solves a business problem,” says Tom Kuczynski, vice president of IT, DC Water.
So what does that look like in real life? Behold the first-of-its-kind tool called Pipe Sleuth, which analyzes video captured by autonomous robots to identify and classify anomalies, be they structural cracks or grease build-ups. The technology, which DC Water now sells to other utilities, eliminates the risk of human error—reducing the cost of scanning and coding flaws by roughly 75 percent.
The PMO has also changed the utility’s approach to cutting costs. In 2015, DC Water’s operational costs were increasing by 6 percent annually. When senior leaders asked how IT could help bring that number down, the PMO accelerated the utility’s digital transformation and moved its operations to the cloud, cutting operational costs by 6 percent, which translated to a savings of US$2 million per year.
It’s not all about slashing overhead. The PMO’s innovations also ensure a clean, safe water supply. For example, using internet of things tech, DC Water and industrial automation company GrayMatter developed a device that monitors the water quality in public drinking fountains—turning them off when readings hit a certain level. The utility deployed it in its hometown school system, but sells this tech to other utilities, too. With a grant from the Elon Musk Foundation, DC Water is working with its partners to install 115 fountains in Flint, Michigan, USA.
Positive social impact—with a positive bounce on the bottom line, giving DC Water another revenue stream.
That kind of innovation shows how PMOs fuel true business value. And while DC Water took the top spot among this year’s PMO of the Year finalists, it found itself in good company:
- Emaar Properties PJSC, Group Operations: Dubai is home to some of the most iconic buildings in the world: The Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall, The Dubai Fountain. It’s up to Emaar Properties to make sure visitors and residents get world-class service—and that includes increasing the eco-efficiency of its buildings. Decreasing water usage, energy consumption, carbon emissions and waste promised to increase customer satisfaction—and cut costs. So the PMO launched 26 projects in 2018 alone that contributed to a 11 percent drop in electricity use that year compared to 2016.
- Kern Health Systems: Kern Health Systems (KHS) provides access to medical coverage for 280,000 recipients of Medicaid, the U.S. government’s healthcare program for low-income individuals. To make the most of taxpayer dollars, the KHS enterprise PMO partners with the organization’s business intelligence team to prioritize projects that promise the most meaningful results. That focus on data transformed the organization. From 2017 to 2019, the portion of projects that delivered intended benefits jumped from 78 percent to 95 percent.
Dive into a more detailed recap of the three projects in the PM Network digital exclusive. Then head over to PMI’s YouTube channel to learn more about each finalist on the PMO playlist and explore full case studies in the January/February issue of PM Network.