The Art and Science of Restoration Metrics

restoration metrics

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”
– Vince Lombardi

For electric utilities, restoration metrics are critical in much the same way as all forms of measurements in life.  In life, it would be really difficult to function optimally without the ability to measure things.  From the physical measurements needed to build a house, to the spatial perspective needed to safely drive a car, to the blood pressure our bodies rely on to properly function, everything in life has some sort of measurement aspect.  Yet in a typical business situation, whether within a utility or some other type of entity, the process of measuring performance is sometimes an afterthought.  Many decision makers across every industry are overly reliant on listening to their gut.  Unfortunately, this serves as a barrier to organizational learning because, as you know, you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Generally speaking, the ability to measure any type of performance relies on having metrics (often called Key Performance Indicators or KPIs) in place. Having well-defined metrics ensures everyone is clear on what needs to be measured and how.  Metrics must be clearly stated, including how they are compiled and/or calculated.  They must also be quantifiable, tied goals and objectives (i.e., how success is determined), and easily understood.  This last attribute is especially critical, because much like the punch line of a joke, if employees need to think too hard about what something means, it’s not effective.

There are hundreds of possible business metrics that could be tracked and measured, but arguably the most important metrics for utilities are restoration metrics which focus on outage statistics and restoration performance.

Examples of Restoration Metrics

Internal metrics can be established that measure how successfully a utility prepares and implements its restoration plan – for example, resource utilization, training completion, response to call outs, etc.  This provides an organization with a way to measure its internal readiness, and when tied to corporate goals and even incentive or bonus payouts, can be an effective motivator.  From an external point of view, the primary metrics important to these stakeholders revolve around the number and duration of customer outages.

As far as the specific metrics to track, much of this will be utility-specific. But at a minimum, just about all utilities should measure:

  • Restoration efficiency / durations
  • Restoration costs / cost per customer restored / crew hours
  • ETR accuracy
  • Employee safety / number or injuries or fatalities
  • Call center data – average handle times, call volumes, speed of answer, first call resolution, etc.
  • Customer satisfaction

Restoration Metric Best Practices

First and foremost, restoration metrics should be developed in a standardized manner.  Best practices related to this standardized approach include:

  • Define metrics by following the “SMART” framework – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based
  • Once defined, route the metrics both internally and externally to get buy-in from all stakeholders
  • Ensure the data or tools necessary to calculate and measure the metrics are readily available
  • Ensure the calculation of the metrics is standardized – each one should be calculated in the same manner, and provide the same answer, no matter who might run the calculation
  • Keep the number of metrics manageable – in the famous words of Yogi Berra, too many is way too much!

Second, keep in mind that the identification of restoration metrics is not necessarily a ‘set and forget’ activity.  Metrics tend to evolve over time – and those that are out of date are only marginally better than having no metrics at all.

Third, processes must be put in place to ensure that all the underlying data points necessary to calculate the various metrics are efficiently captured.  And this goes beyond system-generated statistics – the process for documenting actions and gathering outage information from the field during every storm event must also be formalized.  For example, a simple process might involve providing activity logs to crews, designating someone in the crew to fill out and/or collect the logs at the end of the shift, following the protocol for compiling the gathered information, and using the compiled information as an input into the debriefing process.

Finally, something akin to a dashboard or scorecard should be created to deliver regular reporting of the metrics.  Dashboards and scorecards can be either automatically or manually created at pre-defined intervals or frequencies, and should include an executive summary at the front of the document to call out the key insights.  They are particularly helpful when presented in a visual way that shows trends, correlations and outcomes, and how the actual results compare to the pre-defined goals.  They need to be – for lack of a better term – pretty, with lots of colors, graphs, charts and callouts.  This will make it easier for people to absorb, digest and retain the information, and can also ease the process of communicating performance to external parties.

Conclusion

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Well, if utilities do not measure restoration performance, they have no way of knowing whether or not they are repeating their past mistakes over and over again.  Without proper restoration metrics and accurate measurement practices, it is simply not possible to improve over time.  This is why, in a nutshell, restoration performance measurement is so critical in the utility industry.

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