Electricity Authority aided by Kiwi company's expertise

Agile progamming assists Authority

Laurence Chiu, the acting CIO for the Electricity Authority, has become a firm believer in a locally-developed methodology for developing corporate applications after trying it out on a low-risk project. “It is like Agile programming on steroids,” he says.

The methodology replaced a manual, labour-intensive process for managing the audits of participants in the electricity market. The application was built in just three months and, after testing, went live in four.

“The Authority’s predecessor, the Electricity Commission, recognised opportunities existed to improve workflow in a number of business processes,” Chiu says.

“We scoped a low-risk project to look into it and Aviarc, a subsidiary of Core Technology, was identified as having a methodology that was ideal for developing the required application.”

Chiu effectively became the business analyst, engaging with Aviarc by initially producing just five PowerPoint slides, focusing on the required design for the application.

There were a series of three-hour workshops involving users. Each time the design was modified by the business users, Aviarc went away and made the changes.

“The process was non-intrusive on the business,” Chiu says.

By focusing on the business needs rather than the technology, the methodology took care of at least 75 percent of the build. That’s the focus of Aviarc he says.

“There is a big divide between business people and engineers,” says Aviarc CEO Shane Mercer.

“We found our first software development project was like chucking deckchairs around. We wanted to change that so the business people could describe exactly what they wanted.”

Mercer uses a new building as an analogy, with the business users in virtual reality mode as they decide what they want. “At the end of the discovery process they have nothing, but it looks real. We call this scoping exercise conceiving. It turns software execution upside down.

“Enterprise systems are data driven normally. Our adaptive enterprise system is user-centric and complements the way a traditional enterprise system works.

“Everything is done on the web.”

The methodology has certainly been noticed. IBM has signed Aviarc as an Asia Pacific strategic partner; TradeNZ has provided funding and the company has six international patents at the final filing stage.

Mercer says the target market for Aviarc is the US where it already has one customer, a large meat processing organisation in Corpus Christi in Texas. The company has more than 30 other large customers, half of which are in Australia, including Medibank Private.

Chiu says the application the Electricity Authority built worked so well, he proposed that the methodology be rolled out into more complex areas.

Its second application, built in four months, has gone live internally and will be rolled out slowly to the participants in the electricity industry. It manages a statutory process involving reporting, investigation and resolution of alleged breaches of the Electricity Industry Participation Code, governing the operation of the market.

On November 1 last year the Authority was established under the Electricity Industry Act with greater regulatory powers than the Electricity Commission it replaced, heightening the need for a robust solution.

“Previously, this was all done in Access databases,” Chiu says.

“The new application handles things like workflow and emails.

“It releases people to do more productive things.”

“We are about to look at integrating workflow performance,” he says. “We’re trying to automate the transfer of information.

“It is now a lot easier to explain to the business what they are getting.”

When Core Technology was set up in 1993, infrastructure services were its bread and butter as the company gradually moved into software development. Aviarc was set up six years ago to develop the new methodology and now employs most of the group’s 60 staff.

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Tags agileelecticity authorityLaurence chiu

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