Exelon Generation's 12-member Digital Plant Innovation Team had to deliver innovative new products fast for a fleet of 14 nuclear power plants in five states across the country. To do so, we adopted the Agile framework, followed the iVia innovation methodology (developed at Notre Dame), and kept most project management functions within our team. This allowed us to drive value quickly and maintain momentum through full product rollout. It also avoided a loss of focus during handoffs to other teams, as was the normal practice at our large company.
Exelon Generation's nuclear division has over 11,000 employees who work in a variety of departments, each with specific duties. Handoffs between project phases can cause disruption and loss of focus on the desired results because the receiver doesn't have the same experience and may lack a passion for the project. We needed to deliver results fast and thoroughly across the organization and the old way of doing it wasn't going to cut it.
My team was assembled with individuals from several of our divisions and given the ability to organize as we saw fit to meet our objectives. We reviewed the IVIA Innovation Methodology and adopted the Agile framework, dismissing old waterfall project management techniques. We then assigned a project lead who would run the project from beginning through implementation and into support. Leveraging an agile development approach allowed us to get a working MVP into our customers' hands. This overall approach preserved the business case objectives and helped deliver the desired results throughout all phases and ensured that during rollout and ongoing support our business owners' needs were being met.
We developed and implemented our first solution on time and on budget. The project lead leveraged his teammates, IT, business owners and subject matter experts, and two vendors to develop, pilot, and implement a solution used across the company now. Keeping project management "in-house" instead of handing off the project to another group after a certain phase ensured our ability to keep the project on track in an agile development environment. We did use a project manager for logistical and communication tasks, but brought that person into the team and maintained seamless communication.
Our biggest challenge was that our team members had such a diverse background that their skills sets did not all align with running big ideation projects. We solved that by matching projects to people's backgrounds as best we could and putting members on their teams that could help. Next we developed an Operational Plan that guided their work through the innovation phases using templates built in Excel, JIRA, and other tools. This gave them a "best practice" guide to follow. We provided innovation and Agile training and supported them through weekly or monthly challenge sessions. Last, we kept the feedback flowing - that was key.
To start at your organization, find a business problem that is manageable to solve and a creative, thorough person to lead the effort to resolve that problem. Review the innovation methodology and lay out milestones at least through Ideation. Get IT involved early if needed. Get a team of diverse thinkers to challenge and give feedback often. Support the lead with talented individuals who are adept at certain required tasks that are outlined in your project plan.
IVIA Innovation Methodology
Notre Dame Certified Innovation Mentor program