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Agile Program Implementation

January 13, 2021

Market changes can impact programs for a variety of reasons. Regulators drive some, and others are caused by other external events such as a pandemic. As program administrators, we must respond quickly to those changes and ensure the programs continue to meet targets. In other words, we must be agile. The term “agile” has a distinct meaning in the software development world. A group of thought leaders met in 2001 and created the "Agile Manifesto" in response to the current state of software development. While it was created specifically for software development, its core premises and guiding principles offer beneficial insights into managing energy efficiency programs. At its core are the emphasis of individuals and interactions, collaborations, and responding to change instead of following a plan. Implementation plans for your programs are important, but in the words of noted business strategist Taylor Swift, “Just because you made a good plan, doesn’t mean that’s what’s gonna happen.” Responding to a regulatory or market change requires making decisions rapidly and implementing those decisions immediately.

For example, let us say a utility commission made dramatic changes to deemed savings in the middle of a program year and desired that those changes be implemented immediately. Regardless of the market change was driven through regulatory processes or a shift in technology, interested parties, trade allies, and program managers must collaborate to create new program solutions (Guiding Principle #4). Ideally, they should meet face to face (Guiding Principle #6) to decide the best course of action. While the Utility commission can make the needed software modifications relatively easily, the most challenging aspect will be informing and educating all the program participants on the new changes. Bringing all impacted parties together in implementing this change and working collaboratively will increase the chances of success. At the end of the day, the best success measures will be a satisfied end-user customer/utility commission (Guiding Principle #1) and a working, effective program that achieves results (Guiding Principle #7).

Simplicity in the selected course of action is essential (Guiding Principle #10) if for no other reason is that it is easier and quicker to implement. Several fast and uncomplicated modifications to a program or process may be better than a time-consuming long-term redesign. Finally, and possibly one of the most significant actions to take is to reflect on how the collaborative process worked and consider ways to make this effort more productive (Guiding Principle #12). This review should involve all who participated in collaboration with open and honest opinion sharing. Feedback will improve your program planning process, as well. Taking the time to review decisions and processes is a more neglected activity in our professional lives.

Michael Stockard is an independent consultant at Stockard Energy Advising and is a member of the Advisory Panel at ANB Systems. Michael has over 39 years of experience in the design and implementation of demand-side management programs.

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