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Advice for the Next Co-Chair
Here are some bits of advice for the next co-chair.
  • Call members. I'd suggest setting aside an hour every couple weeks to call people on the UCAIug corporate representatives list. Chat about why their company is a member. Find out how they really feel about that. help them recognize the tools at their disposal. Get their input on what they'd like to see changed.
  • Refuse to be a meeting planner. This is a hard saying, but every hour spent on meeting details is an hour not spent on more valuable contributions. The Processes WG has tried to change this, and hasn't succeeded. Yet. I think we all agree that change is needed.
  • Expect board and executive committee direction and help. This year's smart grid uptake has been so severe, many things are left undone. I could have asked for quarterly plan adjustments, which would in turn help others discuss the changes affecting UCA and each group.
  • Keep good boundaries. Every volunteer organization will take as much time as you will give. I had several occasions where I discovered I had somehow volunteered to solve problems outside of CIMug. Teach others to fish, before you start fishing for others.
  • Don't be afraid to rock the boat. Some issues definitely must be handled delicately, but that doesn't mean they should be left alone. You represent the utilities; speak for what they would want.
  • Build on what has been done. If you can come up with something better - go for it. But before you invent something - check to see if it has been attempted already. I've tried to make everything I know searchable on the site.
  • Beware of the Thursday night syndrome - at every CIMug meeting I hit a point of exhaustion on the evening before the last day (usually that is Thursday night). Look out for landmines. Pull back and take a break.
  • Enjoy the ride. These are some of the most seasoned professionals I know, and they are a pleasure to work with.


Toward the Exit Ramp
When I took the utility co-chair job a couple years ago, I was working at PacifiCorp. My management there was very supportive, which I appreciate. I managed to invest a significant amount of effort in the CIM Users Group without impacting our group's performance, or my own.
When the smart grid breeze started to pick up, I started to feel much like I did back in 1997. Netscape's browser was at v1, it seemed like the web's potential was practically unlimited. I felt like I couldn't afford not to get under the hood. I joined a company creating e-commerce sites - just to get inside the slipstream.
Well, a lot of people are saying the smart grid is bigger than the dotcom era - and it is. For the same reasons I was restless back in '97, I got restless earlier this year. I needed to find higher ground. And now I'm no longer at PacifiCorp.
I joined Gartner as an industry analyst on Sept. 8th, and I'm enjoying it - as much as you can enjoy getting pounded by a heavy surf. There is a lot going on, and I'm not always on top of the action.
So since I'm not with a utility any more, I've been heading toward the exit. That involves recruiting a replacement for my co-chair role and wrapping up loose ends, all the while organizing the Charlotte event. We will be electing a new co-chair.
We're only a week away from opening the Charlotte meeting. I hope to post some thoughts between now and then. That might be my observations on where this organization is at, and where it could go in the future. I might need to point to work in progress, so it doesn't get abandoned in place. Or, prepare to slay a few sacred cows on my way out.  ;-) 
[ right turn signal ]
Warning:  Standards Acceleration May Be Stress-Inducing
I've noticed that a lot of the folks I stay connected with in our industry are a bit stressed out lately.
Stress, according to the experts, is what keeps us healthy. At an industry level, that may be true as well. All things considered, an industry is typically better off after undergoing dramatic change. Some in telecom or financial services might argue otherwise, I suppose. But typically renewed processes, systems, and even careers emerge on the other end.
WELL - we're headed there. A colleague recently shared with me a link to a talk on the smart grid by Chris Knudsen of PG&E (Chris is a leader in OpenSG).
And I quote from Chris:

“So why is this so important? Some people that have been in standards and have worked there through their careers really understand it – it’s very intuitive. But there’s a lot of people – and even a lot of people in the utility industry – that haven’t been involved in standards…but from my perspective, as someone who’s been involved my whole career in new technologies and standards, the scale, the priority, and the energy of this far exceeds anything I have seen before. And I’ve been in some pretty moving, large-scale, new technology developments…

It’ll be like the Internet today…twenty years from now, we will look back and it’ll be something similar to that… 

We’re at the very beginning of something that is going to be analogous to the Internet, but around the smart grid and power - requiring the integration of power engineering and communication engineering.”

I couldn't have said it better.
How to improve effectiveness of contributions to CIMug

As I write this, I am attending a meeting of the Open Smart Grid user group in Columbus, OH, where they are reviewing new structure and rules for managing the contributions made within the OpenSG group. Their working groups are producing specifications and other documents that have reached a stage where review and voting for approval is required.

It strikes me that in the CIMug, we have not encouraged our working groups to create work plans which include creation of specifications that could be used within the IEC to help in the progressing of needed standards. For instance, capturing business requirements for a specific type of information exchange. Another example could be an evaluation of CIM tools to assist CIMug members in knowint what is available and what each tool is good for.

I hope we can add this topic to our agenda for one of our Process WG meetings with a goal of making a report to the CIMug members at our Charlotte meeting.

The Weather is Right for CIM
Last Saturday I was basking in that almost-mystical Portland June weather - perfect temperature, blue skies, no wind, no bugs, etc.  It's the weather we pay such a high price for the rest of the year.  ;-)
As I was drifting into a perfect summer nap on my deck, it occurred to me it had been a long time since I posted anything to this blog. Well, okay then....but where to start...???
Well, our Genval conference was a noteworthy event. UCTE's recent interoperability test set the stage. My impression there was a tangible sense of optimism about CIM for Europe. There were a number of Transmission System Operators present, and their lively discussion showed they are engaged in this transition. This gave a very practical tone to the conference. We capped off the week with a Friday morning discussion about how to bring Distribution System Operators into the fold as well for Europe.
There is a lot going on with CIM this year, although you wouldn't necessarily know it from this site. I'm still challenged by how to give more visibility to what is going on within TC57 working groups, the interoperability testing area, and other activities.
We redesigned this site last year and while it's a big step forward, there's much more that could be done. I was a bit bemused by a new Microsoft video on why Sharepoint is the answer to your social computing needs (click to view). I think it is probably the answer to our CIMug 2.0 needs. We are probably looking at an upgrade to Sharepoint 2010 next year.
Speaking of collaboration, WG 19 held a meeting last week - without traveling. They used the webinar capability of GotoMeeting, Citrix's product for web conferencing. Feedback has all been positive. UCAIug is positioning to support this across all the member organizations.
Our fall U.S. conference will be in Charlotte - we think. We're confirming that EPRI will be able to host us there. I've declared I will do no more meeting sites, so we're lining up some help with that.
The climate seems good for CIM development. I noticed that at the March IEEE Power Systems Conference and Expo, 25 of the 348 presentations mentioned CIM. A recent IEC press release talked about their direction on global standards for Smart Grid. Three of the five IEC standards they mention are managed by groups on our IECTC57 site.
There's been a lot of buzz lately about accelerating standards for the sake of the smart grid. How do you think we can accelerate CIMug business? Post a comment and let me know your thoughts.
Success and Snow in Seattle
The CIM Users Group held its seventh formal meeting on the Microsoft campus in December. Attendees numbered 83 despite the conference's late winter date. By all measures it was a very successful meeting, even when interrupted by a severe snowstorm (by Seattle standards).
  • Half the attendees attended the CIM University tutorial session in advance of the conference.
  • A number of new AMI-related projects and other smart grid developments were introduced.
  • More agenda time was provided for working groups - all seemed to make more progress.
  • Updates were provided for interoperability testing and EPRI projects, as well as developments in Europe.
After a brief break the Processes working group will turn its attention to the spring Europe conference. The UCTE project is creating a focus point there for more wide-spread adoption of CIM. Our fall 2009 meeting will take place at EPRI headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
So we are pleased - but not satisfied. There is always room for improvement - please do let us know what changes you would like to see in our user group meetings.
Best for the new year,
Sliced and Processed
Every small business demands sweat equity and this one is no exception. UCAIug and it's member groups are a non-profit corporation staffed almost completely by volunteers. Whatever gets done comes into existence by slices of attention, sandwiched between the real work we all do to earn our place on the planet, and spiced up with an ample dollop of generosity.
One of the small groups that works largely behind the scenes is the CIM Processes group. They plan the CIM User Group conferences - and that's not just one, but two each year (U.S. and Europe)! This happens without hiring a conference management service, and almostly entirely due to this task force and to hosting companies - like Microsoft, which is inviting us onto their campus in December.
I haven't posted recently since I'm part of that group, and we have been putting together the fall conference. To be candid, while we're excited at how the conference is shaping up, I think we're all getting a little fatigued. Some of these folks are on IEC committees and are traveling to those meetings, not to mention their day-to-day project work.
So we have a challenge - if CIMug and the other UCA groups are picking up steam, how we will manage? With several years of conferences behind us and more growth ahead, it may be time a fresh look at how we do business.