A novel approach: enabling agility and learning in the FPSA2 project – by Roger Duck

Published: 21 April 2017

The purpose of the second stage of the Future Power System Architecture Project (FPSA2) is to deepen the analysis of requirements carried out in FPSA1, which reported in July 2016, understand barriers to implementation, and to consider innovative frameworks for delivering new functionality.

Roger Duck discusses the agile approach taken by the project to ensure that the various project work packages developed in collaboration, encouraging learning through interaction, to deliver an integrated whole.

FPSA2 is structured into a series of delivery work packages.

Delivery of each work package (WP) was provided by contracted expert support, under the guidance of the FPSA Steering Group. Each comes with its own methods appropriate to the specifics of the task in hand, each delivers value in its own right and, in many ways, each could be thought of as being standalone from the others. Given inevitable resource and time pressures, there is always the temptation in projects such as this to think about each element as a jigsaw piece, only to discover at the end that the pieces do not fit together.

An overall project methodology was designed to ensure that the work is developed as a whole, seeking to enable each party to understand their role within the whole system of activity, and supporting mutual interaction and learning. This was in recognition from the project design stage that there would be significant interdependencies between work packages, and that the full details of these interdependencies could not be predicted in advance. WP5 was charged with delivering this methodology.

Stakeholder Engagement (WP1A) sought to understand current and future requirements and their implications for the whole system, through engagement with a range of stakeholders. Future Stakeholders’ Needs (WP1B) sought to understand requirements of future stakeholders and potential implications for the power system, including cultural, societal and behavioural issues.

Functional Analysis (WP2) checked the validity and completeness of functions identified in FPSA1, and identified areas of potential RD&D and innovation to assist delivery. Impact Analysis (WP3) identified the barriers to developing and implementing the functions within current sector processes and assessed the impact of late or non-delivery.

FPSA1 had concluded that new functionality will require new frameworks to enable delivery because of the whole-system nature of the challenge. Enabling Frameworks (WP4) therefore explored how future system functionality could be enabled to meet various and changing needs in a changing landscape.

The requirement for ongoing interaction between the work packages drove the need to take a dynamic approach, drawing on the principles of Agile software development that are established in the IT sector. This included structuring the project into three time-bound phases. Within each phase, delivery teams were encouraged to consider, to some extent, all aspects of their scope of work to give early sight of issues that might be of importance to others and the project as a whole. Interactions and communications were enabled by regular weekly “heart beat” Synthesis Team meetings, supported by a number of plenary sessions, facilitated and self-organised meetings, and practical tools to support interaction and exchange of content.

Within this agile framework of interaction, each work package used its own specific methodology tailored to its own objectives, while adopting common themes of ensuring an evidence-based approach to the work, and embracing iterative learning and periodic reflection and review.

This enabled, for example, WP1A to tailor the approach to interviews to support the review of functions by WP2, and to be alert to issues that have a potential bearing on barriers and enablers for change, of interest to WP3 and WP4. It also supported additional collaborative working sessions, the need for which emerged during the project, to explore and progress specific issues arising between work packages. For example, sessions were convened to help ensure that the emerging shape of the Enabling Framework thinking led by WP4 aligned with the treatment of functions and implementation barriers investigated by WP2 and WP3.

The approach has enabled the system engineering discipline, which has underpinned the functional approach taken by FPSA from the start, to be complemented by additional learning through interaction, by enabling teams with different skills and viewpoints to come together, within a rigorous project process.

The overall outcomes of the work of the FPSA2 project will be unveiled at an event on June 23rd 2017 at the IET, Savoy Place, London.