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Malaysia: GIS for cost-effective decisions

Malaysian electric utility incorporates GIS to streamline its business processes, improve efficiency and reduce operational costs

Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) is the largest electricity utility company in Malaysia with assets worth almost $23.62 billion (MYR73 billion). The company serves an estimated 8.08 million customers in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Labuan. TNB’s core businesses are generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. In Peninsular Malaysia, TNB is a major contributor to the total industry capacity through six thermal stations and three major hydroelectric schemes. It also manages and operates the National Grid which links TNB power stations and IPPs to the distribution network in the peninsula. As part of TNB’s drive to improve efficiency and reduce operational costs, it has been looking into utilising information and communication technology (ICT) to support its business processes. One of the initiatives is to incorporate GIS to geo-reference all of TNB’s assets and networks.

Corporate Geospatial Information System or CGIS is a project that has been undertaken to fulfill these initiatives. It is being implemented throughout the various divisions namely generation, transmission, distribution, planning, ICT and corporate services. As many as 50 functions have been identified to be incorporated from the existing business functions. Spread over a period of 10 years from its inception in 2009, the GIS project is being implemented in two phases — the four-year foundation phase where the TNB team will build the basic foundations of GIS and the second phase of full deployment of CGIS. CGIS is currently in its final year of the foundation phase.

Requirement gathering methodology
A critical success factor in the development of system functionalities is a comprehensive requirement gathering programme. CGIS’s requirement gathering programme comprises of two phases: business requirement gathering and functional requirement gathering.

CGIS modules to support asset lifecycle

Business requirement gathering: During this phase, all the current processes, process gaps and pain points are being identified. These will be addressed in the proposed processes in the To-Be Processed Blueprint. This document will be the source point for the system developer to propose the functional requirement specification.

Functional requirement gathering: The next step will be to produce the Functional Requirement Report, which will be used by the system developer to design and develop functionalities. To ensure that the optimum functional requirements are met during this phase, a standard approach for sessions/workshops with users has been put in place which consists of:

  • Process reviewing — to ensure that the processes developed are current and reliable
  • Demonstration on the current system — to familiarise users with GIS technology
  • Visualisation on functions to be developed. With this approach, users get a clear understanding of the system and its capabilities and are able to better articulate their requirements as well as their expectations.

To further enhance the current system, TNB is working on an initiative to provide data updates on mobile devices

Service-oriented architecture
In conjunction with the CGIS implementation, TNB identified that service-oriented architecture (SOA) approach should also be adopted to integrate existing applications or systems available in the organisation to develop a comprehensive system. One major advantage of SOA is that it allows multiple systems to connect in a way that minimises dependency, which encourages the services offered by a system to be used repeatedly by other systems or other business functions within TNB. Another key benefit from SOA implementation is that since the data is wrapped and exposed as Web service, any changes to the architecture or platform of the existing systems will not affect the service provided as long as the service is available and is within the SOA governance structure. Another benefit of implementing SOA in TNB, as part of CGIS implementation, is that the SOA can also be extended to other business units in TNB.

Data update device
To further enhance the current system, TNB is also working on an initiative to provide data updates on mobile devices. These devices will allow construction supervisors and maintenance personnel to update data at site on-the-go.

During the course of developing functionalities for the CGIS project, TNB observed that comprehensive requirement gathering programme has contributed significantly in ensuring successful development of system functionalities. The functional requirement approach described above was formulated based on the challenges faced and lessons learnt in the project. This gathering approach will avoid the incompleteness of the requirement and produce functions that fulfill users’ business needs and expectations.