PowerApps in Practice – How PowerApps Gave TransAlta the Decision-Making Power it Needed

TransAlta is a Canadian power generation and energy trading company that has been servicing industrial and commercial organisations  across Canada, the US and Australia for over 100 years. TransAlta generates power through various sources; gas, hydro, wind solar and coal. However, it is wind power which was proving to be challenging to manage. The company needed to be able to handle resource decisions more accurately in order to maximise its return on investment. PowerApps was used to create an internal resource planning and  decision validation application. The app was tailored to the company’s unique needs and delivered a return on investment within just two weeks of deployment, with the potential for significant net gain.

What Challenges was TransAlta Facing?

Due to low energy prices and the growing need to remain competitive while achieving the desired return on investment, TransAlta decided to review the way it resourced its wind power operations. The aim was to reduce the amount of overtime required to maintain the fleet, which included the development of a new resourcing model.

To be able to deliver its resourcing model, the company needed to effectively and accurately dispatch its employees when assets and power equipment needed repairing. In the past, employees have been dispatched to repair assets that wouldn’t actually provide the required economic benefit. The problem was that there was no way that the dispatch team could easily determine whether it was more economical to dispatch teams immediately or wait until the following day. And, while it was vital to retain commercial  availability, they needed a way to reduce unnecessary immediate repairs.

Ultimately, TransAlta needed a way to become more efficient with their time, capital and labour. They needed to continue to deliver power safely and reliably, but to also meet their financial commitments. TransAlta needed to create a business application that would be capable of, at its most simple, calculating the revenue opportunity against the cost of deployment. But, it wanted more than that. The ideal would be an app that could take more variables into account, that would keep data secure and would work cross-platform on all devices. The problem is that the solution required heavy coding, which meant an expensive and time-consuming project before the company could see any return.

The Decision-Making Power of PowerApps

PowerApps allowed TransAlta to build a quick yet effective solution to its problem. And, what that meant was that it could quickly see whether it would yield the expected return. PowerApps enabled the company to build a bespoke internal resource planning and decision validation app.

The app, called Economic Callouts, was able to calculate the cost of sending out immediate response service calls to justify their economic validity. However, the app actually went a lot deeper than calculating costs and hours required for repairs. Using API apps through Azure App Service, over ten different data sources were used to determine viability. This included labour costs and price forecasts but also market predictions and  average times required for repairs.

The app was both simple to build and simple to use. When a user opens the app, they have to fill out certain variables, such as location, number of turbines and fault code. The app then generates the action to be taken based on real-time data. With this information, the user knows how to resolve the problem, how long it will take, the number of technicians required, and the optimum time for dispatch. What’s more, by creating an audit trail on SharePoint, decisions can be used to create more accurate market forecasts, giving further confidence to the decision-making process.

The Benefits of Using PowerApps

The Economic Callouts project had an immediate impact on TransAlta’s business and the way it delivers its services. They managed to solve the business  problem at hand and did so at a fraction of the usual cost. Now they have an organisation that can automate insights as well as transactions, using real-time data from many sources to create actionable decision-making power.

By adopting PowerApps as its business partner, TransAlta has managed to create:

  • An intuitive platform – the company didn’t need to worry about the complexity of managing all of its data sources. Instead, PowerApps has enabled them to focus on solving the problem at hand, ensuring every data source, whether in the cloud or on-premises, was pulled in to deliver optimum value.

  • A secure solution – by leveraging Azure Active Directory, TransAlta was able to create a secure solution that didn’t at any time compromise their security standards.

  • Instant return on investment – without engaging a large, costly team, the company managed to create the app at a fraction of the cost, make huge savings from unnecessary callouts, and pay for the build and implementation in just two weeks.

  • Ongoing return on investment – the instant return is just the beginning. As the app continues to run, the net benefit continues to deliver.

  • Improved market forecasting – by using PowerApps to create an audit trail on SharePoint Online, all of the decisions are recorded and reports automatically generated for manager review. As a result market forecasting can be improved and operator decisions reinforced

Since the success of the wind power resourcing app, other TransAlta business groups have started using the platform.

How Could PowerApps Help your Business?

If you need to solve a business problem with an application but need a fast and cost-effective solution, traditional development methods are likely to fall short. By turning to PowerApps you have the opportunity to create any number of apps, such as the decision support tool that has proven so successful to TransAlta. And, the apps you create will be able to work with all of your data sources, across all platforms and devices, and you won’t need a pro development team to get them off the ground. With PowerApps you can hit the ground running and see a return almost immediately.

To summarise, here are the challenges, the solution and the benefits that Virgin Atlantic experienced:

  • Challenges – TransAlta needed to become more efficient with its time, capital and labour. To do this they needed to build a business application that would help them make economic decisions regarding repair team callouts to their wind energy assets. However, they needed a solution more quickly and cost-effectively than traditional development methods would allow. Every solution they found needed heavy coding, which wasn’t a justifiable expense.

  • Solution – with PowerApps, TransAlta was able to build a quick and effective solution to the problem. The bespoke internal resource planning and decision validation app, Economic Callouts, was able to calculate the cost of sending out immediate response service calls and confirm economic validity.

  • Results – the app is able to pull data from over ten different sources to increase the accuracy of decision making, and, as results are recorded on SharePoint, more accurate market forecasts are produced. With PowerApps, the company was able to automate insights as well as transactions, using real-time data and create actionable decisions. The app had an immediate effect on business operations and an almost immediate return on investment.

https://customers.microsoft.com/en-us/story/multi-national-energy-company-uses-powerapps-to-create-a-decision-validation-tool

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About the author

Drew Alexander is the Co-CEO of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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