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9/8/2006
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Constellation Energy Uses IT To Get Employees Working Together And More Productively

Standardized collaboration tools, wireless networks, and a companywide portal bring utility's four divisions closer together, saving time and money.

When Beth Perlman joined Constellation Energy as its CIO in 2002, employees of the company's four major divisions didn't do much communicating. "It was like four separate companies that never talked," she says.

Perlman herself had offices in two buildings, two Windows 95-based PCs that couldn't access the other's e-mail, and a BlackBerry that couldn't sync with them. Constellation Energy began standardizing its 10,000 employees' desktops in 2004, but that still didn't solve a lot of its information-sharing problems.

"I got sick of seeing people e-mail these enormous documents" because there was no other way to electronically share ideas and information, Perlman says. It was hard to track versions of documents, such as when staff in different parts of the company needed to provide data for analyst presentations, she says.

What a difference a year makes. Constellation Energy in the past year has rolled out a suite of standardized, common collaboration tools throughout the company, installed wireless networks at 22 of its campuses, and redesigned its myConstellation intranet portal.

The company's "Connect. Interact. Transform." initiative already has tremendously boosted productivity and collaboration. "It was a very quick ROI," Perlman says. A big part of the payback has come from an enterprise software license with Microsoft that Perlman says costs "a few hundred thousand dollars," which, along with the redesigned intranet portal, has contributed significantly to Constellation Energy's $90 million in pretax productivity savings in 2005.

Everyone's Interacting

Constellation Energy, which garnered the 73rd spot on this year's InformationWeek 500, generated revenue of $17.1 billion last year from four major businesses--a Baltimore utility, providing gas and electricity to residential customers; a trading commodities group; a generator group; and an industrial power provider in the unregulated competitive market.

As part of the "Connect. Interact. Transform." initiative, Perlman's IT organization deployed Microsoft Live Meeting Web conferencing software; SharePoint, an information-sharing and document collaboration tool; and Windows Messenger instant messaging. To date, Live Meeting has had the biggest impact on productivity across the company, Perlman says. More than 10,000 hours of meetings were logged last year, saving the company $41 per attendee in expenses and gaining an average of 98 minutes in productivity per employee, she says.

Now, instead of traveling to central offices for training, employees can take classes via their PCs or at kiosks with portal access that are set up in Constellation Energy's service cen-ters for the company's 2,500 field, utility, and other workers who don't have PCs.

Through Live Meeting, everyone can see the same information at the same time, Perlman says, including PowerPoint presentations. The IT organization has found this incredibly useful in its own work. "During a meeting, IT staff can look at changes to code in a program and all see the same thing," she says.

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"We thought only a few people would use SharePoint, but now it's being used by everyone. It's really ballooned," she says. SharePoint provides a central location for documents, such as Word and Excel files, to be viewed and changed. Sharepoint also provides version control.

SharePoint's deployment has allowed Kevin Hadlock, Constellation Energy's director of investor relations, to spend more time analyzing data for the company's earnings releases and analyst presentations, and hundreds of fewer hours collecting the paperwork that goes into those presentations from the company's four divisions. A presentation often was revised 30 to 50 times before all changes were manually made in the final version. With SharePoint, all the information is collected electronically.

Approximately 30 people from all divisions and areas of the company have "write" access to make changes that are tracked, and another 100, including the company's senior executives, legal team, and corporate communications department, can review presentations.

"I always know what changes have been made," says Hadlock, who says the final presentation material was completed at least one week earlier than in the past, and "the quality and accuracy of the information is greatly improved."

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