Amping up reporting
with fit-for-purpose software
Hydro One is the largest electricity transmission and distribution service provider in Ontario, Canada. They distribute electricity across Ontario to nearly 1.5 million customers (approximately 26% of the total number of customers in Ontario). Hydro One owns and operates transmission assets on 23 First Nations reserves and provides distribution services directly to 88 First Nations communities.
Using Borealis since: 2018 (5+ years)
Teams Using Borealis: Indigenous Relations, Environmental Programs & Approvals, Customer Care, Community Relations
In order to deliver service to their clients, Hydro One needs to install and maintain a series of transmission lines.
As part of the permitting process, the government of Ontario requires that organizations prepare Environmental Assessments (EAs) to ensure that they have considered potential environmental impacts before construction begins.
Additionally, since these projects affect Indigenous lands, the organization has a responsibility to consult with the communities that would be impacted.
The Indigenous Relations team must prepare a record of consultation to prove that rights holders have been properly informed about a project, their concerns have been heard, and that all parties have come to a satisfactory agreement. This record must be accompanied by supporting documentation.
Beyond these legal obligations, Hydro One’s Values and Guiding Principles underscore their pledge to partner with Indigenous communities transparently and respectfully, and to advance meaningful economic Reconciliation. and that all parties have come to a satisfactory agreement. This record must be accompanied by supporting documentation.
- Reporting: With no single source of truth, finding complete and accurate information took considerable time and effort; reporting was incredibly time-consuming – not to mention stressful.
- Respecting commitments: There was no effective way to track commitments and ensure that promises were kept.
- Collaboration: Because different versions of project spreadsheets were circulating, it was very difficult to work collaboratively with other teams or maintain a global view of the project.
- Consistent approach: Teams were spread across three different regions in the province, and processes and terminology differed from one to the next.
With three major Environmental Assessments coming due, the organization recognized the need to manage data more efficiently and prioritized finding the right tool to support their work.
Hydro One decided to implement a single, shared system to centralize and structure project data and ensure that all teams had access to complete, up-to-date information. They evaluated several options, and ultimately chose Borealis Stakeholder Engagement software.
Since implementing Borealis:
- Data is centralized in a single location. Everyone on the team has access to complete, accurate, up-to-date information. This improves collaboration and helps teams make informed decisions.
- Interactions are well documented, accessible, and easy to report on, which results in greater efficiency and less stress.
- Commitments are carefully tracked and delivered, ensuring accountability.
- Teams work more efficiently, saving time and money.
- Processes have been streamlined around the tool, allowing teams to work more strategically.
Creating a solid record of consultation
Hydro One uses Borealis to capture and document their consultation work, including feedback and concerns from affected communities.
A record of consultation is one of the main elements required in the Environmental Assessment process. The record must be thorough and well documented to ensure that it can stand up to scrutiny. For example, if the adequacy of their consultation is challenged, Hydro One can use the interactions documented in Borealis to show how they have communicated their plans to the public, to appropriate agencies, and to Indigenous communities. Borealis also helps them plan these engagements and manage the supporting documentation they need to secure project approvals.
Building better relationships with communities
In addition to helping Hydro One meet reporting requirements, carefully documenting their consultation work helps the engagement team build trust with Indigenous rights holders. It’s clear that everyone on the team is informed about issues that are important to the community, and that they are listening, documenting, and addressing the feedback they receive. This demonstrates respect for the community and shows them that Hydro One takes their concerns seriously.
Improving visibility between teams
Centralizing project data helps everyone understand how other teams are interacting with the communities, and plan their engagements accordingly. For example, when Erika needs to consult with a specific group of rights holders, she can see all of her colleagues’ correspondence with those individuals, whether it pertains to Indigenous consultation, environmental correspondence, or customer care.
Ensuring that teams follow up on commitments
Because accountability is so important to maintaining good relationships, Hydro One wants to ensure that they always follow through on commitments. Borealis makes it easy to track commitments and schedule tasks and notifications to ensure timely follow-ups.
Monitoring and measuring progress
Tracking these events under an Engagement Plan helps teams evaluate the outcomes of these efforts – for example, they can monitor attendance to evaluate interest. Did more people attend the first open house or the third? Is the number of participants fairly consistent, or is it increasing or decreasing? Are the same people are attending each event, or is the audience different every time? What issues are raised, and how often do they come up? With these insights, teams can adjust their approach as needed.
Communicating efficiently with groups of stakeholders
Public engagement is one of the main requirements for the Environmental Assessment process. From time to time, Hydro One’s Community Relations team needs to send a message to a lot of recipients at once, such as people within a designated study area, or along a specific corridor. To simplify the process, they use the Smart Communications feature in Borealis to send customized letters and emails to the people involved.
These messages are automatically saved in the corresponding stakeholder records. Smart Communications help the team reach the right people quickly and efficiently, rather than reaching out to each individual separately. When these messages are sent by email, the team can easily monitor which emails have been opened, and how many times. This feedback helps the Community Relations team gauge the success of their outreach efforts.
Limiting unnecessary access to sensitive data
Centralizing project data in a single location is helpful for many reasons, The feature allows organizations to restrict access to sensitive information on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. Hydro One uses the Team Data Segregation feature in Borealis to control which information users can see, view, or change – which is particularly helpful when they need to outsource work to external consulting teams.
Looking beyond the software
Hydro One recognized the importance of finding the right tool to support their work, but they didn’t stop there. Working with a shared database gave the organization a chance to review and streamline their procedures around the tool in order to get the greatest possible value from their investment.
integrating the tool
Borealis is a flexible platform, so Erika, Paul and other team leaders worked to decide how to best integrate the tool for their teams’ daily work, both inside the software and out.
Within the software, they helped determine how to configure Borealis to support Hydro One’s business practices and terminology; for example, identifying subject categories to classify interactions, building reports to track meaningful KPIs, defining appropriate user permissions, and more.
Outside of Borealis, they took time to establish robust standards and guidelines to help their teams use the tool consistently. They made sure that everyone understood that the quality and integrity of their data is up to all users being good information stewards who are diligent in using the system. This effort was pivotal to ensuring wide system adoption across the organization, and makes it much easier to onboard new team members. (Their Indigenous Relations team alone has grown from 8 people to 22 since they began using Borealis.)
Standardizing practices across the organization
As they reviewed their procedures, Hydro One noticed some regional differences in consultation practices, and took the opportunity to standardize their approach.
The team also developed a number of guides to ensure that everyone was using the same language when writing summaries, particularly those that would be included in the record of consultation – a publicly available document that is reviewed by regulatory agencies.
Working more proactively
Now that everyone has access to complete, up-to-the-moment data, teams regularly check in to review the record. This has greatly simplified the work required to complete their Environmental Assessments.
Incredible customer support
Implementing new software can be a big undertaking, but Borealis has accompanied Hydro One every step of the way. Their customer care advisor has been incredibly helpful, providing support and guidance to help the team succeed.
Hydro One recognized a need to improve their data management practices to better support the volume and complexity of their work. They chose Borealis, a modern, fit-for-purpose stakeholder relationship management system (SRM), and to ensure their success, teams worked to refine and streamline their procedures around this central tool. Their hard work has paid off! Teams can now work more efficiently, manage data more effectively, and build better relationships with stakeholders and Indigenous communities.
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