Essential Energy – Use of systematised workflows to embed AM processes


Essential Energy embarked on an innovative journey to develop systematised workflows that guide staff through the investment planning lifecycle. This includes traversing 17 business process stages, 7 of them being decision gates. Workflows were designed to manage handover between teams, control the pipeline and portfolio, and obtain financial and technical approval. The workflow design approach provides a singular robust approach for workflow development and enhancement. The development of workflows has delivered efficiencies and provided benefits for teams that work across the investment pipeline lifecycle. This innovation has ensured that investment governance processes are followed and embraced by the business.



The investment planning process is a critical component of any asset-intensive organisation. It involves a range of activities that cover ideation, short-term planning, long-term planning and execution. Essential Energy, one of Australia’s largest electricity distribution network operators, recognises the importance of a well-designed investment planning system to support its business operations. The organisation has implemented a single system that spans the entire investment pipeline process from ideation to construction and project closure. This integrated system, together with the value framework, has enabled Essential Energy to improve its resource planning and ensure a balanced flow of work across teams, leading to more efficient investment decisions and better business outcomes.

The end-to-end investment pipeline process at Essential Energy includes several stages, such as the identification of business needs, the development of investment proposals, the optimisation of investments, and the delivery of projects. The system provides a centralised platform for managing investment information and enables collaboration across multiple teams involved in the investment lifecycle. A key component to the success of this process is the use of workflows that facilitate the use of the system including following investment lifecycle process, financial and technical approvals, handover between teams and the automation of information capture. This paper explores the development of Essential Energy’s investment planning system workflows, outlining the development approach, considerations and benefits. The paper also provides insights into the implementation process and the lessons learned during the implementation phase.

Investment Planning Lifecycle

There are three key areas to the investment planning lifecycle:

  • The process steps
  • Handovers between teams and stakeholders
  • Investment governance

Essential Energy’s investment planning lifecycle (illustrated in the image below) has fifteen forward directional business processes and two backward business processes that “reset” an investment. This lifecycle covers creation, valuation, optimisation, design, estimation, construction and closure.

There are many groups that support the investment planning lifecycle including Network Planning, Portfolio Services, Design and Estimation. When one team finishes their role in the lifecycle, there is a handover to the next team. The co-ordination of these handovers are critical to ensure an efficient and functional process for each investment.

Governing the investment planning lifecycle is the Investment Governance Framework which has seven approval/decision gates which are required before transition to the sequential process. The governance is a mix of delegated financial approval (dependent on investment complexity and cost) and technical approval which differs based on the type of investment and the assets involved.

These key areas typically involve multiple teams using a non-systemised approach such as email and phone calls. To make matters more complicated, there are slight variations to process and stakeholders depending on investment and asset types. When changes to structure or process are made, this information needs to be cascaded to the hundreds of people involved to ensure the process, governance and handovers are all followed.

The reliance on human dynamics and paper based mechanics to support the investment planning process was not sustainable. Therefore, Essential Energy moved to automate as much of process, handovers and governance as possible through the use of systemised workflows.

Workflow Development Approach

Before commencing development of the workflows, Essential Energy set some guiding principles. Workflows must:

  • Be simple for the end user to use
  • Be updatable and maintainable
  • Control the backwards and forward flow of the investment pipeline without manual intervention
  • Have an auditable history of approvals and changes to the investment

Further to developing the guiding principles, the existing investment planning lifecycle processes were documented and published. This formed the basis of workflow creation, identifying the handover points and process automation opportunities. Using both these artefacts, the workflows were drafted holistically, to ensure they functioned as a system, not just individual workflows.

Essential Energy designed a common structure that each workflow followed, these are listed below including some of the key developments in each structure.

Benefits Realisation

There have been various benefits realised through the implementation of these workflows. The overarching benefit comes from the systemising of a governance process that makes life easier for users, rather than making things more administratively burdensome. In this way, the Essential Energy staff are incentivised to follow the governance process as the workflows have made it easy for them to do so. This has the following associated benefits:

  • Consistency of information. Due to the prescriptive nature of the workflows, the type of information captured against investments is consistent. This enables easy investment comparison and filtering using investment metadata. Additionally, this ensures that investment reports (system generated) are consistent in format, streamlining the investment governance review process.
  • Approval control. Appropriate financial and technical approval is a crucial part of the investment governance process. The implementation of workflows ensures that the right authority reviews each investment at the appropriate point in the investment lifecycle.
  • Enhanced visibility. Having all investments and investment information in a single system gives visibility of the entire investment lifecycle to the business. This ease of access reduces wasted administrative time and delivers better information in a timelier manner for decision makers.
  • Time saving. The development of workflows allowed for the automation of some investment information to be populated by the system. Additionally, an investment summary report was also developed that is generated through one of the workflows, removing the need for investment owners to manually export the information. This not only saves time for investment owners, but also the frustration associated with administrative burden.

Overall, the development of workflows has delivered efficiencies and provided benefits for teams that work across the investment pipeline. Here’s what our teams had to say:


Essential Energy developed and designed the entire workflow approach with its own intellectual knowledge through creation of a transformation funded project. Essential Energy is using the Copperleaf system, a decision analytics solution, to construct, maintain, action and report on workflows.

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