Friday, December 11, 2015

Business Process Analyst

The Business Process Analyst (BPA) acts as a committed and valuable team member and helps improve operational efficiency and by investigating, documenting, analyzing and making recommendations to improve business processes across a company or institution. The position acts as a liaison between business units and information technology and plays a key role in driving projects to streamline and automate business processes. The role includes identifying the current state of processes; eliciting their useful and harmful attributes; documenting models of the processes; and facilitating stakeholder groups to consensus regarding new business process designs. The BPA will get involved in the following:
  • Managing process change
  • Leading / Participating in process redesign workshops
  • Educating business users responsible for managing and operating business processes
  • Monitoring, measuring and providing feedback on process performance
  • Facilitating process workshops that involve eliciting process requirements and liaising with users
  • Applying their knowledge of business process modelling notations to documenting processes.
Business Process Analyst must be able to see the big picture, understand project objectives and be able to apply their understanding of how processes should work to operational improvement initiatives. In a typical day, the BPA will do the following:
  • Interview process participants to understand exactly how their processes work. It is possible to interview two people and get different descriptions of the same process. A BPA’s job is to clear the confusion by eliciting information on how the processes actually work before documenting their definition and attributes.
  • Document process information using visual diagrams in the form of business process models (using the Business Process Management Notation or the Flowchart Notation).
  • Analyze process models as they are (As-is), compare them to the future and improved designs (To-be) and determine the necessary changes for arriving at the improved state.
  • Design business processes (To-be) and manage any subsequent changes to them.
  • Identify, document and analyze business rules that govern the implementation of business processes.
  • Write Business Process Management System (BPMS) specifications to be used by the developers for process automation.
  • Test and execute processes using the BPMS to ensure that the right results are achieved. 
  • Examine processes holistically to understand the impact of changing them on people, strategy, systems and general business operations.
  • Collate feedback on process performance. The collected data forms the basis of future process improvement projects.
  • Monitor and measure the effectiveness of processes to ensure consistent value delivery. 
SUPERVISORY DUTIES  None

FLSA STATUS    Exempt

ESSENTIAL JOB DUTIES
The BPA shall work as part of a larger project team, under the direction of an assigned Project Manager, to provide the following business analysis services:
  • Meeting management, including performing and participating in client interviews, preparing meeting materials, and documenting meeting results. 
  • Facilitating and participating in workshops and business process analysis meetings. 
  • Documenting business processes and system requirements. 
  • Writing reports and technical memoranda. 
  • Performing data analysis in support of project reporting and metrics management.
To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. Reasonable accommodations will be made to enable qualified individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS REQUIREMENT
  • Knowledge of operations, services, and activities in the public administration / water sector. Knowledge of principles and practices of public administration.
  • Ability to analyze and make sound recommendations on complex management issues; understand, interpret, explain and apply federal, state, and local policy, law, regulations.
  • Ability to prepare clear, concise, and comprehensive correspondence, reports, studies and other written materials; make effective oral presentations; and exercise sound, expert, independent judgment within general policy guidelines.
  • Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships.
EDUCATION REQUIREMENT  
A Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Engineering, or a related field from an accredited college or university.  A Master’s Degree is desired but not required.

EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENT
Two to five years of increasingly responsible professional experience and understanding of City/Water Agency organizations. Experience in the design and construction of water/wastewater desired but not required. Ability to read, write, speak and comprehend English.

LICENSE REQUIREMENT  
Possession of a valid California Class C Driver’s License. Failure to maintain a valid California Driver's License constitutes a possible cause for termination.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL DEMANDS
PHYSICAL DEMANDS
While performing the duties of this position, an employee is regularly required to sit, stand and walk; talk or hear, in person, in meetings and by telephone; use hands and fingers to handle, feel or operate standard office equipment. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close and distance vision and the ability to adjust focus.
MENTAL DEMANDS
While performing the duties of this position, the employee is regularly required to use written and oral communication skills; read and interpret complex data, information and documents; analyze and solve problems; observe and interpret people and situations; use math and mathematical reasoning; learn and apply new information or skills; perform highly detailed work on multiple, concurrent tasks with constant interruptions; work under intensive deadlines and interact with other managers, government officials, employees, and other team members.

WORK ENVIRONMENT 
The employee works under typical office conditions.  The noise level in the office environment is usually quiet.

RIGHT TO WORK REQUIREMENT
Must be a United States citizen or possess qualified alien status. Documentation of eligibility to work in U.S. will be required as a condition of employment.

Proteus Consulting does not discriminate against any applicant for employment on the basis of age, race, color, sex, ancestry, national origin, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, sexual identity, religion, military status, medical condition, mental disability, or physical disability.
The list of essential job duties contained in this job description is not exhaustive, and may be supplemented as necessary. This position performs other related duties as assigned, some of which may become essential to the position.
Any offer of employment for this position is contingent upon receipt of acceptable results from a background investigation.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Executive Assistant

PROTEUS Consulting is looking for a part-time executive assistant with proficiency in QuickBooks. Start with 8 hours a week and can go up to 20 hours per week or more. Any day, Monday through Friday. Flexible schedule. $15/hour.

Duties
  • Scan various RFP and Grant sites and itemize potential pursuits, download RFPs / grants
  • Prepare Proposals, some very detailed
  • Update Resumes monthly
  • Update Statement of Qualifications, monthly
  • Write Press Releases, respond to media enquiries
  • Prepare Presentations
  • Update Blogs, with content defined by CEO
  • Create Newsletters
  • Develop and maintain contacts database
  • Keep all company certifications updated and ready
  • Prepare CEO’s monthly Expense Reports
  • QuickBooks
    • Issue monthly invoices to clients
    • Reconcile bank and credit card accounts
    • Generate various reports
    • Handle Accounts Payable
  • Issue W-9s and keep track of subcontractors
  • Keep office organized, filing, labeling, project documentation
  • Transcribe dictation / convert recorded conversation to meeting minutes
  • Manage corporate Social Media pages
  • Additional project level duties such as basic calculations and analysis, based on skill level and interest
  • Graphic skills, ability to create podcasts/videos, a bonus
Possibility of additional responsibilities for the right person, who has the ability, skill set, and desire.

Requirements
  • Someone we can TRUST
  • Proficient in Quickbooks
  • Pleasant, positive attitude
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Interest to learn and contribute
  • Good in English grammar, sentence construction, articulation
  • Good organization skills and attention to details
  • Neat and Efficient 
  • Ability to research information and construct reports
  • Have an eye for improvement, new ideas
  • Interest in science, engineering, and all things Water
  • Competency in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and other software
  • OK with dogs
This is an excellent opportunity to start small and grow into a great career. PROTEUS Consulting is a start-up and no roles here are rigid and binding. There is tremendous flexibility and we are open to new and innovative ideas. We thrive on energy and versatility. For more about our company check out our website, our CEO, and our Blog.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

So you want to Build a Business?

Proteus will be turning three this October. I am very happy to report that we have seen steady development. Our backlog looks good and we have few repeat clients. Water+Energy initiative has really taken off, with the energy sector now very engaged  and excited about the next frontier in Water-Energy Nexus. Proteus is also working on launching two new software in the coming months. Talks are underway on the design and development of a web-based Water Audit database system for Commercial, Institutional, and Industrial sectors. This will be great fun!

Today's post however relates to Entrepreneurship. I mentor several start-ups as well as established businesses who are looking to enter the water world. Most come to me for sector specific knowledge, but I also find myself coaching them on business development, and more specifically CEO development. I prefer to talk directly with the CEO, and when I do I check for the following traits:


  • Clarity of Vision
  • Incurable Optimism
  • Limitless Curiosity
  • Abounding Creativity
  • Loving Risk and Taking Action
  • Tenacious and Persistent
  • Adept Communicator
  • Leadership Intelligence
  • Work Hard/Play Hard


  • CEOs represent the company and I have found that if they don't exemplify the above mentioned traits, it is very difficult for the company to survive let alone flourish. If any of these traits are lacking, it will drive the company towards mediocrity, and often times failure.

    For example, few CEOs just rattle off the product/service description when asked what does their company do. This is unfortunate in so many ways. It shows that there is lack of Vision and ability to Communicate, and sub-par Leadership skills. If they cannot tell me what the company does, how will they make the customer happy, and then how will they keep their workers inspired? I coach some of them to start working on the WHY of their business, and it is often a 'change the world' story. That is the crux of why the business will grow, customers will love it, and people would want to come work for them.

    I also look for the CEO's diversity plans, and answer to "what next?" I want them to relate to me their road-map for the next few years. No, I do not need the numbers and a leather bound business plan with pretty bar charts for every future product. But the CEO should demonstrate foresight, once he has the market, what will he do next? How will he remain competitive? Where are the gaps in his industry, how will he produce product / service to fill those gaps? How will he branch out?

    Successful entrepreneurs are always asking questions. I find them asking me more questions than we have time for. Along with the questions they ask, I see their eyes light up, I find them connecting dots and ideas springing in their head and new concepts flow. They start finding new pastures, define new work products. Curiosity and Creativity combine.

    Living with risk is an amazing trait. These CEOs are willing to stand at the edge with faith in their offering. There are too many armchair prospectors out there, who sit and discuss ideas but do not have the courage to get up and make it work. I also find many such people stressing out about whether to go for a corporation or LLC, where to incorporate, how to get VC money right away, etc. These people usually don't end up having a successful business, they are too risk adverse. They are not willing to go out on the limb for the sake of their ideas, they are too attached to a steady paycheck and cannot accept a 50-70% cut and live on Ramen noodles. You did that in school, so why can't you do it again for a few years? Why do you need the extravagant lifestyle? You can't play it safe. You have to take risk, yes smart risk, but none the less, you have to be able to risk a lot to gain a lot.

    Last but not the least trait of a successful entrepreneur is their ability to switch on and off. When they work hard, they put their all into it, nothing held back - sleepless nights working towards a sale, relentless pursuit of quality deliverable, attention to details, no attention to personal grooming / eating (Ramen), ... Then, when the deliverable is done, they switch off for real, and get back to the world, reconnect, hang out with friends and get a refill on nutrition and emotion.

    This has been my experience, both as an entrepreneur myself, and working with others in this realm.

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    SmartOperations is the Future

    Last week at CWEA Annual Conference, I had some very interesting conversations with leaders of our industry about the future. Here is a gist of my perceptions that I shared liberally with everyone.

    The Future of the Water Industry, at least for the next two decades, will be all about Smart Operations. Over the last hundred years, Engineering was leading the show. This was because we needed to invent processes and technologies that can clean water from rivers, lakes, and oceans to make them palatable and safe for human consumption. Once that water has been through the 'human system', we also worked on technologies that will clean the water to a sufficient level safe for reintroduction into nature. We are there; we have figured out the basic engineering technologies that can effectively produce clean water. Yes, there are still some frontiers to conquer, such as trace organics and pharmaceuticals, but engineering on those frontiers will unlikely yield a 'breakthrough' and will most likely have diminishing returns. I am not advocating that engineers and scientists should not spend time on those peripheral problems, it is just that the industry will shift towards effective implementation of what is already there. Operations will take primacy over Engineering.

    This is a major shift for the industry, you can compare it to the way water bodies turnover during change of seasons. All major institutions in the water world is currently dominated by engineers, be it the EPA, the major trade associations like AWWA,WEF, WateReuse, the regulatory agencies, the agency leadership, etc. Engineering consulting firms also dominate the direction that the industry takes. But this is changing and this transformation will get faster by the day. Engineering consulting firms are already facing the choice of just becoming Planning firms or to become Design-Build focused companies. Planning firms will develop program level plans and when needed work on 30% design of facilities. Treatment plants of the future will be more equipment driven and packaged than custom designed (as they are now). Design-Build firms will be led by construction managers and engineers will assist them to take those 30% designs to fruition. For engineers, the choice is to quickly adapt to this new model or perish.

    Smart Operations will mean redesigning the water and wastewater agencies as businesses and focus on continuous optimization. Most water agencies currently react to water demand and supply stresses and wastewater agencies believe that they exist to maintain regulatory compliance only. Water agencies of the future will get ahead of the supply-demand race and work to control both the issues. On the supply side, focus will be on reliability investments, water grids will become smart grids just like the electricity grid with infusion of software and sensors, and the demand side will see an increased management effort. Wastewater agencies will reinvent themselves to be factories with three designer products to sell - clean water, nutrient rich fertilizer, and electricity. The technologies to get there is already available, the only limiting ingredient is the foresight and confidence of the operations managers.

    Water SmartOperations
    (C) PROTEUS Consulting
    To make this happen, PROTEUS Consulting is working on building bridges between the Water sector and other sectors - Energy, Information Technology, Economics/Finance, and Communications. Before the end of this year you will see Energy and Water Sectors forging new paths, where water sector will act as flexible loads to help balance the grid and in turn get to access a new revenue stream independent of water sales. Software will play a very important role in SmartOperations with business intelligence, knowledge management, gamification, text analytics, data mining, learning networks, etc. taking the center stage. PROTEUS expects to usher the growth of software solutions for the water industry and we will also champion the use of open source code to enable the maximum benefit to these publicly owned and operated water and wastewater agencies. Economics within the water agencies and financing of infrastructure projects will change. Water trading networks, real-time value chain operations, infusion of private equity, are a few initiatives PROTEUS is working on. As for communications, gone are the days when the water industry was churning out calendars with 'save water' sketches, you will find art, literature, theater, cinema, games, and mobile apps flowing all around you. Stay tuned!

    Thursday, April 18, 2013

    Water+Energy Presentation at CWEA Annual Conference 2013, Palm Springs

    It was a very good turnout at the CWEA Annual Conference this morning. We talked about the next frontier in Water and Energy Nexus. The reception was very positive. Some people who could not attend my talk caught hold of me in the corridor/hall and wanted to connect and learn about with Proteus' Water+Energy work. I could not have asked for more!

    The ideas we present here are new and refreshing. The concept of flexible load on the grid is not in the mainstream, but it will soon become a reality. Discussions are ongoing at the CEC level on how to prepare for the future grid when renewables will change the peak load profile. Water industry stands ready to meet the challenge, to act as a flexible load!

    video

    The plan forward is to get pilots going for flexible loads using treatment plants and pipeline networks in all three IOU territories by spring next year. Once the concept is proven, the work will commence on pricing and program development. As the water industry amounts to 20 - 45% of California's total energy use, that is a lot of load that can act as a flexible load on the grid. Welcome to the future!

    Wednesday, January 9, 2013

    Text Analytics for the Water Industry

    Knowledge management in the Water Industry is archaic, that is if it at all exists. Since the turn of the century there has been dire doomsday predictions of mass retirement of water professionals with 20 to 30+ years of systems knowledge. With the economic slowdown and its effect on public retirement funds, most of those professionals held on to their jobs and now we are seeing the exodus happening. Many water managers are concerned. As their staff retires, they leave with the institutional knowledge and that is quite scary. After all there is no structured method of information capture.
    Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    Most of our industry's Operational Intelligence lies unstructured in text-rich data. This data resides in emails, text messages, alerts, notes, chats, reports, and documents (word, excel, powerpoint, database,) etc.  Currently all this data, and hence information, sits virtually unanalyzed and unused. Much of this information  has the potential to deliver operational insights that can be used to make informed smarter decisions in the future.

    Text analytics has made great progress in the last decade. Deep language processing capabilities such as summarization, multi-faceted search, and sentiment analysis is mainstream now. Technology is readily available to gather, store, filter, and mine textual information for hidden signals and patterns, trends, and anomalies. And most of this is open-source technology, just the kind of 'fit' public agencies look for.

    At PROTEUS, we are working on Text Analytics. With new tools available to handle big data, we can now get access to this unprecedented amount of data and extract value. We no longer have to rely only on models (hydraulic or process) and SCADA information to understand and draw conclusions about our system operations, we can now tap into  a mountain of unstructured and unused complex data and derive insight that can boost our system performance like never before.

    PROTEUS model of Operational Intelligence

    We believe that once our water clients can crack the code on this cross-enterprise textual data, they will see a significant improvement in operations. Asking the right questions will make all the difference. The more specific and focused the questions can be, the better results can be achieved.

    Water managers do not need to do another 'master plan' and set about searching for the data to feed the Analytics engine.  They already have the components to start generating these insights. They can start with existing documents, even with just the organization's email and folders on the server. While every organization is different, we can assure you that results can be seen within just a few months of getting started.

    To learn more about how to get the water industry's text analytics initiative underway, on to Smart Operations Intelligence, please contact us at www.consult-proteus.com.

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    Innovation Mentoring by Proteus


    In the recent WBT2012, 110 companies gave six minute presentations showcasing emerging technologies representing a variety of industry sectors ranging cleantech to medical device, to software and advanced materials. These companies include university spin-outs, startups, market ready university and federal lab innovations. Most of these companies had been funded by the founders and their family, angel funds, venture capital, state and federal grants; and through the exposure at WBT, they were seeking angel capital, venture capital (including seed and early stage), exclusive and non-exclusive licensing partners, co-sponsored research partners, corporate strategic partners.

    Five of those teams were mentored by Proteus Consulting. They were:

    We also sat through dress rehearsals for six other presenters. Through the mentoring process we helped these companies to hone their presentations to make the maximum impact and gain recognition. Every company has their challenges, be it funding, communication, presentation skills or others. We helped them to stay on message and connect with the audience. 


    It was great to see that mentees present during the conference with confidence. And we are VERY HAPPY to announce that one of the above mentioned teams, Groundmetrics, won the Runners Up award!

    Sunday, October 28, 2012

    55,000+ water agencies in the US, and....??

    United States is approximately 3,718,691 square miles in size, and has a population of 314,661,000 (mid 2012 estimate). To manage this, we have 55,000+ water agencies. I am not including wastewater agencies here. In several places, we have combined water and wastewater agencies, but in many places it is not so.

    In San Diego county,  we have 4,525.52 square miles and a population of 3,095,313 (2010 census). To manage this, we have 24 water agencies and the San Diego Water Authority to oversee the region.

    (In comparison, there are only a few dozen power utilities in the US, and only one that operates in San Diego.)

    Let's do the simple math:
    A typical US water agency manages about 67.6 square miles, and 5,721 people.
    A typical water agency in San Diego manages about 188.5 square miles, and 128,971 people.

    Yes, the simple math does not really do justice to the numbers. There are many agencies covering large swaths of land and support very small population, and vice-versa. But the underlying question is do these water agencies currently operate at their best efficiency point and giving the best value to their customers?
    We are talking about efficient resource distribution, limited water loss, optimization of labor, connect with customers so that they understand and appreciate the impact of water usage patterns. And we all know that the answer is No. All these agencies get an A or B for effort, but about a D or lower for results.

    So, what are the Solutions?

    Everyone will jump up and down and say Innovation! (It's an over used buzz word these days.) Yes, innovation is the answer, but it comes in different forms. Just finding new treatment technologies is not enough. Unfortunately, water agencies currently define innovation = better water treatment methods. Innovation has to touch every aspect of the Water Industry, inside out. As a first step, there are four sectors where these agencies need to focus on:


    Energy - Apart from working on energy efficiency projects (i.e. change the light bulbs, buy efficiency motors,etc.), the agencies need to focus on operating the systems with dynamic real-time optimization. More details on the concept can be found here. The result of this will not only be energy savings but also additional revenue that can then be applied back towards system improvements.

    Technology - Adopt a SMART Operations and Maintenance concept. This will include model based control, real-time forecasting, advanced sensing and monitoring, dynamic data visualization, analysis and decisions. The water agencies have a Big Data problem, all we need is to adopt the technology tools and solutions from other disciplines and adapt them to our operations.

    Economics - Change the pricing models to match supply and demand and reflect the 'real' value of water based on it's source and use. Move from the era of water development to the era of water allocation, test out the strategies and implement them. Move away from capital financing needs (historically met by Federal and State grants) to financial instruments from private sector as low-risk-low-return investment options.

    Communication - Engage with public using communication channels beyond bill-stuffers and calendars with kid's drawings. Develop relationships with community organizations without explicitly trying the 'educate' the public. Lose the word "Outreach" from all your vocabulary. Be a partner.

    For more details.

    Sunday, October 21, 2012

    World Development and Change, the Pillars and Slabs

    I am a civil engineer and much of my basic training was in structural engineering before I shifted to environmental engineering for my Masters. So I often tend to go back on analogies from my civil/ structural engineering training. Here is one of those analogies.

    I believe that as we evolve as a civilization, our knowledge of the world around us gets more pronounced. Ancient humans were able to appreciate the world around us, their theories rested on empirical observations, and many things that they predicted based of these observations are pretty set on the mark. Science and Technology is relatively new and has found the 'reason' behind many a phenomenon over the last 3000 years. We are slated for even more fascinating times ahead.

    This evolution of science and technology, I believe, has happened just like we build buildings. We lay a foundation, and then erect pillars, followed by a slab, then again pillars, followed by slabs, and so forth. For a structure to be stable, you cannot just go on building pillars, for without slabs, there will be no integrity and no use of the structure either. Slabs connect the pillars, transfer forces from one pillar to the other and ultimately to the foundation. Slabs are fundamental to the building as the pillars, they also enable people to make a home on them and live.

    In the development of science and technology, the pillars are the discipline specific R&D that leads to great breakthroughs in those disciplines. For example, in the years leading to the Renaissance, there was development going on in physics, biology, engineering, astronomy, music, painting  and many such fields. When the Renaissance period came, a slab was built. The beauty of that period was that the foremost scientists and artists of the period started mingling with each other and sharing their ideas and approaches. That era afforded the opportunity and encouraged the cross pollination. As a result, there were many breakthroughs that can be directly attributed to the fact that the physicists sat along side the painters and discussed solutions together.

    I think that we are at the threshold of another such era. We have made tremendous progress in individual fields, especially biology, IT, energy, etc. Now, it is time to share the discoveries across disciplines and cross pollinate again. The opening of the world due to the social networks make this even more easy to do. We need to build a slab that joins all the various disciplines and share the ideas and insights. This will yield a Renaissance of modern times. I sincerely believe this. And for this reason I work very diligently in the innovation space and consult with start-up companies. It does not matter if they are designing a new touchless mobile app for autistic kids to help them read books or if there is a group designing ground penetrating sensing devices to look for oil. It does not have to be linked to the Water industry, all I want is to learn about the edge ideas. This gets me thinking of novel applications in other fields, it opens up my mind to think differently and devise new ways to integrate technologies across disciplines. In that process I can identify for my start-up clients new markets, new possibilities, and have them be the defining and often disruptive technology in those markets. I enjoy this process a lot!

    Watch this space, in the next few weeks I will be showcasing my fascinating discoveries at the WBT Showcase I am attending this week.

    Wednesday, August 29, 2012

    Emerging Contaminants and Cars-going-off-the-Cliff

    "It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and THEN do your best." - W. Edwards Deming

    The topic of Emerging Contaminants came up earlier this week while discussing future of wastewater treatment plants on the US. My opinion is that we are focusing on the wrong place with regulations and our hard earned money.

    The metaphor I would like to cite here is often used but very apt and may help us understand what's happening with this issue. Consider a steady stream of cars driving towards a cliff and then plunging off into the abyss. The 'leaders' here look at this devastating situation, get all worked up and quickly decide to do something. Instead of going to the top of the cliff and diverting the traffic off the course of disaster, the 'leaders' decide to get a fleet of ambulances at the bottom of the cliff. That is exactly where the regulations related to Emerging Contaminants are headed, it is a waste of money and effort. This after-the-fact treatment rather than avoidance is really scary. Our 'leaders' have either given up rational thinking or do not think that they are leaders capable of affecting human thoughts and behavior.

    The solution is - Think Differently!
    How did Southwest Airlines make double digits profit when all the other US airlines were losing billions of dollars and shedding off thousands of jobs?
    How did Zappos build a $1+billion company that sells shoes and also 'delivers happiness'?
    How did Dr. Wiwat prevent 5 million people in Thailand from contracting HIV?

    If the cause is right and the messaging is right, people will follow. We, folks in the water industry and beyond,  have to learn to engage with our customers in a whole different level. Let's start that now!

    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    PROTEUS Redefined

    Proteus will turn two this October. It has been a very satisfying ride and the future looks so promising. We have evolved over the last year and it gives me great pleasure to share with you our plan for the future.

    PROTEUS Consulting is a boutique consulting firm with the goal to catalyze the synergy between the Water, Energy, Information, and CleanTech sectors. We exist to bring about metamorphosis.  With versatile high quality technical and management solutions we facilitate the transformation of business-as-usual to a high-energy and productive environment. We are known for our creativity and problem-solving skills, and clients appreciate the individual attention this small, flexible firm is able to provide.

    Water+Energy Level I, II, and II Energy Audits, Renewable Energy Options, System Reviews, Energy Strategic Plans, Pumping and Process Optimization, Dynamic Real-time Energy Optimization, Revenue models, Energy Contracts Management

    Water+Information IT Management Plans, Field Applications, Mobile Apps, Diagnostics, Process Mapping, Business Intelligence, Analytics, Visualization, Dashboard, Operations and Maintenance Optimization

    Water+Economics Long-Range Risk Analysis and Scenario Planning, Funding Analysis, Grant Consultation and Grant Match, Grant Research and Writing, Traditional and Non-traditional Funding Sources, Intellectual Property

    Water+Communication Print, Web, App and Media Strategy Materials, Public Outreach, Project Facilitation, Stakeholder Meetings

    Water+Engineering Research and Reports, Alternative Development, Engineering Reports, Regulatory Approvals, Preliminary and Detailed Design, Construction Plans, Specifications and Estimates, Permit Applications,Procurement, Document Control, Quality, Construction Phase services, Field Engineering, Commissioning, Handover, Compliance Management. Both Traditional and Design-Build Engineering

    Water+Innovation Strategic Business Development, Product Design,Technical Guidance, Process Engineering, System Review and Optimization, Mechanical Engineering, Pilot Testing, Commissioning

    PROTEUS Consulting is minority and women owned, small disadvantaged micro-business. We have the CPUC certification for WMBE (Women Owned Minority Business) and several others.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Shared Desitiny

    I recently had lunch with an old friend who currently works for an OEM. We used to work together, in fact sit next to each other in adjacent cubicles almost a decade ago. It is always so fun to meet up with old buddies and catch-up. We talked about our respective careers, family, etc. and then the conversation turned to how the current economy and the state of the world is affecting our lives. I realized that over the last nine years, we have drifted apart in our world view. My friend was definitely not happy with globalization and the fact that the OEM's products, manufactured in the US, are having great difficulty competing against global onslaught of similar but low quality products at a cheaper price. The current procurement system in the Federal and Municipal market picks low price over quality. While there is a mandate to buy American-made products, it is not working. My friend is also not in favor of the environmental qualifications required in US as opposed to the other countries who do not have those restrictions. Very valid points.

    And I agree with my friend. Our policies are broken! Where we differ is that my friend thinks that the government should not be putting these environmental mandates in place and should block our import of cheap, and often times low quality, foreign products; while I think we need to work on fixing our purchasing policies. The purchasing decision should be based on 'total' cost including the capital, environment, and operations/ maintenance footprint instead of just basing the decision strictly on capital costs.

    Why? Everyone on this planet now share a common destiny. The time for insularity is gone and it will never be the same again. For the last century, US was the major political and financial power, now we are seeing a multipolar world with India, China, European Union, and Brazil sharing the stage. Technology has made it possible to communicate across continents faster than we can bat an eyelid. Disintermediation is rapidly changing the marketplace, e.g. the market for phones, books, newspapers, etc. The markets are no longer the way we knew them to be for the last 60 years. The Water, Energy, and Food industries as we know are going through a dramatic transformation; their interdependence is becoming more prominent on a global scale.

    The sooner we start appreciating the changed climate, the better we will be to compete in this new marketplace. We have no choice! We can all sit and complain that 'the past was better' and resist the change as much as we can, but the reality is that we are already on this one-way highway, all together. So, what should we do? Here are my ideas:
    • Update the purchasing policies to reflect the new reality of global marketplace and shared destiny. The criteria for purchasing should now be based on the life cycle costs as defines in ISO 14000. This implies that when purchasing a pump for example, the entire footprint is considered along the entire supply chain, that is mining the iron ore in Australia, building the impeller and pump house in China, assembly in Germany, installation and use in the US, followed by re-purposed in India. When all this is accounted for, the 'true cost' of the equipment / technology will create a level playing field for all. When I worked with Water Corporation (Perth, Australia), we had reviewed this method of sustainable selection.
    • As a manufacturer / service provider, we need to start looking to gather and furnish data that will enable purchasers to make an educated decision. Set up a sustainability program in your business to facilitate this process and you will notice that it will have a high return on investment. Your sustainability program will be your differentiator, and will focus on making your business more attractive to both your clients and employees.
    These are not my words, but are so very true: We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them. Sustainability is about enlightened self-interest.

    Friday, April 27, 2012

    Technology Spotlight: Aquaporin

    We live on the blue planet, yet only 1% of the 'blue gold' is available to the 7+ billion people.



    We all think desalination is the solution to our impending water problems. If we can somehow take the 97.5% of salt water and cost effectively desalt it, we will have enough water for everyone! But, this comes at a cost. The current technologies for desalination are expensive, not only in capital, i.e. to build treatment plants, but also require a lot of energy to operate. The most common desalination technology is reverse osmosis (RO), where we push water against a very thin membrane with tiny holes. (Think kidneys) These holes allow only water molecules to go through and leaves behind the salt (concentrate / brine). To push water against the membrane requires high pressure and hence is very energy intensive. However, it is interesting to note that the energy requirement for RO desalinated water has reduced by half over the last decade. This is primarily because membrane manufacturers have designed better performing membranes. The technology is about 65% efficient at this stage. It will be foolish to expect that we can achieve 100% efficiency in the next decade, as you can never get 100% efficiency in any technology. However, it is reasonable that we will be slowly edging towards 70-75% efficiency. Moore's Law will not apply to this technology, and further 'fine-tuning' of this technology will  yield diminishing returns.

    So where is the innovation? Can we reduce the need for pressure all together? A Danish company is using biomimicry and embedding proteins in membranes that can regulate the flow of water. Ever wonder how mangroves grow in brackish water? How do they filter out the salts and absorb water? The protein is called aquaporin and it sits within cell membranes. In 2003, Dr. Peter Agre was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (which he shared with Dr. Roderick MacKinnon) for his discovery of aquaporins. These proteins are also in our red blood cells, kidneys, eye lenses, almost anywhere there is water transfer across membranes. The company, Aquaporin A/S, is currently working on developing membranes that will desalinate water by a very different mechanism from the current traditional RO methods, and possibly with smaller energy footprint.



    This technology is still in development phase but shows great promise. The initial trials with NASA have proven quite successful. We wish Aquaporin A/S success in their endeavors, and look forward to their product in the market in the near future.



    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    Hi-Tech Teabags to Filter Water

    Every now and then we come across some team or another trying to design clean water solutions for the 1.2 billion people who do not have access to clean drinking water. We have heard about the LifeStraw, now South African scientists are developing carbon fiber teabags that can filter water. We commend such out-of-the-box ideas. We need more of them, especially since one in three persons on this planet live in a situation where they cannot get clean water.

    When working on a potential global solution to address safe water, there are a few points we need to consider:

    Price Point. The cost of the solution needs to match the ability of the customers. LifeStraw is priced too high, may work in disaster conditions when there is aid flowing through and these units are heavily subsidized or distributed free; but not for regular use. Also, care should be taken so that when the solution is employed for regular use, the item is not given away for free. When we pay for an item, we place a value on it and appreciate it. Price of the solution therefore should be right - affordable while creating a sense of value.

    Reuse. Disposable items are not favored by the masses. Where poverty reigns, people become expert recyclers. When they get a new dress, they save it till the old ones are worn out. Then they take out the new dress on a special occasion. Once the new dress has lost it's luster, they will make bed sheets out of it. When that's worn out, they will use it as towels. Then they will reuse the large towels as small hand towels. When those wear out, they may stitch them up to use as rags. When the rags wear out, they may use them as pulp for something else. That is how poverty works. We may not like it or feel sorry for such methods, but it is the reality. Hence, as designers we need to be cognizant of this need for reuse and design equipment such that there is residual uses after the primary function has been met.

    Education. When we design single use items, such as filters, we often forget to understand the limitations of the end users to comprehend the useful life of such items. Education is very important. We need to explain not only the purpose of the filter (e.g. how it cleans the water and saves lives), we will have to educate the end users on how to (and how not to) use the filter, when the filter is no longer working (end of useful life), how to regenerate, etc. Even in the US with 100% literacy, we have found many water systems being operated way under capacity and without understanding of the fundamentals thereby causing much harm to the environment. Education and training is of utmost importance, may be even more than the solution itself.

    Community Solutions. In most poor countries where water scarcity is severe, the most sustainable solution is a community solution instead of individual solutions. Communities in these areas share similar financial, familial, political, and social virtues and very rarely will you find an individualistic trait. Individualism is prominent in more affluent societies where competition is severe for luxuries of life. In societies where people are focused on basic survival issues, community solutions work more effectively and should be encouraged. Focus should be on simple indigenous solutions that are developed, designed, and built locally by the people. The people can then take ownership of the project, feel proud of their creation, and take care of it.

    PROTEUS Consulting is very dedicated to help create a world where everyone has access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. We work with various researchers around the world who are working to address this goal. We also work with NGOs such as Water For People who is active in implementing such solutions. If you are interested to help out or learn more about our efforts, please contact us.

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Protean Vision: Making the Food-Energy-Water Nexus a Reality

    Yesterday USEPA announced that $9.8 million will be provided in grants to 38 states, territories and tribes to help protect the health of swimmers at America’s beaches. The agency also launched an improved website, BEACON 2.0 for beach advisories and closings, which will allow the public to easily access  current water quality and pollution testing information for more than 6,000 U.S. beaches.

    This is good news indeed. Our beaches will get cleaner, the public more aware, and hopefully as a result we will all enjoy a better quality of life. There are many who will say that $10 million is not enough to clean all the beaches in 38 states, and that is probably true.

    We at Proteus believe that this effort, while commendable, is a very little part of the whole solution. The question here is why do we have beach closures? Where is the pollution coming from? There are two kinds of sources - point sources and nonpoint sources. We have some laws that try to protect these sources and probably does a good enough job at it. But EPA here is working on an 'end of the pipe' solution for the whole issue, and hence is not always successful is solving the complex problem.

    And a complex problem it is. The problem is a web or interrelated issues - food, water, and energy. We can only go so far by addressing the issues within the silos of food, water, and energy. It is time now to start looking at all the relationships and devising enterprising inter-related solutions. Food production involves a lot of water, preferably clean water. With the erratic weather patterns and reduced flows in the rivers and streams, it is becoming increasingly difficult to carve out sufficient irrigation water to grow food. Cleaning the water for consumption and also the wastewater for reintroduction into the rivers and streams are also becoming more and more expensive due to ever increasing energy prices. Energy production on the other hand requires a lot of water for cooling towers and process. Even if we want to invest in "green" biofuels, we still need water to develop them which is becoming scarce. The way the world works right now is that the three industries (agriculture, water, and energy) and their governing agencies and laws act in their silos. Each group sets goals, creates plans, and embarks on those plans without consulting the other groups. In governments around the world, there is no integration of policies!

    Source: WEF 2011

    As the world hits the seven billion mark, we enter a new era of resource restrictions. Scarcity of food, water, and energy will become more severe and conflicts will arise, there is no doubt about it. The silver lining in this is that we will become more resourceful (pun intended) to devise solutions for this resource strapped planet. At Proteus, we believe that we can achieve this by four ways, and equal strides are needed in each of these paths:

    • Businesses need to become resource efficient, preferably with a net-zero environmental footprint.
    • Governments will need to develop integrated policies that encompass food-water-energy nexus.
    • NGOs and other non-profits will need to start taking very active role in developing solutions, sometimes leading the thought process.
    • Citizens of the world will need to make consumption decisions with sustainability in mind.
    Businesses need to become resource efficient, preferably with a net-zero environmental footprint. It makes business sense to focus on resource efficiency because as the resources get depleted, the competitive market will leave no choice for businesses. The risks of resource depletion and uncertainty will become so high that conservation and efficiency will dominate decisions to ensure economic success. Sustainability focus is no longer a public relations campaign, it's a matter of survival. We see some companies already embracing this mantra and through our incubation services, Proteus now helps young start-up companies to make the right start. We also counsel established companies and municipalities to review their current strategies and procedures and reorient to focus on the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.

    Governments around the world will need to develop integrated policies that encompass food-water-energy nexus. Governments and it's agencies including municipalities need to focus on creating holistic policies that address the issues and challenges in all the three industry sectors. Care should be taken so that policies of one sector do not erode the policies of the other. Proteus has the foresight and talent to  help build that consensus and facilitate the creation of these integrated policies. Out specific talent lies int he fact that we are Open and Willing to new ideas, knowledge, and perspectives. We see the elephant for what it is and hence can direct the teams to move towards solutions that are fit-for-purpose.



    NGOs and other non-profits will need to start taking very active role in developing solutions, sometimes leading the thought process. We see a great need for NGOs and other non-profits to work as involved stakeholders in developing solutions, both in developing and developed countries. We commend and support organizations like Water For People that focus on implementing projects only when the entire local community of entrepreneurs, civil society, and governments are involved and engaged. We believe that economic, social and environmentally sustainable projects can only happen when we can establish creative, collaborative solutions that allow people to build, take ownership, and maintain their own systems. This empowering of everyone transforms people’s lives by improving health and economic productivity. During our daily business here at Proteus, we engage with NGOs and non-profits by mutual education, discussion, and exchange of ideas.

    Citizens of the world will need to make consumption decisions with sustainability in mind. This is indeed a tall order to ask every global citizen to understand the state of the planet and it's frailty and then make choices that will turn the tide from personal greed towards a sense of cohabitation. This is very difficult. But it is not impossible. At Proteus, we strive to lead by example and help spread the 'story' by education and collaboration. We also commend agencies that have started a mass movement to determine how we can produce and consume more sustainably.

    PROTEUS Consulting is 15 months old. We have had a great journey and look forward to a fantastic year ahead. We appreciate the support of all our mentors and well-wishers, we could not have done it without you. Thank you!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Vacuum Sewers

    We presented at the 2011 Conference on Coastal Engineering Practice on August 22, 2011.  This conference is hosted by COPRI (Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and Rivers) Institute of ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers).

    The topic of our presentation was 'Vacuum Sewers – A Viable Alternative for Coastal Areas' and is presented below. Should you want a copy of the paper, please send us an email and we will provide you with a copy of the  paper.

    video

    We have several lessons learned on vacuum sewer projects and will be very glad to share it with anyone looking to install a vacuum sewer system. Please feel free to contact us.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    The Challenge for CleanTech

    PROTEUS Consulting is very involved in CleanTech and we are pleased to see the innovation happening in recycling, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, biofuels, biomass), energy efficiency, water efficiency, gray water, lighting, electric motors, information technology, and green transportation. The aim of these technologies are to create a smaller environmental footprint and reduce pollution. This indeed great that it's happening, it was needed.

    The concern that we have, however, is about sustainability. Sustainability is about incorporating all the three aspects - economic, environmental, and people, and to look at viability of a technology / project on a long-tern life-cycle scale. This is best shown in this graphic by Water Corporation.


    Most CleanTech projects we are finding these days are predominantly in the second Economic slice (i.e. "Find Efficiencies"). Most technologies deal with "Prevent Harm" in Environmental slice with very few actually looking at "Conserve Environmental Value". As for the Social aspect, most of these technologies are also in the first slice - "Protect Health & Wellbeing".

    We feel that the push has to be towards "Create Value, Enhance Ecological Resilience, and Enhance Communities". For that life cycle analysis of the proposed technologies is essential and imperative. As an end-user, owners should ask for a comprehensive assessment of the entire technology and evaluate it's complete impact. As a clean technology provider, one should also look at presenting this information to the client. How else can a technology really be proclaimed as a 'CleanTech'? What are the metrics?

    Another post on this issue can be found here.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Strategies for Managers to Achieve Excellence in the Workplace

    Below is the second of the two presentations I gave this morning at the 2011 AWWA Education Extravaganza. This talk actually flows from the first one. You cannot fix the problems in your organization or the greater society if you have not fixed yourself first. Working on yourself is the first step.

    To be an effective manager you have to do two things - set forth a clear set of values and performance (results) expectations, and have a rigorous appraisal system. Additionally, you also have to earn the trust from your team members in order to be able to energize and activate them. That requires two things - be candid all the time, and do what you say (no matter how hard it is!)

    Enjoy the presentation below. If you want a copy, please email me at consultproteus at gmail dot com.'

    video


    This presentation was also full house, standing room only! I was very happy.  Here too, I look forward to your reactions and input - What do you think? What has been your experience? What are your challenges? Please share your stories or issues with me, I will love to hear them.

    I gave two presentations today. Find the first presentation here.

    How to improve your work and life - be Happy!

    Below is the first of the two presentations I gave this morning at the 2011 AWWA Education Extravaganza  I picked an unusual topic to talk about at a Water Industry event - Happiness and how we can achieve it. It is a topic that no one wants to talk about but everyone seems to be curious about!

    As I said during the talk and I repeat here: I am no expert. Most people in the audience and who are reading this are most probably older than me and had life experiences more profound than mine. I do not claim to be any 'guru' in this field or in anything else, I am human. I have my frustrations, my struggles, my fears, and my anxieties; I also have my goals, my dreams and my hopes - just like everyone else out there. I have made some fabulous choices in life, and some really terrible ones. I am in no position to dispel any profound wisdom - what I share here is knowledge that I have gathered during my life experiences. I am just sharing my 'Aha- moments' with everyone - in the hope that it may help someone out there who is looking for an answer.
    I have "miles to go before I sleep".....

    video

    If you want a copy of this presentation, please email me: consultproteus at gmail dot com.

    We had a full house this morning! Standing room only! I was very pleased. I hope I made some connections today, and was able to plant some seeds that will make my audience take the path towards peace in their lives.

    I will VERY interested to hear from you - What do you think? What is your perspective? What has been your life experiences? What has been your lessons learned? What are the issues you are working on? What do you struggle with? What do need help on? Can I help you?


    I gave two presentations today. Find the next presentation here.

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Three Recommendation Letters for PROTEUS

    I am very pleased to share with you three recommendation letters for the projects we performed this year.