Randy Senn has been with SCANA Corporation for more than thirty-nine years. As the new senior vice president of administration for the electric and gas power company, he’s bringing a new, broader perspective to technology.
Besides working at his father’s gas station in high school, Randy Senn has only worked at one company his entire career: SCANA Corporation. It’s something that’s unique in today’s day and age, and Senn is proud of that. He came to SCANA as a student assistant in his senior year of college and took a full-time position there right after graduating. Since then, he has had twelve different roles within the company, ranging from programmer to CIO. Back in late November, Senn added senior vice president of administration to his roster of titles, and he’s using his technology and business acumen to positively steer the company in its latest endeavors.
Over the thirty-nine years that Senn has been at SCANA, technology has changed drastically. From evolution in customer areas into more web-based applications to huge strides in cybersecurity and compliance, Senn has been a part of a positive change from a business and IT perspective. One of his first milestones at the power company was implementing a new general ledger system as a project manager. Today, the accounting systems and processes he and his team put in place are what the company use. Senn also managed SCANA’s Y2K project and the project to merge two IT groups when SCANA acquired PSNC Gas. That latter opportunity allowed him to blend the cultures of the two companies to develop relationships and expertise.
One of Senn’s biggest accomplishments has been addressing a challenge that the utility industry has faced in recent years. IT groups have historically had very little involvement in managing the company’s operational technologies. However, the convergence of operational technology and information technology has increasingly made that a priority, primarily because of cybersecurity and compliance requirements. Over the past several years, Senn is proud of the collaboration and cooperative endeavors that have evolved between the company’s IT areas and its operations groups. He intends to bring that same leadership style with him in his new role.
The Power of Giving
While ensuring the well-being of SCANA Corporation is essential for Randy Senn, the senior vice president of administration spends his time away from work looking after the well-being of others. In his free time, Senn has served as the chairman of the board for Special Olympics South Carolina and serves on nonprofit boards including Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, Fast Forward, the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Math Foundation Board, and the Governor’s School for Science and Math Board of Trustees.
Senn’s IT group is currently working to meet compliance regulations for two new nuclear plants that the company is building. “Meeting cybersecurity requirements will be critical to that project,” Senn says. The plants being built today will be the first nuclear plants in the United States to run entirely on digital technology, and SCANA will have to meet cybersecurity requirements that differ from the requirements for the company’s existing nuclear plant. In addition, there are two significant systems SCANA has to have in place for the new plants. One is a new work management system, and the other is a configuration management system. That’s on top of 10–15 smaller projects that are moving in parallel, all of which will also have to be in place before construction is completed.
Cybersecurity is SCANA’s top consideration. Like other utilities, the organization has several efforts in process to improve its cybersecurity posture. The company’s also working on enhancing its customer information systems. Recently, SCANA completed a modernization project that focused on providing the right information to call center representatives based on the customer issue they were trying to solve. SCANA is also in the middle of a project to replatform that system from a mainframe to a midtier platform. The project is expected to be completed in 2017, and it is expected to save more than $7 million annually. It’s been a major initiative to move as many customer requests as possible to the web and web-based applications. “It’s the way many of our customers want to do business with us, so we’ve got to meet those expectations,” Senn says.
Senn and his team have put a lot of time and energy into conducting company-wide cybersecurity drills. His group recently conducted a drill to determine how company employees would react to a cyberincident that resulted in an electric grid blackout. The two-day drill was a significant investment in resources for the company, but it was a great learning opportunity.
For Senn, it’s not about adding up his personal accomplishments or finding the next rung of the ladder to climb. “In my role as CIO, I have tried to not focus so much on just technology, but instead I have tried to focus on being an agent for change at the company,” Senn says. “For example, many of the recruiting practices and the use of interns and students in IT have served to pave the way for establishing similar practices throughout the company.”
From a technology perspective, there are three areas of focus for the future. One area is developing strategies to leverage cloud resources. Another is establishing the methodology and processes for developing internal and external mobile applications. The third is leveraging advanced data analytics to solve business problems.
Senn sees his first six months as senior vice president as a learning opportunity. He has to understand how his new areas of responsibility operate today and what challenges they face. He’s confident that his CIO successor will continue the strategies he began. “One thing I reminded our IT group while I was CIO was that our mission is not specifically to be a world-class IT department,” Senn says. “Our mission is to be a world-class partner with our business areas. We have to be a great provider of the services that our business areas need. I want to make sure that’s the same approach we have in all the administrative areas. Our sole reason for being is to support the business areas of the company.”