30 Years of Growth and Learning

Daphne Thompson
PCI Brand Marketer

This year marks PCI’s 30th anniversary. And, just like any company that’s lasted three or more decades, we’ve matured through a few phases to get to where we are now.

PCI’s three phases of growth:

  • Startup phase 
  • Expansion and experiment phase
  • Maturity phase

The startup phase was PCI’s childhood – naive and creative. The expansion and experimental phase was PCI’s adolescence – ready to take on the world to learn crucial insights. Meanwhile, the maturity phase is PCI’s adulthood – experienced, rational, energetic, and entirely self-aware. 

Learn more about PCI as we kick off our 30-year anniversary celebration with this blog post (adapted from an internal email from our founder, Fred Lee, to all employees) recapping our founding, our growth, and a few lessons along the way.

PCI’s Founding

Fred, along with fellow University of Oklahoma professor Art Breipohl, founded Power Costs, Inc., in 1992. Fred and Art met in 1980 at the University of Kansas, where Fred was pursuing his Ph.D. and Art was serving as his major professor.

In 1984, Art joined the OU faculty, and Fred followed shortly after, beginning his teaching career at OU in 1985. Both taught and led research in optimal power system operation and planning. While employed at OU, they published original Unit Commitment and Economic Dispatch research. This research relates to minimizing cost when scheduling power generating units and determining the output power of all generating units so that generation can meet the demand. The two founded PCI upon these results.

Startup Phase (Childhood)

During the startup phase, PCI aimed to quickly deliver ideas to the energy market to recruit customers and funding. Fred and Art’s professorial appointments provided PCI the flexibility to explore commercial ventures to aid the State of Oklahoma in economic development.

PCI launched its first product, Scheduler, to optimize operational strategies to minimize costs (hence the “costs” in Power Costs, Inc.). PCI later expanded from the optimization product to include a Market System product for managing participation in Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) markets. Our GenPortal product was developed to facilitate this expansion.

Initially, Art and Fred taught short courses to recruit potential customers around the country, setting a culture of self-funding from the very beginning. In a way, it reflected the naivety of the professorial founders, but the practice helped plot a prudent path for PCI to succeed through the startup phase.

Expansion & Experimental Phase (Adolescence)

PCI then expanded Scheduler to GenTrader to include the modeling of the RTO market. The expanded market system product included all North American and Mexican RTO markets. The company experimented with transmission systems, energy accounting, asset outage management, energy trading and risk management, data management, and software hosting services. The experiments were quite broad and helped the growing PCI team learn crucial insights.

Attendees at INFOCUS 2008
INFOCUS Conference 2008

Along the way, PCI employees identified areas that needed to be improved as we moved forward. As an adolescent, adventures were exciting, although stressful, but it was an essential step to gain experience as PCI grew.

Maturity Phase (Adulthood)

Now, PCI is in the maturity phase. The company is refining our vision, strategy, core values, and business/technical practices where the vision is “Iconic Excellence” and the strategy is “Customer Success.” Our core values have defined the culture, which aligns with the strategy.

Art and Fred at the PCI office
Art and Fred

The president/COO oversees PCI’s operation in all business areas, with the accountability of each business area clearly defined. The CFO oversees all activities in PCI’s financial and risk management. The president and the CFO are seamlessly aligned to cover the entire PCI operation.

While Art has retired, Fred continues to work, connecting PCI teams by clearly communicating PCI’s vision, strategy, core values, and pertinent policies and objectives. To accomplish this, Fred works closely with the president and CFO to provide support and encouragement without shortcutting the process.

Based on the experiences learned from the earlier phases and the aligned organizational practices, PCI will continually expand and refine our products, solutions, and services to achieve customer success with a global reach. The vision of iconic excellence, customer success strategy, the culture entrenched with core values, and the pragmatic business and technical practices have established the long-term foundation for the next 30 years and beyond.

It’s been a pleasure partnering with trusted energy and utility companies worldwide over the past 30 years. If you’re a PCI client, we invite you to celebrate our 30th anniversary with us at our annual user conference (also in its 30th year!) as we meet in San Diego this fall. Learn more and register here.