Does setting up and running a billing system seems complicated and time-consuming? Worry not as here is what utility CIOs can do to overcome this challenge, saving time and money as well.
FREMONT, CA: Over the last decade, utility companies have faced sea changes, including stringent energy and environmental policies, fluctuating economic conditions, disruptive technological innovations, and ever-changing business norms. To remain competitive and relevant in this changing environment, utility providers are replacing inflexible systems and adding new capabilities that enhance customer service. The key aspect of managing these changes is implementing new billing and customer relationship management system. As the utility sector continues to adapt to the changing consumer demands, here are a few guidelines for CIOs while introducing new billing systems.
• Focusing on Value
One of the common error CIOs make when planning a new customer and billing system is trying to customize the software as much as possible. That is, trying to make it work just like the existing solutions. This will usually result in a loss of focus on value and squandering of resources, increasing both cost and risk. The smarter approach is to be strategic and make the quantified connection between the business benefits and the processes that will deliver outcomes. The methods that are directly related to the delivery of value in the project are to be customized. For the rest of the billing system's functionalities, firms can use the standard solutions that come built into the software platform.
• Reducing Post-Launch Issues
Estimating the impact each new system makes on operational performance is a must for utilities. What utilities need is deploying a scientific approach to analyze the effect of change. CIOs should keep in mind that a new billing system would not typically lead to a faster turnaround time when the system is launched. No matter how well-trained users are in the system, they will need time to become proficient. Increasing contact center agents' population can help estimate the extra support required for the customers to adapt to the new system. Additionally, CIOs must map people's roles and responsibilities, identify problem areas, place an adequate reporting system, and build organizational agility to answer any change needed quickly.
• Investing in Data Quality
It is a reality that many utilities fail to devote enough attention to the data cleansing process, despite the risk. Most CIOs naively think their data is clean because they believe that the new customer and billing system is superior and therefore can deal with the data inconsistencies. But failure to adequately address data quality means that the transition to the new system will be more challenging and lengthy, leading to potential delays in the overall project's outcome. This may even cause lost revenue and negative hit to corporate reputation. As utilities consider options for improving data availability, they need to evaluate the potentials and limitations of its customer information system. CIOs are recommended to ensure that enough time and resources are allocated to data cleansing, eliminate duplicate data, map data from the existing system to the new system, and develop a robust process to handle situations. For utilities, the data raises competitive concerns, which make data privacy policies a must. Allowing customers to authorize data release electronically is part of data privacy protection practice.
Every program has its own challenge during implementation. It requires a lot of focus, and the whole process is quite demanding. CIOs may not be able to anticipate every problem that needs to be overcome. But, by focusing on the above fundamental lessons, CIOs can give themselves a much surer footing to adapt to and overcome all the incurring difficulties practically.