On site billing software and hardware can present a large capital investment for utility companies. Coupled with ongoing maintenance, upgrades and staff salaries, on premise billing can prove to be a necessary investment.
In an EY survey of utilities firms in 2017, nearly half of the respondents said they would need either a major system upgrade or an outright replacement of their customer billing systems in the next five years to support business functionality and future requirements. For smaller utilities, this can be both an expensive and time consuming exercise, not to mention opening the utility up to integration, data and data accuracy issues. Enabling small and medium utilities to transition from ‘on premise’ to the secure cloud easily represents a significant opportunity.
As the market place is changing, a transition to the secure cloud is critical to the success of utilities for tomorrow. It is essential they are prepared for massive increases in data and have the tools required to make decisions derived FROM ‘ON PREMISE from their vast AMI and customer data. They may also require the ability to bolt on multi service propositions including NBN, mobile, water, sewer, rubbish, rates etc. It opens the doors to sweeping changes that all utilities will ultimately embrace – lower cost, elastic solutions that are hosted in the secure cloud, not on premise.
Australian software company Utilibill, has taken this concept and created a platform that will disrupt the utility billing space. Utilities changing platforms have suffered long sales cycles with billing companies pricing the platform based on what they can extract from the utility, rather than providing a price matrix for one and all. Transitioning billing systems is a complex business, it is part of the reason the average tenure on a billing system is over ten years.
Transitioning to the cloud can be done in a three step process.
- Import customers, meters, rates, usage and account balances
- Customise marketing collateral, bill and reminder formats, payment methods.
- Compare and analyse for consistency with legacy system and prove the concept as well as transition to BAU capability
This allows utilities to find out immediately what the programme capabilities are, allowing them to determine if the solution fits their business, rather than doing weeks of meetings, conference calls and consultancy.
Additionally, there is no need for third parties to complete implementations and data migrations as a default toolset enables them to do it themselves. The process removes the barrier to entry and change. Auto on-boarding means this type of service is and will remain a cost-effective solution.
This solution is ultimately a transformation enabler. It continues to evolve as the market changes, adapting to LORA, SIGFOX and other LPWAN/IOT solutions. Many of these utilities desperately need the help embracing the security and elasticity of the cloud and the interoperability with multiple disparate AMI and evolving IOT systems.
Benefits of moving to a cloud-based option:
- The utility knows in advance what they are signing up for
- There are no empty promises fuelled on vapourware
- There is an open, honest and transparent pricing model
- A comprehensive suite of over 20 guided videos and grading certifications
- Each day of the 30-day trial an explainer email and video link is sent outlining key steps and concepts for complex billing and rating ensuring the utility is equipped with the information they need without having to contact the company.
- The company provides a method for utilities looking for a new solution to empower themselves and remove the middle man, the sales cycle and bloat that historically minimise the chances of a successful transition.
- Capex requirements are low, while opex is a predictable subscription.
- Redundancy is automatically built in and failover recovery traditional server deployment failure means over 1-day outage, rebuild restore backups etc.
- Access is available from anywhere on a web browser.
- There is no software to install on client servers and windows upgrades don’t affect the billing environment.
- Scalability – an elastic server configuration uses resource only when its needed, enabling scale up and down on demand.
- Security is managed and upgrades and security patches are installed seamlessly.
- Data is secured in military /government grade secure facilities.
Transitioning always requires replicating customer, meter, billing and collections data.During the transition process the firm will conduct intensive analysis and evaluate variances.It’s rare to find a customer that doesn’t uncover revenue leakage, incorrect billing, incorrect tariff assignments etc. which each have to be explored and explained. The projects are started with the expectation of doing a like for like bill run for the purpose of bill matching.
This is done in the shadow billing phase before cutting over to production. Typically, the results find the legacy system is not 100% correct, which then creates some challenges and on occasion operators get a little coy about the history of incorrect billing of their customers on these old systems. It’s a fact of life that the normal person does not like change, so it can be challenging to introduce change, however; once bedded in, customers realise the benefits of ease of use and increased functionality.
The programme results have shown a reduced dependency on IT Service and support providers with improved call stats and reduced call centre queues and as a result wait times. With an approach that supports flexible work arrangements, billing staff can now have holidays and get their work completed efficiently. The increased office efficiency has been enabled by highly integrated architecture that has removed data duplication or double entry while providing increased data security. In addition, there has been a reduction in revenue leakage, accelerated collections, and increased customer satisfaction thanks to the self-enablement suite provided.
“Transitioning billing systems is a complex business, it’s part of the reason the average tenure on a billing system is over ten years.”