The implementation of a new customer information system (CIS) is beginning of a long-term investment in your utility and your customers. The platform you choose will determine whether your utility will be agile enough to keep up with rapid changes in the industry and provide customers with the experiences they crave. The good news is that today’s technology allows you to future-proof your CIS, preparing your utility for evolving customer needs over the next 15 to 20 years.
The evolution of the utility CIS
The CIS has drastically changed. Today, a CIS must handle interval meter reads and complex rates, support customer engagement across multiple channels, and integrate with a variety of different technologies. These are only the requirements that we know about today. Imagine what might change over the next decade or two.
To ensure success over the life of your CIS, your focus should include more than short-term goals and include a strategy that accommodates what the future might bring.
In a study VertexOne recently commissioned to better understand how well utilities’ existing CIS solutions are standing up to current industry challenges and priorities, TMG Consulting found that less than 20 percent of utilities are completely satisfied with their current CIS platforms. This includes maintaining the system, keeping it up to date, integrating new technologies and executing modifications in a timely manner.
They also found that many utilities now believe that cloud technology can help them address their challenges and priorities–today and in the future. This includes helping them to innovate more efficiently and scale as needed. Industry experts interviewed for the study believe cloud technology offers a more agile way of improving customer experience, upgrading an aging CIS and lowering cost, risk and resources expended.
Potentially due to the low satisfaction rate, survey findings revealed that nearly one in four utilities plan to replace their CIS within the next two years.
The value of an expert team
New CIS software requires new skills. Unfortunately, the number of IT professionals trained for this work is limited. Hiring individuals with the right skillsets can be difficult, but is critical to success.
With high demand for this small pool of professionals, turnover rate is also high. Companies must offer attractive incentives to recruit and retain talent.
As an alternative, a cloud-based CIS guarantees an experienced team of experts is dedicated to not only migrating your CIS, but keeping your software and hardware up to date long after your new CIS goes live.
Anticipating required time and effort
Software must constantly be monitored and updated. You can’t skip updates if you are looking to get the most out of your CIS. If you skip too many, the version you’re running may no longer be supported.
Aging hardware must also be monitored. New functionality may require faster processors and larger storage capacities. So the questions to ask are: Are you going to be able to make those upgrades in a timely fashion? Will you have the budget and people necessary to make hardware improvements when necessary?
With a cloud-based CIS, the utility doesn’t have to constantly be checking for updates. The team of technology experts you’ve partnered with is responsible for keeping your software and hardware current.
The platform’s response to growth and change
When looking for a new CIS, you’ll want to consider how to handle potential changes in data volumes and the number of customers you serve. Data volumes are on the rise as the industry shifts to advanced metering infrastructure.
Do you have everything you need to accommodate that growth? While an on-premise CIS can be rigid, a cloud-based CIS enables utilities to easily scale to handle changing demands. Even adding new functionality to enhance your CIS–with multichannel capabilities, for example– is simplified with cloud technology, because of its modular design.
Total cost of ownership
TMG Consulting’s research found that more than four times the number of utilities reported their organization’s total cost of ownership was more than anticipated than less. The cost of trying to handle your CIS on-site can add up.
Having to pay for the team of IT experts–and having to increase their salaries to keep them on–can get expensive. These costs, along with the costs to upgrade your hardware and any unplanned operational costs, can take utilities by surprise.
On the flip side, a cloud-based CIS means your software and hardware costs are predictable and service levels are guaranteed.
Is a cloud-based CIS a good option for your utility?
Upgrading to a new CIS is never a small feat. But one sure way to simplify the process and eliminate financial surprises is to take advantage of a CIS that is flexible, secure and fully hosted and managed by a team of experts with guaranteed service levels.
When researching and deciding on your next CIS, consider what it will take to manage it after it’s implemented. If you’re like most utilities, you’d rather focus on providing a great customer experience than maintaining your technology.
Today, utilities can migrate to a cloud-based CIS, supported by experienced utility CIS professionals as a way to future-proof your CIS, offering your utility the reliability, flexibility and budget predictability needed to deliver a great customer experience for decades to come.
About the author: James Riley is chief strategy officer of Vertex Business Services. He joined Vertex in 2014 and is responsible for developing and bringing to market Vertex’s growing portfolio of products and services. James also leads Vertex’s analytics and consulting practice. Prior to joining Vertex, James was Global Head of Innovation for HCL’s Enterprise Application Services Division.