CIS Week: practicing and implementing innovative techniques

CIS Week is an energetic non-profit set of educational venues with a combination of technology and humanity. We devote our efforts to bringing utility professionals innovative and reliable information on current cost-effective trends in customer information systems. CIS Week has been successfully established as a well-known leading brand of the best price-performance education in the industry.

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CIS Week 2006 took place in Dallas, Texas, the first week of May. Attendance was up for all of our new venues. This was the third year for the CIS Executive Summit, an invitation-only forum for senior executives in the utility industry. One of the most popular sessions of the Summit is an interactive discussion, “What keeps them up at night?” This thought-provoking dialogue quickly reveals the most pressing issues utility executives face as they share their concerns and remedies.

One of the many topics shared this year involved the security of their customers’ personal identification data. They talked about how the implications and liability from insecure data can create a major public relations nightmare. This is now a bigger issue than ever before due to the trend of outsourcing customer care. IT support as it relates to onshore outsourcing has its perils, but in particular they reviewed the dangers of offshore outsourcing. They feel the technology can keep it secure, but will national and international laws provide enough protection for the outsourced utility?

Another challenge facing the utility executives is how to engage, motivate and retain a dynamic workforce, IT personnel in particular. The technology marketplace has become so competitive that retention of trained personnel is essential if a utility hopes to maintain and upgrade the quality level of its employees. Summit participants discussed techniques and solutions such as providing an obtainable career path, ongoing CE training, recognizing and rewarding outstanding accomplishments, fast-track promotions and monetary incentives. As a result of these strategies they hope to groom a workforce that will encourage creativity and innovative ideas. They recognize that the employees closest to the issues almost always come up with the most practical and logical solutions. If they can create an environment that will stimulate new ideas and open feedback from employees, it will also develop teambuilding, trust and workforce loyalty.

This industry and this world are ever-changing and ever-challenging. The need for fresh and innovative ideas will never go away. Mike Ditka, our keynote speaker for CIS Week 2006, inspired us when he said, “Success is never permanent, and failure is never final.” As CEO of the CIS Conference organization, in 2006 I saw the biggest expansion of educational venues in the history of our organization. The CIS Executive Summit, in its third year, continues to grow and develop into an essential forum created by utility executives for utility executives. CIS College grew from one full-day course in 2005 to four full-day courses in 2006. This year we launched the first set of CIS Synergy Group meetings in conjunction with CIS Week and we already have plans for even more groups in 2007.

We are practicing and implementing some of the same innovative techniques the successful utilities we serve use, understanding that we can’t rest on our laurels, we must keep stretching to find ways to fill the utility industry’s requirements. We constantly survey our attendees, both before and after CIS Week, to monitor their needs and find out what we can do to improve our services. Just as utilities face the constantly changing technologies of the customer service arena, CIS Week will always keep the vision of the future in mind as we develop fresh ideas and educational venues to match our vision of bringing you the best education for the best value.

The next CIS Week will be held May 21-24, 2007, at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Florida. See you there!

Jerry Duvall
CIS Conference, Inc.

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