New Orleans, LA, Oct. 19, 2006 — InfoNetrix, a technical market research and consulting firm specializing in utility automation and information technology (IT) market intelligence, has announced the addition of a new Customer Service Solutions (CSS) module to its VISTA Utility Enterprise (VUE) market intelligence program introduced earlier this month, focused on CSS among the fifty largest utilities in North America.
The CSS module is the latest addition to the Vital Information Strategies & Tactics for Automation (VISTA) market intelligence program suite from InfoNetrix. CSS identifies automation and information technology project activity in the United States and Canada through research conducted directly with the top 50 utilities. The program includes information about both new and existing projects in three principal areas: advanced metering infrastructure (AMI); customer information systems (CIS); and customer relationship management (CRM).
The CSS module is initially being introduced as a part of the VISTA Utility Enterprise program, but it will also be made available as a standalone offering.
The AMI component of CSS includes projects for automatic meter reading (AMR) and meter data management (MDM). In many cases, CIS and CRM tend to go hand-in-hand with these metering activities although such projects may be initiated before, during or after AMI projects are under way.
During the past 12-18 months, InfoNetrix has observed a growing trend toward the integration of AMI, not only with CIS/CRM, but also with other types of automation/IT projects such as outage management, work management and field force management. This increasingly holistic approach may result in even larger and more complex projects, but it may also cause some projects to be delayed until the AMI strategy is at least decided, if not completely deployed. Thus, the simultaneous monitoring of AMI, CIS and CRM projects at top 50 utilities provides other insights about utility plans and strategies, a key objective of the VISTA Utility Enterprise program.
“The substantial majority of spending for CSS is generally made by the largest utilities because they have the most metered customers and the most pressure on them to balance the often conflicting goals of enhancing customer service and reliability while also reducing costs,” noted Michael A. Marullo, InfoNetrix president and director of research and consulting. “The top 50 utilities that are the foundation of our VUE program are primarily large investor-owned utilities and a few large municipals,” he added. “A substantial body of research suggests that it is these large utility enterprises that are making the most substantial investments in AMI, CIS and CRM projects at this point in time,” Marullo concluded.
Many smaller utilities are waiting to see how their IOU counterparts fare, especially in the intensely competitive AMR and meter data management areas before going forward with their own projects. And, although the municipal and rural electric utilities are investing considerable time, money and resources in each of these areas and lead in sheer numbers of projects — there is roughly a 10 to 1 ratio between small and large utilities — the scope of CSS projects at this lower end of the utility size spectrum tend to be less aggressive than those undertaken by IOUs, due mainly to the smaller numbers of metered customers served.
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