CIS Solution Powers New Capabilities for Utility Clients
Customer System Implementation
In January of 2001, something big was happening in the Texas retail electricity market. Deregulation hit and created a new market overnight by allowing retail electricity providers to compete for new Texas customers. Fast forward a few years, and a large marketing and transaction services company was in the process of implementing a customer information system (CIS) for several of its clients in this industry. The new CIS was expected to assist with revenue management, billing, customer care, and, on occasion, transaction management. As such, it would enable the utility companies to offer new billing structures, leverage customer analytics, and drive efficiencies, none of which could be realized on their existing systems. Sendero was engaged to build and implement the technical architecture for the new CIS platform—the foundation for these new system capabilities.
Some of the utility clients were entering the Texas market for the first time, which meant these companies did not have systems in place that allowed them to work in a deregulated market. The utility clients needed a way to help manage meter readings and market transactions. Further, the project teams were operating in an environment with highly complex market rules and equally complex application environments. The numerous environments required and lack of rigor around configuration and release management caused many delays and conflict between teams. There was minimal documentation and no processes in place to manage the various environments used by the large development, testing, and training teams. All of this resulted in missed milestones, financial penalties, and strained relationships between the client and the utility companies.
Sendero established a project architecture team and implemented a change process to manage variations to the myriad technical environments, and established weekly change meetings where change requests were reviewed for approval. Further, Sendero created an environment framework to determine which technical environments required full integration verses limited to no integration capabilities, allowing the client to manage system resources more efficiently. Other environment enhancements were also implemented, including automation of application build processes and other software configuration management tasks; automation of the key data configuration update process; development of utilities programs that enabled command line execution of batch processes for the testing team; and creation of technical architecture diagrams documenting the environments. Sendero also developed a performance testing strategy document to define the scope, approach, and strategy to ensure that the application supported the technical requirements.
By successfully implementing the CIS, the client was able to leverage greater capabilities and better manage its utility clients. With the CIS, the utility companies had more robust tools, such as customer analytics and new billing structures. Further, the depth of information now available could be used to help with marketing and customer acquisitions, helping to foster growth for the utility companies, and, ultimately, the client.