Customer Management System

There are tons of systems out there trying to improve business processes of utility companies in general or electric companies in specific.

The key is still doing the re-engineering process well and the application system will just a tool to follow the processes. I put some of my thoughts about Electric Management System in this blog. Feel free to read and comment.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Make Use of Internet Calling

Working in the project requires me to travel into some countries. Calling to my family or offices abroad becoming my daily routines. To reduce the cost of calling abroad, I make use of Internet Phone Service. There are many providers out there that can give you good rate for Long Distance Phone Rates. However, make sure that you have good internet connection. Otherwise, your calls will be delayed. It is very disturbing especially when you make a business call.

One thing that put in my mind when choosing a provider for internet phone is the capability to store my phone book online. This way, I can make a phone call from any computers by just signing in into the software and all my phone book are displayed. It is a good back up for my contact numbers online as well. Another aspect for consideration is if the provider has Unlimited Long Distance Calling Plan. I used to call my families often. I might say daily. Thus, an unlimited calling plan helps me a lot in saving my calling costs.

Try to search around regarding providers that suit your needs. If you are using internet phone in the office, try to check out if the software is allowed by your admin. Some softwares will not pass the proxy server set by your admin.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Does your meter readers know meter model and brand?

Recently, I was sending the meter readers to the field to obtain some of the meter brands and model in customers' properties. To my surprise, they returned with different lists on the same area. Even though meter readers always going to the field to read meters, it is NOT necessarily mean that they know the meter brand and models. Why?

1. When they read the meters, they only read the meter number and meter reading. They never care about the brand and models. Only the technicians observe meter brand and model because the need to make a field report after installing or exchanging meters.

2. Even if they see something in meters, they do not know whether it is brand, model, country of manufactures. Especially when your readers do not speak English. It will be difficult when they see S.P.A. Is it a brand or a model? When they see EGYPT, is it a brand, model, or country of manufactures? Some meter brands uses country as the brand. To make the situation worst, some meter manufactures do not put the brand in the meter. They only put type. One example is SUNER meter brand. They only put TPD2 in the meter, which is the type of meter, NOT the brand.

Thus, if you plan to gather information about meter brand and model in some area, try to send your technicians. If you need to deploy your readers because they know the area better, spend few days to train them about the available meter brand and models in your company.

Below are some meter brands that are commonly used in electric company:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Using Website for External Communications In Project Management

As mentioned in my previous post regarding the importance of external communications in implementing new billing system, project management should take the campaigns of external communications seriously.

One way to launch external communication campaigns is through website. Project management should choose the web hosting company to put all web sites files. Sounds difficult to choice a right webhosting company? Not anymore because you can go to to search for available hosting companies with their alternative plans and prices.

You can input the search criteria either by prices, spaces, bandwidth, etc to find the right hosting companies that will fit your needs. If you are still new to web hosting features and capabilities, make sure that you visit FAQ section to understand further about what web hosting are. You can read different types of web hosting with their advantages and disadvantages.

Take note to observe their up time because you want your website for external communications to be up most of the time. However, even though expensive web hosts offer you more functionalities and support, cheaper web host does not necessary offer "cheap" functionalities and supports.

Data in Email Communications

Communication in project management are mostly relied on email exchanges. Data are passed as well trough email communications. Email accounts should be able to be accessed and downloaded using Email application in laptop so that the emails can be read even though the project team members are off line.

To minimize the cost of having reliable email server, project management can look for hosted exchange available online. The cost of having email server will be reduced without sacrificing the quality and the security of our emails data. Make sure you find the service that offer exchange hosting with latest technology like hosted exchange 2007 and provide you money back guarantee to test their services and reliabilities.

Additional features that can synchronize with Blackberry or Windows mobile device can be something to think of if you have your project members always mobile and owning these devices. If data integrity and security are concerning you the most, try to ask them to explain how they secure the data that will not be able to be accessed by unauthorized people. If you do not understand their explanation, post in on IT forum so that other people can verify the security.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Backing Up Your Starting Data after Conversion

When implementing new system, conversion was done during cut off period. When all data have been converted from old system into new system, the back up data of this starting data for new system should be backup and stored into separate dB that can be accessible easily.

Even thought that the data should undergone validations process and approval, it is common that after the new system go live, some people will ask for again for the starting data to check how the data were being converted. Thus, for the first year of new system in operation, it is better to put the starting data in certain dB that can be accessed easily. Not in backup tape that should need a lot of IT admin work to load the data and access it.

Once the request of starting data is lessen on the 2nd year, the starting data can be moved to another backup media for free up the dB in production or development.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Daily or Monthly Charges?

Many utility companies are still applying monthly charges for customers. Let us say: monthly meter rent, or monthly fixed charged. Why? Mainly because the companies implemented monthly billing and the system is not able to compute daily.

Monthly charges seem to be simple and easily understand by customers, but it is NOT fair to both company and customers. Imagine that the electricity is contracted on the middle of the month, since the billing system produces monthly billing with monthly charges, the customers will be charged the whole month for the affected billing concepts/details. The same case will happen when the customer terminate the contract.

Thus, utility company with these kinds of billing concepts charges should redesigned their monthly changer into daily charges. Even if the bill will be computed monthly, but the computation will take into considerations how many days is used from the last reading date until current reading date. By using number of days, billing becomes more fair!

This daily billing computation charges will benefit as well when the customers want to change the load power or tariff that will affect the cost of electricity. For example: customer A wants to increase the load from 1300VA into 5000VA in the middle of the month. Since mostly the computation of charges are different from 1300VA to 5000VA, the billing system from be able to compute by using number of days:
- billing computation using 1300VA from last reading until middle of the month
- billing computation using 5000VA from middle of the month until current reading

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Christmas is near

Christmas is coming next month we need to buy some gifts for our loved ones. It is becoming a tradition in my family to exchange gifts in during Christmas eve. We need to email our wish list to family to make sure that the gifts are usable. I like to do shopping a month before Christmas to avoid hassle and crowd places in shopping centers. Anyway, most stores already started their SALE signs even a month ago.

During my leisure time, I like as well to browse for coupons to save more money for money Christmas shopping budget. For my colleagues, I could find Hallmark coupons and get a 20% off for my orders during checkout.

Aside buying gifts for my families, I would like to reward myself during this Christmas. I started to do this kind of reward 2 years ago when I read a book regarding motivate myself by rewarding my hard work for the year. For me, I am thinking a brand new laptops. I am still comparing the prices and specs of different manufactures. Ofcouse I also browse some coupons to save my laptop spending. I saw some coupons on Dell deals.

Online Payment 24/7 for Billing System

Online payment for billing system in general or utility billing system in specific requires a defined business process to ensure all financial statements are correct and good data integrity.

Online payment could be handled in several ways, namely:
- Online payment through website. This requires coordination for any payment gateways or banks to receive payments using credit card and/or bank transfer.
- Online payment through ATM. A collaboration with banks is needed.
- Online payment through cell phone. A collaboration with mobile service providers are needed.
- Etc.

One of the benefits of online payments methods above is that customers can pay at their convenience and they can do it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, All payments mentioned above should be treated “offline” by billing system. What does it mean? Why Online payment should be treated “offline”? What I mean is that outside or third party should NOT be allowed to access and updated the billing system online/directly. This is important to ensure billing system data integrity and security.

All online payments should be stored in a file or separated database for further processing during batch process. Thus, these payments are treated “offline” similar like payments in the offices that do not access/LAN to billing system.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Closing of Cashiers – Important for Customer Management System!

In Customer Management System, especially in utility companies, the process of cashier closing is important. At the end of the day, all cashier (whether online of offline) should be closed and do not receive any payment anymore. A good customer management system could detect any unbalance money movement when the cashier is closed. How?
Let say that there are 3 cashiers: cashier A, B, and C. At the end of the day, all money received should be transferred to one cashier (say cashier A) to deposit it to the bank.

Cashier B when declaring that the money is moved to cashier A, a printed money out movement receipt/report should be printed by the system on terminal of cashier B. Cashier A when declaring that he/she received money from cashier B will let the system in his/her terminal to print money in movement receipt/report. This will create balance. The printed receipt/report is only for documentation signed by both cashiers involved. If the declaring of money out and in are not done, system will refuse to be closed because there are money “hanging” somewhere. The same case when cashier C will move the money to cashier A.

By having this money in/out reports, the manager of finance or commercial office will be easy to monitor the movement of money. It would be great if the system is centralized so that the manager can always check the amount of money collected and movements between cashiers.

Then, how about implementing 24/7 payment system through online website or ATM. Well, this will be a different procedure to handle that will be discussed in next blogposts. Watch out for it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Private Plate Number

Why do people like to personalize their plate numbers? One common reason is to have it personalized with the owner personality or name. They tend to buy private plate numbers with their initial name on it. However, most companies nowadays are buying personal plate numbers for their cars as part of marketing strategies to promote their company or products.

Northumbria Numbers is a company that can help company to do mass registration of private plate numbers. However, their service also available to individual. They have a huge database of private plate number that you can search on. The good thing is that the company also process the transfer of paperwork, unlike other companies that only provides certificate and let you do the hassle work of processing the number plates. Try to look at their bargain page to save further on your budget.

For individual or company that want to sell their private number plates, the site is can help you sell on a "no-sale, no-fee" commission basis. This is a win-win solution for both seller and the company.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Knowledge Management in Project Implementation

Project Implementation, especially in Utility System Project Implementations, requires specialist consultants to do the tasks. Each consultant has his/her role and responsibility to carry out the project implementation. Mostly, there is no overlap knowledge to minimize the cost of consultants in the project.

The situation like above creates a fragile project environment if a one consultant is absent due to any reasons. The project could be affected or worst it could be stopped temporarily if the consultant who are absent has the knowledge that could create a bottle neck in the project implementation.

This is where knowledge management should be considered in project implementation. There should be another person or consultant that could handle the task if a certain consultant is absent. Of course the result could not be maximum as the replacement consultant is a current consultant working on the project implementation handling other area. Knowledge management could be implemented by assigning a buddy consultant (from different area) to each consultant (say consultant A). The buddy consultant should attend all meetings attended by the consultant A to make sure he/she knows the progress and some tasks done by consultant A. This ways, a buddy consultant could handle temporary some tasks if consultant A is absent temporarily?

Another question is that... how if consultant A is absent permanently because of resigning? Well, a good human resource department in a company should require 1 month advance notice for a consultant to resign. This time could be enough for a company to hire another consultant with the same or similar profile.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Online Project Documentation Management

It is normal for a project documentation to have a tons of documentation. Each phase of the project often mark by documentation deliverables. Not to mention all the minutes of the meetings that needs to be documented. Due to high quantity of the documentations, proper documentation management is required. However, hard copy documentation management is not anymore a trend in project implementation. Most of the consultants and project managers are mobile, thus, most of the informations should be shared online. This is where a proper online project documentation is needed.

A project usually started online project documentation using an intranet within the organization. This way, all members in the intranet network could share the resources that were organized properly. The problem is that if the internet could not be accessed online from outside the office or network. This will be useless as project managers and most of the consultants are mobile.

UK based company created an innovation to offer Small Business Intranet UK. A web based intranet solution that allow all defined members to access the folders based on the privilege that have been set. You will be able to access your files remotely from home with the secured connection to protect all your project documentations. Small Business Intranet UK offers a 30 day free trial so that you can make sure if the customizable solutions fit your online project documentation management. Project manager can ensure to monitor all day to day activities with ease even if he/she is traveling.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Clear Responsibilities in Project Implementation

Even if during first step of the project all responsibilities have been defined for both parties (client and vendor), there will be new areas or work that need to be done and monitored. These new tasks should be make clear who are the entity that will be responsible.

It is important that during monthly meeting, these new responsibilities were declared to avoid misunderstanding in future. A chart displaying new tasks and responsibilities will be helpful.

This process should be repeated every time new tasks appear on the duration of the project implementation. It is better to anticipate and make every thing clear in term of responsibilities. Avoid blaming each other when the tasks are going wrong. You will not benefit anything from blaming other party. Instead, learn from the mistake and strategize better for the next phase.

Monday, October 22, 2007

What is Cut Over Procedure?

Cut over procedures in implementing a new system is interpreted as the process of taking the data separately during cut over period because the new system is going to be implemented and the old system is taken down already. It is part of the . In small system implementation where all the implementations process can be done in matter of hours, cut over procedures are not needed because all the process can be done at night where no activities or transactions are made on the system. However for huge system implementations, cut over procedures should be defined because the implementation can take 1 whole day or even more.

Each business process affected due to system down should be analyzed. Utility company can start doing some advertising that they are going to be off-line for 1 day or more to avoid customers coming at those days of implementation. But in the end, there are some process can can not be stopped. Usually this involve with the interface with other system like banking. The banks will continue to receive payments and send all payment files. Thus, specific cut over procedures should be defined.

Due to its complexity and to avoid problems with other system and customers, many utility companies choose to implement new system during major holidays to ensure that there is not interruptions in normal actitivies.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Archiving my files after Project Closing

My habit is to archive all my work in hard copy and soft copy after a certain project in utility company finishes. Currently, I put all the hard copy in my living room on a special cabinet full of books and papers resulted from my work. However, the past few days I have thinking to move those papers somewhere in my garage. Why? Because honestly, none of them are used by me. I never touched them in years. I usually browse the soft copy when I need something. And it is easier to find some keywords in soft copy. I do not want to throw it because I use it (even very rare) to teach some new personnel joining the team. It is better to show them in hard copy as I can make some notes and marks directly.

To pursue with the idea of putting them in my garage, I will need a new garage cabinets that can organize my paper so that I can easily index them for future use. I am going to have metal cabinets that can protect my papers against some disasters. Well, just want to be safe. I am not very choosy about the color but a silver color will look nice in my garage to suit the color of the wall.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How fast are your Meter Readers?

Are your meter readers going at the rate of 60 readings a day or 200 readings a day? Do they fast enough? These can only be answered considering some major parameters below:

1. Does the reader using paper of HandHeldUnit (HHU) during reading?
2. Does the area rural or city?
3. Do most of properties are a single meter (house) of multiple meters (apartments)

Below are some average reading speed from my experiences on different utility companies:
1. HHU, city, multiple meters: 400 or more readings a day
2. HHU, city, single meter: 100-200 readings a day
3. HHU, rural, single meter: 30-60 readings a day
4. Paper, city, multiple meters: 300 or readings a day
5. Paper, city, single meter: 70-150 readings a day
6. Paper, rural, single meter: 30-50 readings a day

The other combinations I don't have any statistics. So now, are your meter readers fast?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sharing some coupons

This post has nothing to do with Electric Utility System, but I would like to share on the site that got my attention. This provides online discount codes that you can utilize to get some discounts from your favorite merchants. For example these HP coupons can save me up to $300 on the purchase of HP z560 Digital Entertainment Center. If you plan to purchase HP notebook, the HP coupons & discounts could give you $200 of for Customized HP Pavilion Notebook.

Try to browse around in the left sidebar where you can find the general categories on the coupons that you are looking for. On the right sidebar, you will find the hot deals that can save you up to 50% off. I personally looking for computer and electronic related coupons because that is what I usually spent online. However, for my house stuff, I browse ShopNBC coupons. The small button "tell a friend" could help you inform some coupon informations to your friends if you know that he or she is planning to buy some products online. Let us help our friends to save money as well.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Upgrade into Automatic Meter Reading (AMR)

Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) is becoming a trend in utility company. Various vendors are offering nice features of AMR. However utility company should consider again if they need or if they are ready to implement this automatic meter reading. I have seen 2 out of 5 utility companies that I visited are implementing AMR but they are not benefiting much of the functionalities.

AMR has a functionality that transmits the meter reading automatically to billing system using ways of communications technologies. Either using a simple phone line, or using other telecommunication technologies like LAN, GPS, wireless, satellites, etc. From the 1 of the companies that I mentioned are not fully utilized the AMR because they just do not have reliable telecommunication technologies. In the end, they need to send readers to read the meter manually. The other 1 is not able to make an interface between AMR to the billing system. Thus, what the use of having AMR then?

Utility company should evaluate their conditions before spending money to upgrade meters to automatic meter reading. At least, here are the points that should be focussed on:

1. Within the budget? Conduct Cost and Benefit Analysis. We know that AMR can bring a lot of benefits like on time reading, early detections of irregular consumptions, better monitoring off peak and peak consumptions, better monitoring for complex tariff computation, etc. But make sure the company can utilize all of them.
2. Have strong communication network.
3. Will be able to integrate to other systems (billing system, scada, meter fraud)
4. Human Resources are prepared with the technology. Only users that understand the system can benefit from AMR.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reducing Erroneous Collection in Online Payment file

Utility company oftens has a deal with third party to recieve bill payments. The the passing of data is done online, there could be cases where when the payments are going to be applied, the bills in utility system has been altered (rebilling) or paid (double payments). This payment is considered as erroneous collection.

One way to reduce erroneous collectin is by applying the payment into customer's credit. This credit will be compensated to the next bills.

However, some scenarios can still generate erroneous collections. If the third party is allowed to enter the bill ID or customer ID in the payment file, then, there is a possibility that the bill ID or customer ID is inputted wrong. The system of utility company will not know where to credit this payment. To avoid this kind of problem, it is better if the utility company forced the third party collections to use barcode when receiving payments. Utility company will issue bills with barcode or customer ID card with barcode. Everytime, customer wants to pay the bills, he just need to show the customer ID card or the bills. This method will reduce the erroneous collection greatly.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Defining Meter Reading Area in the Maps

Meter reading is one of the important aspects for utility companies. Proper meter reading management will ensure that the bill will be produced correctly and timely for collection. However, some companies are very relying on their current readers. Once one reader for selected area is absent, the meter reading process is postponed.

The way to always having non-interruptions of meter reading process is to have a back-up readers. Some technicians can be put as back up meter readers as part of their job descriptions. Before putting them as back up readers, the company should define the area of meter reading in the maps. This is to avoid technicians will give reasons like "I do not know the area". Well defined meter reading maps could be very usefully even for new technicians that do not know well the area.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Project Management Tracking and Control

One way of Project Management Tracking and Control is using Communication Management. What are the purpose of communication management? It will:

• Identify and describe all project stakeholders
• Describe the communication needs of the project stakeholders
• Define how project stakeholders will be kept informed about the project
• Identify the communication paths within the project structure
• Ensure all information is consistent, accurate, and timely
• Common project communication methods include status reporting, correspondence, meetings, and formal presentations.

And what the methods for communication management?

• Project Status Documents
• Project Planning and Control Documents
• Inter-Office/Inter-Project Communication
• E-mail
• Meeting
• Presentations

For effective tracking and control of project management using communication management, all project audiences should be defined with their roles and responsibilities.

Then, the communication matrix should be developed to identify activities, who should receive the communication (audiences), method of communications, and suggested time frame. Example Below can be seen for the communication matrix:

Using simple communication matrix, the project can be easily controlled and tracked. Any deviations should be detected as early as possible for faster resolutions. This as to avoid the problems or hindrances grow and affect other activities of the project.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Standard Reports for Customer Management System in Utility Company

The module “Reporting or Management Information System” should provide comprehensive information concerning the Commercial activities necessary for the company’s management. The functions “Alarms” and “Inquiries” can serve this purpose.

Alarms serve to monitor selected indexes, which are important for the company’s management. The indexes have flag-shaped labels, whose colour changes depending on the reached index value according to pre-set limits. These alarms make it possible for the responsible employees to quickly establish what Commercial areas are trouble-free and, on the contrary, which ones present an unfavourable development allowing them to take the necessary measures.

Inquiries display comprehensible information about the selected Commercial management area of the Distribution Company and can be displayed in text or graphic form. Selecting information can be restricted to specific periods, query types and other conditions (the different types of queries are described later in this chapter).

To provide the necessary information, the module should use of the following queries:

This query displays information about the service point-readings that have to be or have been processed by the readings module within the selected period. This query displays the number of service points planned for reading in the selected period, the number of service points for which a theoretical reading date has been Generated, the number of already read service points, as well as the ratio Readings – theoretical reading date, and the ratio Performed readings – total number of planned readings.

This query displays the results of the readings performed in a specific period of time. The first to appear is the total number of readings with the respectively Generated theoretical reading date. It also specifies the number of real and exceptional readings, of not-performed readings due to customer absence, and the total number of not-performed readings.

This query displays the daily billing course, namely the number of billed supplies as of a specific day, billed amount usage, the advance billed amount, the ratio Supply billed by usage estimation – total billed usage.

This query displays the following monthly billing information: number of billed supplies, total billed usage in local currency, volume of billed technical units in local currency. This query has two windows. The second one contains the billing details: the total arrears/overpayments, the usage billed amount, the billed fixed charge, the billed miscellaneous charges, the VAT included in the prices and the advance billed amount.

This query allows viewing the information once the billing has taken place. This information includes the total number of processed supplies, the number of supplies billed according to reading and according to estimation, the number of exception bills, the total billed usage, the total billed amount and the billed advances.

This query displays all the information concerning the types of bill rules other than energy usage bills, indicates temporary supply bills, contract charges, frauds, miscellaneous charges, instalments, advance collection, deposits, etc. within a specific period.

This query display the exceptions registered in a specific period of time, their settlement and the average settlement time.

This query displays the initial (at the beginning of the monitored period) amount of the outstanding bills, of the bills sent for collection in the course of the period, of the bills collected in the course of the period, as well as the outstanding bills balance at the end of the monitored period.

This query allows monitoring the duration of the different collection stages for the different bill types in days.

This query allows monitoring the outstanding claims (debts) in the different bad payers management stages, namely as for their number, percentile constitution or amounts in local currency within a specific period of time.

This query allows monitoring the percentile development (growth or reduction) of claims, namely as for their number and amounts in local currency within a specific period of time.

This query allows monitoring the bad payers management process and its effects, i.e. the number of disconnection notices, disconnections, reconnections, bad claims, legal recoveries and deprecations.


This query displays the average duration of the whole “reading, billing, sending for collection and collection” Commercial cycle within a specific period of time.

This query allows monitoring the development of the number of contacts as for their settlement time, speed, type (justified and unjustified) and their duration.

This query displays the number of service orders, specifying the number of unsettled orders at the beginning of the monitored period, the increase of new orders, the amount of orders settled and canceled within the period, as well as the promptness of their settlement and their duration.


This query displays information concerning the supply requests within a specific period of time. The issue here is, for instance, the following information: number of unsettled requests at the beginning of the period; number of filed, settled and cancelled requests within this period; the average number of settlement days and the duration of the requests in the system, as well as the number of unsettled requests at the end of the period.

This query displays information about the number of valid power supply contracts available in the system at the beginning of the monitored period; the number of contracts created, edited and terminated within this period, and the number of valid contracts at the end of the period.

This query provides information about the amount on-line operations performed at the different Commercial offices, monitoring the different types of Commercial activities both in absolute and percentile expression.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reducing Commercial Cycle Duration

Reading - Billing - Collection is a normal Commercial Cycle for Utility Company. The duration to complete one full cycle is important for the cash flow of the company. The lesser it takes, the faster that the money can be collected over the consumptions used by customers.

Old fashion Utility company often forget the important of short Commercial Cycle Duration. Let us say that the electricity company produces a bill monthly. Most of the old fashion utilities company will spend the whole month reading customer's meters, resolve some anomalies/exceptions and bill all the services at the end of the months. By doing this, the company has an average of 15 days for its commercial cycle.

Why? Because the customers read on 1st day will get their bill on the 1st day of next month, while the customers read on 30th day will also get their bill on the 1st day of next month. Thus, the average will be 15 days more or less. What does 15 days commercial cycle means? It means that in average, that electric company will collect the money 15 days after the customers have consumed the electricity.

For us, it might not mean a lot. But for an electricity company whose revenue is million and million of dollars, this 15 days delay means something. Upper management of utility company should start thinking the best way to reduce the commercial cycle. One ideal set-up is to have daily cycle, where the customer is read and at night, the bill is produced and ready for delivery and collection the next day. This case, the commercial cycle will be reduced into 1 day. This is assuming that there is no anomalies or exception on that bill.

Reducing commercial cycle is not an easy task as it will affect the core business process of utility companies. In depth analysis and study should be paid attention to understand the risk of implementing the changes. Customers can be affected as well if they are not properly informed. Always put a team for change management to do this kind of task.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Weekend Break

One day ahead and it is weekend. I like to visit DialAFlight site to find ideas from my city breaks. I realized that there are a lot of holidays ideas that I can do during short breaks. The packages are awesome with cheap fights and a nice hotel. I never find it cheaper if I need to book directly to the airlines and hotels.

This gives me an idea as well to do travel stopover. I used have stopovers if I need to visit Asia from Europe during my business trips. If I have more time, I usually check the holidays offers in the city that I will do stop over and plan so that I could extend my transit stopover for few days and enjoy the city.

The site also offering tailor-made holidays by calling them. So, if you have in mind what additional activities aside from the package they offer, you can try consulting with them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How to get accurate GPS

In implementing new Customer Information System for Utility companies, data gathering is often required to complete the data that are lacking. Identifying the data that will be gathered is important before going to the field. Additional data can be added since the cost of adding additional data during field campaign less.

GPS coordinate of properties or customers become an important data for the company. The main issue is how to get accurate GPS during field gathering. You can take a look at how the GPS work before designing any activities of GPS gathering in the field.

There are many ways to be considered to get GPS accuracy but from my experiences, the most important is to implement PDOP value in your application. PDOP as defined by GPS Glossary of UIOWA.EDU:

"PDOP: Percent Dilution of Position. Measure of the geometrical strength of the GPS satellite configuration. The amount of error in your position. PDOP less than 4 gives the best accuracy (under 1 meter). Between 4 and 8 gives acceptable accuracy. Greater than 8 gives poor accuracy."

In simple words, the PDOP is an indicator that tell you whether your GPS coordinate that you will take is having enough satellite, enough signal strengths, good satellite positions, etc. The lower the value of PDOP, the better.,

If you want to buy the GPS HHU, ask your vendor if they have PDOP module also installed. If you have bought the GPS HHU, try googling to find PDOP .dll or modules that you can integrate in your HHU applications.

Once you have this module installed, you can always remind your surveyors to get GPS coordinates while the PDOP values shown is as small as possible. This will give you another reminders like:
- avoid too close to tall buildings.
- avoid too close to tress or other obstacles.
- avoid too close to surveyors' body. Yes, your body can block the signal as well.
- and other strategies.

If you want to have better accuracy of GPS, you can even plan the time to do GPS data gathering. All satellites are rotating following their orbits, so you can estimate the best time in your area to have more satellites with more strength. This schedule of satellites are recorded by Almanac. To simplify the discussion, you can try the planning software by Trimble. It is free to try.

I will try to post most of my techniques based on my experiences in GPS gathering in my next post. I hope this can help you. Feel free to leave comments if you have questions or suggestions on how to improve the GPS accuracy during data gathering.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Report any abuses in your project implementation

Since the project implementation life cycle is mostly short, the monitoring done by the project manager often loose. Authoritarian project manager is focussed on the end product without much participation. Due to this, you will encounter many abuses by the project team members. The most common is by claiming the work that was not done by himself/herself. This could be done with or without the knowledge of the person doing the job. How unfair the world is, right?

Even if the person knows that his/her task was claimed by another team member, he/she just kept quite because he/she does not want to ruin the relationship with the team member who claimed the work. Well, if you have the same experience and afraid to report, you might try informing your boss using Anonymous Email. Be sure that you put enough evidences. I am sure your boss will appreciate that. If you do not want to make it obvious, you can link it with different cases not related to your case. The main point is to teach the lessons to the abuser, right?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Project Methodology Explained - Data Gathering Sweeping

Today, I was discussing with the client about the methodology of how to sweep the area using map in data gathering. This data gathering is about taking information of meters and GPS position of the properties.

The discussion was going very well and a lot of ideas and comments were interchanged. The hardest part in the data gathering sweeping using maps is during planning. During planning, we need to visit the area and divide the area into smaller areas to work on. Base on the smaller area define, the maps will be printed and the sweeping direction should be defined on the map.

Estimation of how many days to finish the small area should be determined. The end results of this planning will be:
- Printed maps with sweeping direction defined. All these maps should be properly named so that we can easily identify the relation with the big map that we are going to post on the wall.
- Estimated schedule to finish sweeping the area. This could be the basis to compare the progress and performance of the surveyors.
Of course we have other tools to monitor the performance and do the auditing of data quality gathered by surveyors.

Take note that good planning is the important for the data gathering. As much as possible, we do not let the surveyor to make a decision in the field. All guides should be clear from the beginning. All sweeping directions should be defined clearly in the maps.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Project Hobby – Learn to play Piano

Aside from my busy days in project implementation of electricity system, I like to spend my time doing my hobbies. At least, it will my day relax after spending time in the office. I like music especially when piano plays involved.

I like to hear my friend playing piano during weekends. She is one talented girl who can just come up with the cords to play with. She always told me that it is not too late to start learning to play Piano. “Yeah right”… I said to myself, “with my age?” To my surprise, I recently read an article linked by Piano Chords Blog that was showing a 94 year old man is learning piano.

Well, either it is too late or not, I tried before when I was a kid and it seemed that my talent is not there. For you that are still wandering if you have a talent for playing piano, you might try some lessons. I found many free piano lessons online available.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Roles of IT Personnel in UNIX Related System

Customer Information System implemented in Electricity companies requires a huge platform to handle all transactions and data in the system. Some of the companies chose UNIX system to deal with better stability. Thus, Roles of IT personnel are important to keep the system running smoothly.

The fundamental role of IT with regards to UNIX related system is to provide support to ensure that the operating environment is running with sufficient reliability and availability. The operating environment includes all HW and SW components which includes PCs, operating systems, databases, servers, routers, switches, hubs, and the network (LAN/WAN) itself that connects these components together.

Backup and Recovery
IT will be responsible for the backup of SYSTEM server files, applications and databases. It is their job to ensure that in the event of machine failure or disaster, there is an up-to-date data and accurate data which SYSTEM can be restored from.

Provides Adequate Service Level to Users
Response times and system availability must be within a set tolerable limit defined by the users. IT must ensure that these service levels are being met.

Ensure Information Security
It is the job of the IT organization as a whole to ensure that the company’s information is not made accessible to unauthorized users.

New IT Positions
The implementation of SYSTEM will mean the creation of new tasks for within the IT department. The qualifications of the current company’s employees will be reviewed and these new tasks will be assigned to them based on their skills. SYSTEM will have need of the following positions:
• Technical Support Staff
• UNIX Administrator
• Network Administrator
• Database (Oracle) Administrator
• Batch Operator

The UNIX Administrator will be responsible for maintaining the environment in which the SYSTEM database and server runs on.

The Network Administrator will be responsible for maintaining network components and configurations like routers, switches, hubs and LAN/WAN connections.

The Database Administrator will be responsible for administration and maintenance of SYSTEM database. He will ensure that table statistics, table indexes, and database spaces are optimized for efficient performance. The database administrator will also be responsible for the daily backup of the SYSTEM database.

The Technical Support Staff will be responsible for maintenance of PCs, deployment of application and perform general support for the system.

Batch Operators will run and monitor the batch process, ensure that the batch process finishes and perform troubleshooting if necessary. The batch operators will be running the batch at night.

It will be necessary to have at least two (2) batch operators working alternately. Having to ensures that the other operator will be there to run the batch if one is sick or on holiday. Batch operation is not a very technical job. The operators will be trained to run the SYSTEM batch, troubleshoot common errors and report major ones to the administrators.

At least one person should be dedicated to the support and maintenance of SYSTEM, this person will need to have UNIX and Oracle administration skills, a working knowledge of networking will be helpful but not essential. The network administrator and general technical support staff need not be dedicated to the maintenance of SYSTEM. Network administration and general technical support duties are merely additional tasks to be performed by existing COMPANY IT staffs. It would also be beneficial that someone else from IT will have a working knowledge of UNIX, Oracle and SYSTEM to do temporary support in instances that the person dedicated to SYSTEM administration is sick or on holiday.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Communication is the Key for Project Manager

I think this is not a secret anymore that communication is important in project management. In my blog post now, I would like to discuss the media of communication. I am not going to talk about the communication strategy. But as simple as the media itself and how to reduce the cost for communication.

Maybe some of you have been using internet phone to reduce the communication cost, but this can be done (of course) if only you have the internet connection. Most of the time in the project, you are mobile and you do not have internet connection in most of the area. That is why I am going to discuss about global phone card.

One company that offer the services is Pingo. With this virtual card, you can save your international call up to 90%. And what I like most is that they are plain and simple. No hidden costs. I used other company before and I was shocked when the credits run out so fast. After some queries, I found out that there are additional fees that were not mentioned in their home page before. I just found out in some small fonts appeared in the long agreement statements.

Well, If you think that I exaggerate things, you can try it yourself for the international calling card and get 5 hours of free International calls during your sign up. You can put also a coupon code “ppp3” to get $3 rebate from Pingo. In total, you get $25 worth of calls for just $17.

Customer Service Defined In Electricity Company

There are many ways to defined good customer service. In electricity company, the customer service should be define to achieve the main goal, which is to provide uninterrupted electricity supply to customers. This main goal will result into several aspects that the company should pay attention for.

1. Giving best services to paying customers. Obviously, these customers deserve better services that non-paying customer. It is important that the company implements Customer Rating giving better rating for those who are paying the bills on time.

2. Warn about the disconnection. Non-paying customers are eligible for disconnection. However, the warning should be given before disconnection. Detailed company policies should be defined about non-paying customers. Special campaign can be launched to socialize the policies to customers. Non-paying customers are also have the right to be warned before any disconnections because electricity is one of the major necessities for daily life.

3. Find fraud connection and act immediately. Electricity fraud connection can result into network interruptions because of overload. Thus, company should find away to continuously find of customers with fraud connections, such as double connection and meter bypass. This step is to ensure that no network interruptions for paying customer because these illegal fraud connections.

Have You Prepared with the Coming Holidays?

Time goes fast. This is what I like about September. In near time, we will have holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and finally Christmas and New Year. Well, you might think that I am too excited talking about these topics now. But, it is better to prepared ahead right? At least I won’t be bothered in the next months for all my online bookings and online shopping. You now how difficult it is to book near holidays and how the prices will go up for shopping.

So, start from know. Make your own wish list. Tell you family to make their own as well. Browse in your leisure time for some deals of your list. You can have great BestBuy coupons to get more discounted on your wish list products.

Do not forget to have your selected Food & Wine for your stocks. I would like to get on My Wines Direct coupons. Make this year holidays memorable for you and your family. Reward yourself for the fantastic works that you have been done for the past year. This will boost your morale for the next year to achieve higher goals.

I personally like to reward myself for new computer related stuffs. I have been checking on the products from Dell coupons. For traveling, I am still undecided on where to go so far. Hope that in next week I will start booking.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why we called it Project? What differs Project with Operation?

Many of us have heard about the term “project”, even during our college days we often heard “mid-term project” or “final term project”. Project involves organization of people and other resources to perform work. But what makes it different with Operation? As we know that operation also involves people and resources to perform work. The main differences can bee noticed because projects are:
• Temporary
• Resulting a unique product or service

“Temporary” means that the project has a definite start time and finish time. The project starts when the initiation process has been launched. The project finishes when the project’s objectives have been achieved. The project duration can be short like matter of days. On the other hand, the project can take years as well. Take note that even the project can take year, this is because the scope of the project is huge. Small scope of the project should not take time to manage. If the project keeps on deviating from the objective or having delays in most of the time, then, the project management should think and act if the project should be terminated.

Even tough the project is temporary, the end result are mostly a permanent product. For example: project of implementing new customer information system for electricity company. The project itself is temporary to implement new system. When the project’s objective is achieved and the project closes, the system is going to be used by the company in permanent basis. The work will then become an operation work.

“Resulting a unique product or services” means that the project carries out a unique product or services. Let us continue the example of implementing customer information system for Electricity Company. One may say that the customer information system is not unique. It is a common system used by many electricity companies. So what makes it unique? The one that make it unique is because the project is implemented by different vendor. It is unique because the electricity company that is going to be implemented the system is different. It is unique because the customization of the customer information system for that electricity company is different. And many more but I think you get my point already.

As the project results into a unique product or service, the characteristics of the product or services should be defined clearly in the project scope. This is usually clearly stated in the contract if the project involves other party outside the company.

1 Month signed in PPP

I have been blogging for a quite sometime now. But I just joined last month to PayPerPost (PPP) using this blog. PPP is a place where a blogger like me can grab an opportunity given by the advertisers to review their site. In return, I get paid for the sponsored content.

Since my blog is just new and has limited visitors, google still does not give me any enough Page Rank. If you do not know what PR is.. better googling about it fist. PR0 limits me to grab many opportunity in PPP. There are still some, but I get choosy sometime on the topic because I do not want to review the site if I am not knowledgeable enough for the topic. Even for these selected opportunities that I grab, I managed to earn around $50 for the first month. Well, not bad considering how new my blog is and how choosy I am in taking the opportunity.

The good thing about PPP is that I have an option to donate my earnings to non-profit organizations. But so far, I would like to donate them myself because I have some non-profits organization near my house that really need some donations. I am glad that I can donate some of my earnings from PPP to those organizations.

Aside from the monetary values, I get some new bloggers friends as well. I am becoming frequent visitor of blogs that I found in PPP. I like to read their blogs and also noticing the different writing styles that they used to post blogs.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Impacts of Implementing New Customer Information (Billing) System Into Utility Company’s Human Resources

The implementation of any system means some changes in company management and is it necessary to take into account the motivation of personnel because they will be the final users and they are very important “assets” of company.

A critical factor for implementation is the participation of company’s management during all process of definition of changes and the implementation of changes to ensure the fulfillment of the planned goals. Also, the management is very important for providing direction and in transmission of information to the horizontal and vertical company structure.

Another very important activity is the organization of campaign for propaganda (publicity) of the changes that must be made in the organizational area. The objective of this will be to inform company personnel about the effects of the changes and to explain the new scope and the basic functions which will be assigned to each organizational unit and each position in unit. It will be also necessary to clarify and explain the new role of the payment point that it will have the separated functions as a delivery point for invoices and also as a collection point for payments.

From user’s training point of view, is will be necessary to give the training for each group of users on the correct usage of the functions that system will provide and relate this with the new functions of each unit until the personnel level. That it, the implementation of new processes will be incorporated in training. For some of the users will be very important learn to be confident to start working with computers because up to now their activities were done manually.

With regards to manpower, it may be necessary adjust the existing number of personnel. Initially, we can make the following deductions:
• It will probably be necessary to have more persons for customer services in Commercial office where all front office activities will be done for the following reasons: first is that these personnel will do more activities than how much they do now and second is to respond to the increasing number of clients.
• It may also be necessary to increase the number of personnel in the Call Center when the company will want to give more services to the clients by phone.
• It will be possible to eliminate the number of readers because of change in number of days for reading and the consequent re-distribution of meter reading workload. When company will start to read daily (for residential clients), that means 20 working days per month, the number of meter readers can be reduced significantly.
• It will also be necessary to have persons for the administration of system. This group of personnel must be comprised of IT personnel and commercial area personnel. It is recommended that the administration of system will be assigned to some or all COMPANY personnel who are currently working in the project.
• The necessity to have personnel that will have the responsibilities related to the resolution of anomalies of the system can be covered by personnel who are currently responsible for some billing activities which will be automated when the system is implemented.
• It will probably be necessary to have some personnel who will manage the technical center (planning of work orders, assignment of work orders, and monitoring of completion and resolution of work orders, and updating of information in the system). This group may be comprised of those who are currently managing the similar works but without the support of a computerized system.
• Temporarily, it will be necessary to have additional personnel for technical activities like operators of batch process running and monitoring of Customer Information System. The personnel that maintain the existing systems which will be replaced by the CIS may be transferred to other functions after the CIS is implemented.

Another important factor will be the availability of the personnel. Upon the Customer Information System implementation, there will be functions that must be carried out outside the regular working hours. This is related to the batch operator who can start his tasks only when the users finish their on-line activities. This will also be the case when updates of the system will be implemented. Personnel from System Administration Unit must have shifts (distributed working time) that will cover the daily operation period which may be longer than the official working time of an employee per day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Why PMBOK is commonly used in project management?

In implementing a new system to a company, project management is the key in planning, staffing, executing and monitoring the whole process. Project implementors often use different approach to make sure that the system can be implemented with minimal risk. In general, this methodology for project management can be generalized into several steps. Most well known project management is PMBOK.

PMBOK stands for Project Management Body of Knowledge. It is combination of knowledge in the area of project management. It becomes a standard of project management because it has been proven in many project managements. It is a practice or methodology that is generally accepted. Generally accepted means that it could be applied to any projects in general. However, generally accepted means as well that in some of the projects, some methodologies are not obligatory.

PMBOK can be used by anyone interested in the project management, namely:
• Project managers
• Project team members
• Managers of project manager
• Customer of the project or project’s stockholder
• Consultant involved in the project management
• Trainers or educator in the area of project management

PMBOK can be summarized into 5 general processes:
1. Initiating Processes – in first step is to recognize that the project should begin. Commitment from all parties should be available to initiate the project.
2. Planning Processes – the process should define a workable scheme to achieve the goal of the project.
3. Executing Processes – in this process, the available human resources and other resources should be coordinated to carry out the plan.
4. Controlling Processes – measurement to detect any deviation from the goal and plan should be implemented. Necessary corrective action should be imposed to align the project into the plan.
5. Closing Processes – the project should end and acceptable by all parties. This step is related to formalize the closing of the project.

In next posts/articles, I will discuss in details about each processes and everything related to project management to ensure you do not miss the concepts of it. Make sure you sign up in our mailing list (you can find on upper left of the site) to be notified for any new post related to project management.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Organization Aspects in Utility Company

The organizational structure of each company should be created in accordance with the resources that have already been assigned to the commercial areas for realization of the basic commercial processes with the goal to obtain the satisfactory results. These satisfactory results are:
- to the clients – providing high quality level of services
- to the own company – obtain good economic (financial) results
- to the own personnel – through motivation.

Organizational strategy should be developed in consideration of these three elements (client, company, personnel) to satisfy the expectation for each of them.

Orientation to the clients

The whole organization of company should be created with the client in mind and this aspect should follow in the company’s organizational development. The organizational strategy should be oriented towards obtaining a good reaction from the client and to present the best image of the company.
The company should develop these processes which allow it to satisfy the client’s needs using the different possibilities available in the market and adhere to the high quality of these processes during implementation.
Also, based on information gathered from the client, it may be necessary to adjust or modify the commercial procedures to improve the quality of services provided.

Orientation to the results

It is true that the company cannot exist without its clients. On the other hand, it is also true that the company’s resources to realize its activities are limited. Priority should be to satisfy the clients but it is necessary to study the financial costs and gains of these activities. It is not possible to spend resources without obtaining good financial results.

A process should be established to permit management to identify and evaluate the participation of each organizational unit in the fulfillment of these goals. These organizational units should participate and be responsible for accomplishing the results set by the company. Similarly, it is necessary to do this each position in the organizational units. A balance should exist between the results which the person/position must obtain and the resources that are assigned to it.

Orientation to the processes

The company’s resources should concentrate on the basics – key processes in commercial area which generate high added value. On other side, it is necessary to eliminate processes which do not generate any added value and processes which produce only losses.
Basic commercial processes should be defined. The inputs, outputs, responsibilities and activities within in each process should be made clear. If it is possible, some criteria for measuring and evaluating the costs of different activities and the financial gains should be established.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Bypass Meter - You want to know how to bypass meter?

With the electricity tariff hikes, many customers of utility company is trying to bypass the meter. In this case, I will be specific in Electricity Meter. The most common meter bypass that is done by customer is by putting a jumper in meter terminal. You can see the picture of meter by pass here. This kind of meter bypass can be easily noticed by reader when they go regular reading of your meters.

Another type of meter bypass is by removing external potential copper on the terminal. This kind of fraud is hardly noticed because the reader will not pay attention on the terminal copper when doing the reading. See the picture of by passing meter using external potential open.

Double feeding can also be a type of meter by pass as it will not register the whole consumption of electricity. If you meter cable is over the ground, than it will be easy to do. However, it is one of the easiest one to notice. Unless the cables in your area is so crowded that it is difficult to notice which one is legal and which one is not. If the cable is under ground, it is difficult to tamper but when it is done, you are less likely to get caught in near future. Readers seldom check the underground connection unless there are troubles. See double feeding here.

Customers are encouraged to do meter bypass because it seems common to them. They see neighbors are doing that, why should not I? Especially when they encounter that the personnel from electricity company is offering that services for some dollars.

Nevertheless, in most countries, doing meter by pass IS A CRIME! So think twice or even a thousand times before doing it. You are not only cheating to the electricity company, but also you are cheating the community.
- When you steal the electricity by bypassing meter, you increase the commercial loss of the electricity company. In the end, the company needs to raise the tariff to cover all the commercial losses that it encountered.
- When you steal the electricity by bypassing meter, you increase the load of transformer and cables in your area. Electricity company has a reason to put a breaker near cables and transformers. This is to ensure that the load will not over the planned load by the company. Increasing load to the cable can cause sparks and will lead to fire. Increasing load to the transformer can cause the transformer to shut down for protection. This will shut down the whole electricity in your area.

In conclusion, it is nice to know how the meter is bypassed. But DO NOT do it. Warn your neighbors who are doing it!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Why External Communication is Needed in Implementing New Billing System (Customer Management System)

Communicating with external audiences is essential for the success of any organization, in businesses, governments or non-profit organizations. Increasingly, companies succeed or fail depending on their public perception.

The main objective of external communication is to inform all organizations about implementation of the new Customer management system within COMPANY. The main objective of the presentation is to improve the external image of the organization. External communication is related mostly to the different types of customers (residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural) and/or communication with collection points (banks, on-line and off-line payment points). It is important to inform customers of the new services provided in commercial offices, and of new telephone numbers, etc.

Mission of External communication:

Transferring to different audiences the basic messages, corporate values and the administration style represented in the brand image that COMPANY wants to transmit continuously.

Receivers of the information:

- Customers (residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, etc.)
- Suppliers (of equipment, products, services, etc.)
- Public organizations and other institutions

Problems of external communication:

The problems related to external communication can be classified into the following groups:

• Information for customers – customers do not have any information or very limited information about the changes. Customers do not know why the Company is doing the changes and how the changes would affect them.
• Information for collection points – the collection points have not sufficient information on how the changes can affect the collection processes which may lead to problems and misunderstandings.
• The information is not distributed before the implementation – Customers or collection points obtain the information when the system is already implemented.

How to solve the problems:

• Preparing the information campaign related to different types of customers (impacts or changes) and explaining with details or examples what concretely is going to be changed and how a new process should be done.
• Preparing the information for collection points including explanations of the communication changes (collaboration).
• Preparing the campaign or other material before the system implementation.
• These kind of preparations can be sub-contracted to any business consulting companies.

Friday, August 24, 2007

5 Minute Review Before You Sign Off from Work

As a project member, you need to work smart to keep everything under control. Working hard alone is, nowadays, not enough.

More positions and tasks in the project are minimal supervised by our boss. In the end, our boss just needs the end result. He/she does not care how we manage your time to do the task. If you work with each day has been defined what you should do, then, Congratulation! you are a winner.

Planning the things to do is no secret anymore for any time management. One thing that I recommend you to do is to review your things to do 5 minutes before you are heading off from your work. You will not image how this can help you a lot in monitoring your task for the next day.

Ok. To be more specific, just say that it is 5 minutes before going home. Get your things to do list and review one by one which one:

- pending

- finished

- finished but create another item.

For item 1 and 2, there are self explanatory. For point 3, this is the task that you have finished but in the end, it creates another task that you need to do. For example in the list of things to do is: Obtain finance data from John. Once you get the data, the format is not as you expected. Thus, the next day you can not create a report in the time that you have allocated. You need to reformat the data and it will surely take 1/2 day of your time (for example). It means that "Obtain finance data from John" is finished, but "Reformat data from John" is created and will be included in your things to do for tomorrow.

Using this simple review, you will benefit much. You will know where you are now as compared with your goal or achievement for the week. You will also be up to date with all the progress that you have. Imagine if all the sudden your boss call you and asking when you can finish the finance report. You will be able to answer with confidence and explain a delay in reasonable answers.

Once you finish reviewing your shot list, you can include the pending and new items for your things to do for the next day. Giving priority will enhance your time management so that you know what to put down first thing in the morning for the next day. No equal priority should be given. Next day when you come to the office, you just need to tackle down all the things in your list one by one. You will fell well when you see how many tasks you are able to cross out in your list.

I hope that this 5 minute review before signing off from work can be beneficial for you as it is helping me a lot. The key is persistent on doing this. Make it as a habit for you.

Work Environment: Summer Time in Office

When it comes to summer, I usually tell the office boy to check all the air conditioner and window blinds in each room. Aside from many staff filling a vacation during this summer, I can not let my other staffs complaining the work environment because of hot weather.

Talking about the blinds, this might look simple. I remember attending a meeting in a friend’s business consulting office and some of the window blinds are not working properly. Some are only defected in certain area letting sun light passed through. The impact is that we could not work effectively since we could not see clearly our laptop’s monitor. We needed to move around just to avoid sunlight. I image how it will be when somebody is working on PCs and all the furniture is fixed (can’t be moved).

I’d like to see some venetian blinds to get quality blinds. Well, the company has established 35 years in the window blinds industry, so they know what Venetian blinds quality is.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Internal Communication in Implementing Customer Management System (CMS)

The need of internal communication exists in every society or human group. The COMPANY current situation makes it is necessary to set up a program of internal communication that will specify the problems that can occur. Hereafter is a proposal of some measures to be taken.

Mission of internal communication:

To create and to maintain communication channels so that the information about the new business and operative measures, flows easily through the different levels of the organization.

Objectives of internal communication:

To involve people in the integration with the new actions, supporting the communication and motivation inside the Company. The key objective is the total staff commitment in the development of the new strategy.
To transmit Key messages of the Plan of Improvement within COMPANY itself.

Problems of internal communication:

• Information – quantity, quality, content, form, time (sometimes the staff has limited information or the information has not a satisfying content or the information is available very late).

• Communication channels – Companies normally have insufficient communication channels. Not all-possible channels of communication are used. Many times staff itself is not informed, the information does not flow fluently and/or it is blocked between certain levels. (i.e. the superior does not inform subordinates in the organizational unit).

• Human factor – this is the most complicated factor related to internal communication. Some people have problems to accept the changes that are carried out in the company. They try to reject the changes. Our suggestion is to focus on minimizing these aspects.

• Culture and the level of computer literacy – This reflects how deeply-rooted the old system is. With special regard to the aspects of work organization and human factor motivation. This is relevant to assess how possible a change is both in work organization and processes and whether the Company can assume a new organizational structure or a change in job’s functions.

Solution of problems:

• Information – each information item must have its “own adequate quality standard” (representing: information value and guarantee of accuracy) and must be available at the right time. The Company has to explain to its staff the strategy for the coming periods and what goals the Company wants to achieve. And, since one of the Company’s objectives is the CMS implementation, the staff must feel that it is involved in the fulfillment of the goals and must be motivated to participate. It is very important to prepare different ways and details of information depending on the target group of personnel (passing the information to managers might be different than passing it to the personnel who will operate the new system on a daily basis.). Furthermore, there are different levels of details about how to inform the different groups of people (for some groups it is enough to make a presentation of the main subjects and for others it is necessary to go into details). Besides that, the timing for communication is very important. The Company should start with the communication from the beginning of the implementation and do it over all the period of implementation.

• Communication channels – It is necessary to improve existing channels and create new ones. The Company should analyze the possible channels of communication depending on types of audience (using company magazine or newspaper, e-mail, web site of the company, meetings, specific bulletins, video, photos, etc). Suggestions are:
1. To increase the number of internal e-mail users
2. To issue the internal magazine with abundant content, written in an attractive style and high professional standard. The internal magazine should be sent to every employee monthly to the employee’s address. The magazine should feature articles about employees, departments, and future perspectives. Employees should feel in the center of interest of the Company.
3. To install a letterbox in the lobby, where employees have the possibility to drop a letter with questions about the future of the Company.
4. To hold meetings and professional consultation.
5. To establish a telephone service to answer employees’ questions about the changes, the future of the Company future, etc.
6. To create a department for communication and information that should answer employees’ calls, organize issuing and distribution of leaflets, arrange the contacts with personnel. This department would be responsible for internal communication and for transmitting the information to employees.

• Human resources – within this area it is important to establish a positive relationship between the staff and the Company, encouraging a feeling of pride for being part of the organization, and a positive outlook for the future. It is necessary to define clearly when the results will be achieved, to compare used resources and effort done. First, we recommend COMPANY to define the mission and philosophy of the organization. Then, through information channels and with the support of training and of the management, to move the mission forward to employees. Employees can identify themselves with the mission and philosophy of the Company. Motivation of the staff is essential for a better understanding of the changes the Company will carry out (for example to allow personnel to change the qualification for new job positions).

• Culture of organization – This is connected with a good image of the Company. COMPANY is an exceptional organization that started to carry out changes in commercial areas and to offer better service to customers. To achieve all this, it is necessary to define the tasks and to carry out them efficiently and with a high quality standard.
1. At the same time, we cannot forget the employees – to create good conditions and to offer them social advantages. It is important to appropriately motivate the staff, providing ways to improve their qualifications (in accordance with the implementation of CMS). Each employee has to be sure his work is important for the Company.
2. We suggest management sending a birthday card to every employee.

Project Manager LifeStyle

As a project manager, you need to shoulder some expenses in advance. In the end of month, you will reimburse the expenses to the company. I know it is not always the case, but it happens to a friend of mine.

He takes advantage of credit card while paying all the expenses. This way, he can earn points from the credit card and also he does not need to advance the payment using his own money. The credit card holder is usually given a period of time to pay.

One consideration to choose a credit card is when the interest is low. I know that some of you will always pay on time, but in some situation, we might forget to pay and the high interest is killing you. An offer from low rate apr credit card is giving a good deal of interest. So far, this is the lowest I have seen. It also gives no interest for balance transfer for 13 months. You can check other benefits that this credit card offers. It includes online fraud protection and world wide acceptance with Master Card sign.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Communication Strategy in Implementing New System

Implementing a project as large as Customer Management System (CMS), communication becomes a key factor for its success. Thus COMPANY’s customers, suppliers and staff must understand that all the activities of the CMS are focused on achieving the continuity of COMPANY as a company, which is competent, stable and profitable.
To accomplish this, COMPANY staff, customers and suppliers need to be fully aware of the switch from the old systems to the new ones.

Considering the implementation of a new CMS, it is necessary to elaborate material for internal and external communication purposes. This material features some problems that could arise during the transitional change in the Company, as well as offering several solutions. Even though the proposed solutions do not cover the whole spectrum of the problems, these could be regarded as an initial impulse of inspiration.

COMPANY has determined to carry out a change of its internal structures. The implementation of any information system means significant changes in the whole organization or in certain organizational units. The CMS implementation is special because it addresses both internal and external changes. Internal changes refer to the organization’s staff and external changes are related to different types of COMPANY customers.

Basically, the CMS implementation is not free of distrust (internal and external). The reasons could be the following:

• Company’s staff has no information about the implementation of the system or has only limited information that is not enough for a proper understanding.
• Staff dislikes new technologies (this is related to job positions where people are not used to work with computers or where the use of computers is limited
• Customers have no information of what the strategy of the Company is, why the Company is implementing a new system and how this implementation is going to affect them.

Therefore, from the beginning of the implementation of the CMS, it is very important to do activities in order to overcome all these hurdles. The staff has to grasp what the expected changes are about. The most useful way to persuade them is communication, “We can desire and accept only what we understand“.

The staff has no information about “Why” or “Whom” are these changes for? How will the Company be in future? What organization structure will it have? What will be the philosophy of the Company? These are the reasons to create an effective communication plan, focused on an accurate transmission of information to managers and employees. Firstly, it is necessary to communicate the basic ideas of the project, inputs and outputs that are expected to be made straightforwardly and at the appropriate time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Project Implementation Phases

Each consulting companies or individuals have their own strategies to implement a Customer Management System. Most of the phases can be generalized like below:

Phase 0 – Project Organization

Phase I – Conceptual Design

• Description and analysis of current business processes, organization and systems
• New business processes and organization
• Requests for modifications to new system
• Definition of HW, SW and Communications Architecture
• Data gathering and conversion
• Identification of requirements and sources of information
• Definition of Data Gathering Campaigns Plan

Fase II – Analysis and Design

• Functional Design of modifications to the system
• Technical Design of modifications to the system
• Translation of new system (if needed)

Fase III– Implementation

• Training plan and materials
• Training of users
• Completion of Data Gathering and Conversion
• New System Development and Customization
• New System Testing (unit, integrated, user)
• HW/SW/Communications installation
• User acceptance of New System
• Go-live

Phase IV- Post implementation support.

• User follow through
• System commissioning

Phase V- Warranty Period.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Basic of Data Gathering with GPS

Before you want to use GPS for data gathering, you must know first what is GPS and how it works. This will give you a solid knowledge to avoid problems in the field with regards to GPS.

How GPS work?

Global Positioning System (GPS) is a navigational aid originally developed for the military. The system simply receives signals. It is the applied technology that gives the GPS its versatility.

If you have ever used map and compass, you will understand a little about how the GPS
works. In order to find your position on a map, you need to have three points of
reference. The intersecting line from the reference points is where you are. Map and
compass work uses triangulation (bearings), GPS uses trilateration (distances) to calculate location. Satellites orbiting the earth emit unique signals that can be received by a GPS. The GPS software interprets the signal, identifying the satellite that it came from, where it was located, and the time that it took for the signal to reach the system. Once the receiver has both time and distance it begins to determine position.

Three satellites provide the intersection point and the fourth is used to check that the positioning is accurate. Accuracy depends upon the synchronization of atomic clocks in the satellites with the clock in the GPS system. Although the clock in the GPS is not atomic, utilizing the fourth satellite gives it that functionality as the internal clock adjusts itself to correct any discrepancy discovered.

GPS has gone far beyond its initial military application. Drivers can find their way
through city streets, long distance trekkers use the technology to cross unfamiliar terrain, mariners and pilots use GPS enhanced data to cross the seas and skies.

In--vehicle GPS can be integrated into the car entertainment system or can be installed as a removable device. These systems need to tell the driver where he/she is and how to reach their destination. The information includes road directions plus relevant features along the way such as rest stops, gas stations, points of interest, etc. Auto GPS uses voice commands so that the driver can concentrate on the road.

Hikers and trekkers use similar technology, but normally without the inclusion of road systems on their devices. Mapping software defines the territory that the hiker will encounter. The user can enter waypoints (points of reference) so they can return using the same route. They can add points of interest such as water sources, possible campsites, and other items of interest on their trail. However, the portability demanded by hikers will also limit the functionality of the system as small screens mean that some detail will be lost.

It is GPS technology that is used to track individuals on home arrest, to trace missing pets, stolen vehicles, and missing people. Small systems can be incorporated into pet collars and wristwatches. As long as the receiver is active, it can be found.

Marine and aviation GPS units are sophisticated and specialized. The principles involved are the same as any standard system; the software is much more highly developed.

Any fisherman, who is using a fish finder on his boat, is using a GPS that is enhanced by sonar and tracking devices. Units have been developed for use on float tubes also -– as GPS technology advances, the systems become more and more compact and their uses more and more extensive.

If you are considering purchasing a GPS, make sure that it can be updated easily. This is especially true if you buy a multi--function GPS or one that is used where conditions change regularly. An in--vehicle GPS soon loses its usefulness if it is not updated as road systems change.

Updates vary according to the device being used. They can come in CD/DVD packages
or as computer downloads. The user can purchase maps specific to the area in which the GPS will be used or a range of maps and routes. These are available from GPS software companies who will charge proportionally to the sophistication of the software.

GPS units vary in price according to their usefulness. It is possible to buy units for less than one hundred dollars to units costing more than one thousand dollars. What your needs are will be a factor in the cost of your unit. If you are a backpacker then portability is a major consideration. If you are a trucker, you need to be able to find a delivery point as quickly and conveniently as possible. Whatever device you go for, cost is generally related to quality. Buy the best you can afford.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Billing Exception or Anomaly in Customer Management System

a) What is a billing exception?
Billing exceptions are any abnormal situations for a supply detected during the billing process. These abnormal situations may cause improper billing of the supply or no billing at all. Thus, it becomes necessary to analyze and solve these inconsistencies before billing (with actual reading data or estimates) is performed.

b) What is the consequence of the abnormal situation?
Abnormal situations may cause improper billing of a supply.

c) What does the billing team do with the exception?
They have to analyze and solve the exceptions before billing it once and for all.
N.B: It more important to have quality resolution of exception, rather than the number of exceptions solved in a day.

Project Manager’s Sideline

Some of my friends who are project managers are putting their extra money in stocks, options or forex. Why? Because as project managers, there are get used to challenges. Putting their money in stocks is just like an extra game to win for them. They need to analyze, plan, and execute at the right time and strategy.

Being in that game, you need an access to reliable information on the stocks that you are watching. I recommend a new blog called Wizetrade. In this blog, you will find reliable information about stocks. You can learn as well regarding stock research tools that will save a huge amount of time in monitoring your positions or your future trades. The site also provides you with videos and pictures to save time in understanding the concepts or strategies in trading. As you know, this stocks trading is one of sophisticated arena to explain if only by writing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Conversion Process and Procedures: Evaluation of Implementation Alternatives

Aside from the migration of information from the Current Systems into New Systems, the Conversion Process also includes assistance in the identification of a practical and sound division of the Implementation into sub-phases.

It is not always practical and is rarely advisable for a new system to go live using the whole client base of a company. Sometimes for sheer volume of the customers involved, it would be an enormous task to monitor the results as the new system goes into production for the first time.

The subdivision of the entire company client base may be done geographically, by load type, customer type, functional divisions, or in any other way that seems viable, logical and manageable.

In studying different alternatives, it is important to note the following:

1. Possibility of having the most control over commercial operations

Minimizing the area to be converted for each phase facilitates the creation of controls for both the conversion process as well as those mechanisms practiced by the users of the system, making it possible for a swift and safe resolution of incidences that might come about.

2. Risk reduction

The conversion by logical subdivisions guarantees a development involving a concentrated area of operations, therefore making whatever procedures to be carried out over the data less costly.

3. Increase in efficiency and quality of the Conversion Process

The experiences acquired by the users from the first phase could be used in the remaining areas to be converted.

4. Current System setup

It is best to segregate implementation phases based on database independence. Implementing for one region with an independent database minimizes any integrity controls necessary for remaining phases.

For Client, with each branch having a certain degree of operational area and database independence, it is highly recommended that a geographical area or region be chosen as separate Implementation Phases for the New System.

To be able to identify the Pilot Region or Pilot Phase, a comparative analysis of the regions that comprise the geographic area of influence of the company must be undertaken, taking into account the following aspects:

• The volume of clients/services to be converted should be of reasonable quantity but sufficient enough to measure the quality of the actual results

• The possibility of reaching the commercial offices in reasonable time to be able to attend to whatever unforeseen incidents that could arise during the first phase of the implementation

• The communications infrastructure as a fundamental aspect of the implementation

• The commercial activities of the region’s offices to be selected must involve a majority of the commercial functions supported by the new system

• The capability and receptiveness of the personnel in the event of modernization should be taken into account, as well as their ability to pass on acquired experiences and knowledge

• To avoid, as much as possible, carrying out the first implementation in regions with a high concentration of clients (i.e., clients per geographic area)

• It is recommended that the region be as isolated as can be, from a geographic point of view, from the rest of the regions so as to minimize the overlapping of commercial operations between the actual and the new system.