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, 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.