Bobby Batson has been involved with utilities in many capacities since the early 1990s. Starting off as a software developer building an early customer information system (CIS) for utilities, all the way through running a utilities practice for a major SaaS company, Batson has worked on almost every possible aspect of technology transformations for water, gas, and electric utilities. So, it’s no surprise that Batson was an ideal choice to fill the role of VertexOne’s new COO.
A closer look reveals that at Anderson Consulting, Batson helped develop a mainframe-based CIS system that became widely used by large utilities across North America. But while utilities tend to hold onto their CIS for a decade, sometimes two, he’s also participated in the shift to SAP-based system, at least for the “big players.” Along with one of his colleagues at Anderson, Batson built two different consulting companies that helped utilities migrate to these and other modern information technology systems. Recognizing his success in these endeavors, the companies were bought by even bigger consulting firms—Capstone Genimi and Ernst & Young—further evidence that Batson knows how to take utilities to the next level of technology. Most recently, he ran Oracle’s utility practice for three years, so he’s as familiar with Oracle’s technology suite as he is with SAP.
Batson’s past has certainly shaped his views on how information systems can and should be used by utilities to better serve their customers and improve operational efficiencies. Today we’ll take a brief look at how that experience will help guide VertexOne today and into the future, and allow us to better serve our customers and help them to achieve those goals.
The Present: A Time of Transformation
That brings us up to 2019. As he takes over the helm as VertexOne’s COO, Batson says the utility industry and its use of technology are still evolving, perhaps—as is technology in general—even faster than ever. And he says that technological evolution and new leadership is bringing a positive transformation for VertexOne—and a lot of advantages for its customers.
Batson says the recent change in ownership is providing VertexOne an invigorating “shot in the arm.” Many of the first and second layers of management have been refocused, elevating talent to senior positions and better aligning leadership and the company’s core talents and resources. And he says that is already giving the company a whole new “vibe.”
In the span of a few short weeks, the company has also won new contracts with Pinellas and AltaGas, and two more are upcoming—all of which highlights another evolution for VertexOne. Batson says that while SAP remains a primary pillar for many utilities’ CIS and supporting systems, the company recognizes that SAP isn’t the right platform for everyutility. SAP continues to be very important to VertexOne’s mission, but different utilities—including the recent wins he mentioned—require a right-sized solution. For some that is SAP or Oracle. For others, it might be Open SmartFlex or another CIS platform that better fits the utility’s scale and budget. Whatever the case, Batson says VertexOne’s vast experience in integration will allow it to provide the VertexOne experience for any utility (and its customers) on the platform that makes the most sense for them.
Batson says one of his chief goals, therefore, is the transformation in product development from building a modern CIS based only on SAP to one that is systems-agnostic—but he will continue to evolve the company’s other offerings, too. The CIS may be the heart of the utility’s customer support and customer experience, but enhancing VertexOne’s other products and services will allow it to evolve the full meter-to-cash solutions its customers enjoy. That includes its customer self-service platform—part of the VertexOne Customer Engagement suite—as well as Analytics, Mobile Workforce Management, and Bill Presentation/Payment, just to name a few.
The Future Will Evolve, But Our Focus Hasn’t Changed
Batson says that he’s excited to help drive VertexOne’s evolving vision. However, while the change of technology may be relentless, he says the company’s focus has not and will not change—ever. Today’s utilities want a partner that can provide meter-to-cash solutions, and that’s what VertexOne has been providing and will continue to provide. It’s just that utilities will now have even more options from VertexOne to build upon.
His vision for VertexOne is to provide a full range of software applications that allow a utility to onboard, bill, and manage customers and collect revenue, while VertexOne manages all the software, systems, and maintenance for them. Even more so, VertexOne’s platforms will evolve based on what its customers tell them they need. That means the company will continue its platform development efforts, building the intellectual property that allows it to own, enhance, manage, and deploy solutions to meet those customers’ needs effectively and in a timely fashion. And because the end customer experience is now more important than ever, VertexOne will continue to evolve its Customer Engagement platform to allow utilities to provide a more personalized experience tailored to each utility customer.
Those may sound like lofty goals, but Batson says he and every VertexOne employee is ready for the challenge. It may mean that VertexOne expands the underlying platforms it can support —like Open SmartFlex. It may mean looking to acquire technologies that create perfect synergies with its own technologies. It definitely means expanding VertexOne’s own added-value intellectual property to makes its solutions future-proof and purpose-built for utilities. But most of all, it means a continued focus on providing the best experience for VertexOne clients and their customers.
“That focus is nothing new for VertexOne,” says Batson. “Technology will continue evolving with the cloud, with SaaS, with the mobile shift of the internet, and whatever else the future may bring. But from past to present to future, VertexOne’s focus on customer experience has always been—and will always be—what differentiates us in the marketplace.”