DC Water provides water to the 680,000 residents and 20 million annual visitors in the Washington D.C. area, as well as all the federal buildings in the District of Columbia, monitoring in excess of 135,000 meters. It also provides wastewater services to the District and surrounding counties.
Problems and Challenges
The team at DC Water had a vision: Deliver world-class customer service to its customers. To do that, leaders knew they needed to upgrade their technology systems starting with a new CIS. But it didn’t end there.
The utility also needed to upgrade its customer self-service portal and add mobile device access to meet customers’ changing expectations for how they can interact with the utility. In addition, the authority needed to replace an aging mobile work management platform for field service. Finally, leaders wanted to bring outsourced meter-to-cash cycle tasks back in house while simultaneously replacing more than 90,000 AMI meters.
To tackle all these objectives at once, DC Water needed a partner it could trust. It found one in VertexOne and its SaaS-based CIS.
Selecting a Solution
During a year-long selection process, DC Water evaluated 18 different proposals for both on- premise and Cloud solutions, narrowing their choices to two finalists—an Oracle solution and VertexOne’s Saas-based-model built on the SAP platform. Some of the key considerations that led to DC Water choosing VertexOne over the other finalist included:
- Tier 1 Technology: VertexOne leverages Tier 1 technologies providing significant investment in R&D, so the technology evolves ahead of the utility’s needs.
- Flexibility: VertexOne lets utilities add the innovative capabilities they need, right when they need them. And with core platform upgrades twice a year, VertexOne solutions are always up to date.
- Agility: VertexOne helps utilities respond quickly to growing customer and transaction volumes, rising customer expectations, market changes and acquisitions.
- Predictability: VertexOne not only provides a prescriptive method to upgrading onto a SaaS platform, but also a predictable cost and support model with guaranteed service levels that align with its customers’ needs.
- Insight: VertexOne helps utilities optimize their business processes with a suite of operational and advanced analytics.
- Rapid Deployment: VertexOne’s unique SaaS model and project approach allows unprecedented speed-of-delivery for a utility CIS implementation.
In the end, selecting VertexOne gave DC Water the flexibility and scalability it was looking
for, while also allowing the utility to focus more resources on serving its customers and improving its operations.
“Our goal in selecting the VertexOne Platform was to move from an obsolete premise-based CIS to a customer-centric platform. We wanted to provide our customer service professionals with near real-time information on the status of every customer interaction, while taking advantage of mobile and cloud service offerings our customers have to come to expect.”
- Charles Kiely, DC Water Assistant General Manager
If the sheer number and scope of challenges DC Water wanted to address made the project ambitious, it made the timeline even more so. The entire project was to be executed in only 12 months. The new customer self-service experience went live in the first six months, allowing DC Water to quickly deliver value to its customers while also easing the transition for the staff.
Delivering the new customer experience well in advance of the larger CIS and mobile work management solutions significantly reduced the risk of the implementation. This allowed customers to become familiar with the new applications long before any changes to the back-end solutions were made. Call Center staff could focus on addressing specific customer experience issues without simultaneously transitioning to a new system, reducing overall stress to staff while not adversely impacting wait times.
Delivering on time, on budget and on target are hallmarks of any successful deployment. DC Water met all three with its VertexOne implementation. That includes installing a Tier 1 customer information system, a new customer web and mobile portal, a new bill payment and presentment solution, and a new mobile field work management and dispatching system.
Using a unique implementation methodology, this project sets a new industry benchmark for implementations of this type. Unlike CIS vendors that design each solution “from scratch,” VertexOne uses a “design-by-exception” approach. This unique SaaS platform covers about 70 percent of a typical utility CIS business processes.
"Working side by side it was impossible to distinguish between VertexOne and DC Water Team members. Everyone was focused on a common goal: the success of this project. VertexOne’s can-do attitude was the high-octane fuel we needed for success.”
- Thomas L. Kuczynski, DC Water CIO
The remaining 30 percent, driven by the uniqueness of each utility, is largely accomplished via onfiguration, reducing the amount of coding and testing required. The iterative delivery approach means that testing and data migration aren’t “left to the end.”
Besides resulting in an accelerated implementation and rapid payback, the methodology complemented DC Water’s extensive change management and training programs to avoid significant operational impacts to the call center and back offices.
ResultsNot only was DC Water’s implementation and deployment done in record time—reducing the overall cost—it allowed the company to see some immediate benefits in the first month of the new system’s life.
Back Office Benefits
- $329,000 annual savings in the back office
- 10 percent reduction in plausible exceptions
- $1+ million reduction in meter operations personnel cost
- 14 percent reduction in billing related customer calls
- 10 percent improvement in average speed to answer without adding staff
- More flexible bill presentment and payment options for the customer