Empowering our Retail Teams
At TrustPower we have a passion for customer service excellence. Over the past 15 years, we have introduced many service innovations; and we’ve launched a variety of systems to improve our business efficiency and extend analytical capability. But these advances were until recently based on a legacy customer information system. Our information systems architecture had become customised and unwieldy. And so, in 2009, we made the decision to replace our retail information system — with the latest version of Gentrack Velocity, a proprietary electricity and gas system.
It was a big decision. The new system had to encompass customer management and meter reading, through to billing, debtor management and wholesale cost reconciliation. This was a multi-million dollar project and it would impact on all parts of our retail business.
Such projects are notorious for going over budget and time, and creating widespread headaches. So we decided to keep the focus sharp from the start. We brought in an experienced external project director and we committed some of our very best people. Early in 2011 we set 13 February 2012 as the day the new system would go live. This was achieved, on-budget and with minimal teething problems.
At the heart of the new Velocity solution is our Business Solutions Team: Fiona Smith, Service Operations Manager; Tim Jones, Invoice Processing Manager; Jeremy Levy, Process Improvement Manager; and Tony McGeady, Senior Systems Analyst. Fiona, Tim, Jeremy and Tony are key managers of our retail business units. So that they could focus on the project’s success, all four were released from their existing roles for 18 months, with others taking over their usual responsibilities.
The Business Solutions Team was responsible for the configuration and design of the business processes that the new system would deliver. Overseen by Project Director Rob Johnson, they worked with system vendor Gentrack, to scope and develop the solution.
“I have implemented many new systems over the years, including a number with Gentrack,” says Rob. “The TrustPower team has, without doubt, the greatest depth of understanding of its business processes of any utility I have worked with. The team has worked exceptionally well with each other, the vendor and the business to achieve an outstanding outcome.”
Rob’s comments are echoed by Gentrack Group Operations Manager Robert Shelwell: “This has been an exceptionally good project and possibly the best Gentrack Velocity implementation we’ve completed. The quality of TrustPower’s project team is outstanding.”
The new system provides users, including TrustPower call centre staff and billing teams, with a ‘Windows’ style interface. Information and processes are presented both concisely and intuitively. Fiona noted that “Our old system was a clunky green screen style, a bit like the old DOS system. Staff had to navigate through multiple screens just to perform simple tasks. The new system provides most of the information on one screen. Navigation is point-and-click in a
The solution was designed and built in a cooperative, iterative manner, led by the Business Solutions Team and Gentrack. Solution testing was largely carried out by TrustPower’s internal solutions testing team.
As well as software, a quality information system relies on a well-designed and managed infrastructure platform. Implementation of the new system required replacement and configuration of the underlying database; and replacement and upgrade of many of the hardware components. This work was completed without fuss by our technology solutions and infrastructure team.
The make-or-break point of major information system projects is often whether the business can successfully prepare for the change. A separate ‘business readiness’ group was established, comprising of project team members and senior business managers. This ensured all aspects of business readiness were considered.
Staff training was a vital aspect of readiness. We were determined that our people would be confident using the new system, prior to go-live. Our training team spent countless hours documenting the new system in preparation. They used new technology to record use of the system so they could create on-line, interactive training modules. Key people from our retail business were upskilled as trainers, and provided invaluable frontline support to all TrustPower staff when the new system went live.
Gentrack Velocity is in place and functioning successfully. Full bedding down, including some tweaks, will be completed by the end of June 2012. We will then focus on taking advantage of the capability opened up by the new system. This will include further enhancements to support our position as a multi-utility retailer. We will continue to improve our process efficiency; and we will continue to provide new services to our customers through multiple communication channels.