Change is slow in the Utilities industry. The last 120 years have brought about just a handful of technologies and process changes that have had long-term impact. But the impact of digital technology – and changing customer behavior – is now being felt across Utilities. Cloud and mobile technologies are creating enormous changes in the way information is managed, distributed and used. Today’s customers want to be in control of their utility consumption and billing. They have become accustomed with exceptional digital and mobile service from their telecom providers, retail businesses, banks, travel and the hospitality industries. They want the same experience from Utilities as well. That is why Customer Information Systems (CIS) are becoming critical for Utilities keen to engage and retain their customers. CIS is not a new topic of discussion for Utility executives. Various forms of CIS have been around for the last 30 years. They have been debated largely around a single question: what should be the correct Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a CIS implementation? It has been difficult to arrive at an acceptable consensus on TCO that leads to action.
What makes CIS essential and affordable?
However, with increasing deregulation, growing competition and ballooning regulatory oversight, the need to understand customers, improve customer service and develop better products to increase revenue has become acute. Further, CIS cannot be ignored. With metering and newer needs (from smart grids and smart systems, etc.), CIS has become essential to the meter-to-cash (M2C) process, to the creation of new products and optimizing supply. It also helps reduce cost to serve and makes way for a variety of customer- friendly payment systems. In parallel, another development has proven to be encouraging. CIS systems from providers such as Oracle and SAP have matured. Their pre-built components can be quickly configured and deployed with the assistance of System Integrators (SIs), who bring along their template-based solutions and accelerators. This leads to reduction in risk and implementation time, in turn resulting in lowered costs. Over the last few years, integrated systems have matured to the point where CIS as a Service (CaaS) has become a reality. The advantages of using CIS as a Service are varied and immediate