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One of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of setting up a new mission-critical software system is the transition between those two systems. There’s a lot that could go wrong, not to mention all of the questions of buyer’s remorse that go along with purchasing a new system.
What happens if you don’t transition in time?
Is your data formatted, right?
Will it be set up correctly for my users?
Will my users even WANT to use this new system?
How can I ensure that the bills are correct in the new system?
As with most things, there will always be unknowns with any change.
But it is possible to mitigate those unknowns with appropriate planning and a helpful implementation team that guides you correctly. It is possible to avoid all the stress and get a system that makes your entity more efficient; all it takes is some know-how and some elbow grease.
So, you’ve bought a new Utility Billing System, and you’ve got your date set for when your new provider’s Implementation Team will start the implementation process. That’s great!
This now means you have X number of days before the start of your new system, and this is the perfect time for YOU to be proactive, think ahead, and plan out what’s to come.
First, getting organized and developing a process map to aid your transition team in preparing for your upcoming implementation is a fantastic resource that can speed the entire process up.
Signup for a mind mapping tool (such as Lucidchart or Microsoft Visio) and map out each step in your processes. This will help identify and highlight those areas where your software system will slide in and can help your implementation team set up the design for your operations.
Consider starting from the beginning of your customer’s lifecycle when they initiate their request and working to the end when the value has been delivered.
Here are a few processes you may want to consider starting with:
These processes will be specific to how your team works, which means they are critical components of your billing operation.
Using this time before your implementation to develop a process map of your current billing operation, you can highlight ways that this new system can not only slide seamlessly into your existing processes but also improve those processes and create team efficiencies.
Specifically, this can best be used when creating your Business Rules during the implementation process.
Business rules describe the operations, definitions, and constraints that apply to an organization. This means you can define just how your printed bills look or the hierarchal structure for handling customer issues. Whatever rules you may need to explain, you can already have highlighted them by adding them to your process map!
And guess what else….Those business rules will get configured in your new system!
For your transition, there are several essential details that your new provider will need for the system's Implementation. This information can range from basic company information to how you print your bills.
Even the tiny details become essential for you to system transition because the Implementation Team wants to ensure that your new system has precisely what you need to continue your billing operation without any interruptions seamlessly.
Business rules are crafted into your Utility Billing System based on your organization’s needs. This allows each Utility Billing System implemented to be specific to the organization it's for!
So, throughout the process, don't be surprised if you're asked for several informational inquiries. Some from the Sales Team before Implementation, some from the Implementation Team during, and some from the Client Success Team during and after your Implementation.
But you can make this collection of information even easier for everyone!
The implementation team often lists different billing operation aspects you could break down based on how your organization runs those specific components.
Here are the common implementation questions we ask during our setup processes:
Each of these specific billing operation elements has something within them that is important for your new provider to know regarding your transition.
The scope of information needed is significant, whether it knows specific reporting requirements or how many staff members you'll need to be trained on the new system.
That's why it’s so important to jump on the collection and compile a list of what YOU think is vital to know from what's listed above when transitioning!
It may sound obvious, but your current system's data will be the exact data used in your new system.
This means you'll want to triple-check that the data quality is good before handing it over to upload.
As they say, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”
And with how utility meter reads are sometimes manually taken and inputted into billing systems, it’s easy to make mistakes. For example, a utility installs a meter between the incoming electric power, water or gas lines and the distribution point at your customer’s house. The meter then monitors their daily usage, and the utility will send a meter reader to record the use.
Suppose a meter technician is manually inputting this recorded read. In that case, it can become easy for information to accidentally be input incorrectly, added twice, or even in the wrong column/row.
Some helpful guidelines when analyzing large amounts of data by looking at these four standard criteria for quality assurance:
These criteria are essential factors when validating your current customer and billing data.
Insufficient data can be the kiss of death for the usefulness of your brand-new billing system. If data is not set up correctly, it can result in catastrophic billing issues once cut over into production.
Some utility billing software providers will help clean the data by performing a mass sweep to help scrub that data.
For those who need to learn what a data sweep is, a mass cleaning of your software must be performed to remove outdated records, incorrectly submitted data, and incomplete data.
However, maybe you're wondering why this mass data sweep would be wrong. It’s not at all!
However, if your implementation team performs it, it will significantly slow the implementation process.
Essentially that team has to take time away from their processes to clean out all of your data after it's already been submitted. This means they'll have to clean the data AND reimplement it into the system.
That's why you can plan to pre-scrub through your data with your team!
Suppose speed in the implementation process is essential. In that case, you can save a significant amount of time during the implementation process by working on data cleanup before software purchase, which in the term, will save you more money down the road. Plus, if the data is sufficient before the Implementation Team implements it, they’ll have to remove it all, clean it, and put it in again.
The simple solution would be to export all your data in a spreadsheet and go through each column and row to ensure the quality, but we highly recommend using formulas.
Here are some easy how-tos for data corrections and cleanup that can be made in excel.
Simple data corrections like these can make all the difference for your transition! So, dedicate some time beforehand to have your team process your data smoothly and efficiently when it has to be imported into your new system.
A smooth Utility Billing System transition is like the holy grail when setting up a new system, but unlike the mythical holy grail, this one is much easier to obtain with the proper steps!
By planning for your upcoming transition, you are setting your team and organization up for success by discovering the most opportune time to transition. This includes preparing necessary information for structuring business rules and system elements and preparing good, usable data.
Our hope for you after reading this blog is that any stress, worry, or feelings of being overwhelmed can seamlessly be lifted off of your team!
So I rewrote the Intro. I labeled out some potential villains/pitfalls, implied us as an authoritative and empathetic guide (appropriate planning and helpful implementation team) (Avoiding stress), and kept them positioned as the hero (get a system that makes your entity more efficient with a bit of know-how and elbow grease)
What about some basic things….like billing rates? Like parcel counts?
These are good general data clean-up tips but not very specific for Utility Billing. How can we make it more applicable to our billing Persona?
So, if it’s something they have to do…Should we be positioning the data sweep as something bad? Why not just let our implementation team do it?
Instead of just saying those things you can do, why don’t you show me or link me to how to do those in excel. PLENTY of excel links out there you can add in.