E-business - changing the way we work?

Have you ever wondered why we spend hours getting ready for work and driving along congested roads or crammed into uncomfortable crowded commuter trains? And why companies pay millions for office space and millions more for networks and communications infrastructure to enable employees to access systems and communicate?

Maybe all that will soon be a thing of the past. One company in the US, Viterra Energy Services – Utility Solutions, based in Atlanta, GA, has developed an innovative system infrastructure that utilises Internet technology beyond the dot-com cliché of B2C marketing and looks at how this can work not only in the B2B world, but as part of an organisation’s internal communication environment.

So what is so remarkable about VES Utility Solutions’ approach? Have you taken a look at the typical operation of an energy retail company’s billing and customer services business? Walk into a utility business or outsource call centre and as far as the eye can see is a vast sea of open plan offices with screens and tightly packed ‘pods’. Add to this the huge costs that are inherent in most of the systems platforms that support these operations and one has to ask if there is a better way.

In the past, perhaps not. But VES Utility Solutions’ approach uses a systems architecture that allows metered information, such as typical meter readings, to be stored in a central data warehouse and then processed and accessed through a simple web browser. Any department of the utility can access and process information, or be provided with reports within specified parameters. The customer service representative (CSR) can see all the information and administer the account from a local branch office or from home, and consumers can be given access to relevant information or statements on their account over the Internet.

A typical working arrangement is for new customers to be registered on the system, whose meter readings are then collected remotely by VES Utility Solutions on a batch file basis. The meter readings are stored in VES Utility Solutions’ data centre and can be processed according to the utility client’s requirements, which can include open market EDI, bill generation, print and mail services, Internet bill presentation and payment and remittance processing, among others.

One might think this sounds like futuristic, costly technology that would never be practical for a utility today, but no. VES Utility Solutions has been providing full service billing and CIS systems for the Gaskey Corporation for the last 18 months and in the words of Livia Whisenhunt, President/CEO of Gaskey, the system “has surpassed our expectations ... they have never missed a billing cycle, and their systems have always kept us in compliance with the Georgia Public Service Commission regulations … The State of Georgia has been the most difficult deregulated energy market in which to operate. VES Utility Solution's system has performed competently … and continues to meet our ever-changing needs.”

One of the inherent characteristics of VES Utility Solutions’ service platforms is in the scalability of its systems. This flexibility allows the business to provide services on a cost-per-transaction basis (typically per utility bill). This alterative can also be very cost effective for regulated utilities that are looking to provide cutting edge technology to their clients at a reduced cost.

This is technology that is here today, allowing utility businesses to build their operational structures for new markets around their customers and their logistical requirements, rather than some central IT system.

If the Internet can free up our dependence on internal networks and provide a little more freedom from the central office model of previous decades we can look forward to a better start to the day.

For more information contact:
Dana Holmes, tel. +1 678 336-2203, +1 770 331-8740