Case study – Eastern Slovakia Water Utility Services Company
Utility services provider
VVS employs more than 2,000 people, supplies almost a million people with drinking water every day, manages about 6,523,347 km of water supply network and more than 2,851,470 km of sewerage network. Company decided to replace SAP IS-U/CRM and some functions of SAP SD by Empirica Stream in order to decrease internal cost but increase customer care efficiency at same time!
Interview with Mrs. Gasparikova about value which Empirica Stream brought to VVS
The East Slovak Water Company (VVS) under-went the biggest innovation in the last 10 years. Fundamental significant changes in IT landscape supported by business processes improvements have been successfully implemented during full operation of the company. Any challenges coming out of that dramatic change have been solved by colleagues as we say: ‘on the fly’ and with the goal to provide our clients high quality services without any interruption. And in fact, it was the challenge to replace SAP IS-U solution!
As a part of this program, VVS implemented a new self-service portal solution. It allows VVS to shift more than 40% of workload from customer offices and call centre to digital channels. Actually, the whole change program has been heading towards significant move into the digital way of working (company internal processes as well as customer services).
The ultimate goals of the project have been:
- to increase customer satisfaction through the fast Time-to-Serve
- to get highly effective 360-degrees view on client
- to implement highly efficient internal management processes (back-office and front-office)
- to manage revenues (from commodity and non-commodity services) only in one IT solution in order to decrease the complexity and costs of IT landscape.
See our discussion with VVS CFO, Mrs. Anita Gašparíková, on the added value of the new customer centric information system:
Q: Why have you decided to change your core IT system?
We have been using the original system since 2007 and I must say that it was quite stable, reliable, thoroughly refined information system in terms of operation. We began to consider the change because of the cost of operation and the instability of the licensing policy. An important factor for the decision to change was also the fact that we were the only SAP system user in the water sector in Slovakia for a long time. In practice, this meant that local support of the system in our industry for Slovakia was not on expected level. We decided to continue with SAP ERP but decided to move out of using the SAP IS-U (industry solution for utilities) and replace it with Empirica Stream solution. We decided for that product because we wanted (besides replacement of typical SAP IS-U features) to get single solution for billing of commodity and non-commodity products, and dramatically improve flexibility and quality of the customer service area and process management in our customer centres.
Q: What can typical VVS client expect from the new solution?
Our ultimate goal is to decrease time needed to solve client’s requirements. Our customer offices and call centre agents who are now using new information system will spend significantly less time to solve customer requirements and they will get better and deeper view on each single client (through 360 degrees cockpit). With new portal, we are heading to achieve level that majority of client’s requests will be solved via self-service features. This will come gradually step-by-step in upcoming months. Currently, new portal covers in new customer friendly UX design “old” functionality and already brought the value for clients through an exquisite and faster usability.
Q: How does the new information system make the life for end-user employees of VVS easier?
Based on UX techniques, extensive usage of workflows and wizards, our employees who are the end users can get to know the system usage in a significantly faster way. We see, that the system is highly effective (users get the right information in the right time and place, enter required data only once, etc. …) and saves time which can be spent more for our core business (serve client or maintain grid system). We truly see, that the system considerably accelerates their work efficiency.
Moreover, we have accomplished one more big change! Within the project, we asked to develop new module in order to improve our situation in area of Meter Readings. It’s called Advance Metering Management and it handles bi-directional communication with our technical information system as well. Through the implementation of several control mechanisms, this solution decreases error rate of automated tasks, increases level of automation (covering even end-to-end processes going through several IT systems) and avoids the need for duplicate data entry.
Q: What does the new Empirica Stream for VVS as a company bring?
More than 30% of financial savings per license which causes the significant decrease in the operational cost. Its open architecture unlocks a range of options that will not be limited by the license, nor the internal rigidity of the old system. We do have now the customer centric system allowing unique billing commodity and non-commodity products and services. We value the significant increase of the work productivity of our colleagues responsible for customer service, billing, collections, and flexible reporting.
Q: What are your future plans with Empirica Stream?
We are evaluating possibilities how to extend our services portfolio to offer another commodity (maybe gas, electricity, telco) but as well other non-commodity products (incl. subscription-based services, local taxes and fees collection, etc.). We are really happy that product is already enabled for that types of products.
Moreover, we want to continue with our self-service portal development activities and cover all standard customer cases which are currently solved by the call centre agents.
Another activity which we have already started with is to build new Data Warehouse on top of the Empirica Stream aiming for better data mining possibilities (incl. usage of AI technologies) in order to increase overall company efficiency.
Project scope and duration.
Agreed project duration have been 18 months. This period was extended by additional 6 months especially due to the fact, that need for extra-new module for Metering Management was enhancing the scope.
Scope of project
– full replacement (incl. full data migration) of SAP IS-U and SAP CRM with moving of SAP SD features (billing of non-commodity services)
– building new self-service portal
– developing of bi-directional integration with surrouding systems (e.g. technical information system, business warehouse, document management, internal workflow system)
Deployed Empirica Stream Product components
CORE (master data, customer contracts, billing, revenue collection, customer care)
SDM – Stream Data Management
AMM – Advanced Meter Management (module developed during project becomes Empirica Stream standard)
MCT – Market Communication Tool
Workplace (web-based environment for end-users)
IAM – Identity and Access Management
BPME – Business Process Management Engine
Self-Service Portal for B2B and B2C customers
J2EE for backend. REST API architecture enabling maximal flexibility and interoperability within E.S. and with outside world
Distributed server architecture to enable maximal scalability (each E.S. key-component have own DB)
Apache Camel as messaging platform, Apache Kafka as event-streaming platform
HTML5 for frontend to enable cross-platform deployments
MariaDB, Apache Tomcat as an Application Server, Linux as OS (tech-stack chosen to make high cost efficiency. E.S. product can run as well on proprietary DB, AS or OS)