Sydney Water, Australia’s largest water and wastewater service provider, is embarking on a major digital transformation of its billing and customer management systems.
According to Sydney Water Chief Information Officer (CIO), George Hunt, it’s a once in a generation investment in technology that will deliver a customer-centric, forward thinking, mobile and integrated business.
Sydney Water’s existing billing platform was written on an IBM mainframe in the 1980s.
Sydney Water Executive Paul Freeman, who is overseeing the rollout of the new digital platform, said, “The old system was bespoke and very best practice in its time.
“It has been quite robust, resilient and very reliable for Sydney Water, but it has reached the end of its life. We are undertaking an overhaul of the system so that we can focus on the future needs of our customers in the digital age.
“We are changing the way our people, processes and technology work to deliver what our customers need, want and value.
“This is a core part of our corporate strategy. We are realigning the whole organisation around customers, which means changing what our staff do and how we relate to customers.
“We want our people to be empowered to make decisions that are good for customers based on reliable data and analytics. Our digital platforms are fundamental to supporting this change.”
A request for expressions of interest has created a shortlist of three consortia to become Sydney Water’s new technology partner – the three consortia are led by Wipro, Capgemini and Accenture.
“The selected partner organisation will work with our existing teams to help design, build and run our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship and Billing solutions,” said Mr Freeman.
“The partner we are looking to choose must have the skills and capabilities to deliver the program on Sydney Water’s behalf.
“They must also fit in with the culture of Sydney Water with an alignment of similar values to ensure the successful outcome of the program.”
The tender process will be completed at the end of the year with the business critical customer relationship and billing platform to go live at the end of 2018/early 2019.
“The primary goal of the new digital platform is to get insights out of our customer data that we’ve never had before,” explained Mr Hunt.
“IPART, the independent regulator, has supported our proposal to invest in the technology upgrade.
“We are pleased that the regulator’s independent auditor has described this investment in technology as ‘prudent and efficient’.”
Sydney Water is already engaged in technology which is making a difference.
Sydney Water launched Tap inTM late last year, a new 24/7 online service for customers seeking to apply for building plan approvals, sewer service diagrams, connection approvals and other ancillary services.
Accessible via smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, Tap in saves developers, tradespeople and DIYers time and hassle by allowing online applications rather than needing to physically visit a Quick Check agent.
Sydney Water has also introduced an eBilling program for its customers.
Partnering with SAP
The new ERP and customer relationship and billing software is an SAP off-the-shelf program used worldwide. The SAP platform is a proven platform for water utilities around the world including Thames Water and Anglian Water in the UK, and American Water.
Mr Freeman said, “SAP’s software was assessed to best meet Sydney Water’s needs and requires minimal customisation for billing and ERP.”
PwC has been established as an independent advisor to the board of Sydney Water to monitor risk and provide an independent review, and SAP has been appointed as the quality assurance partner to assure effective solution design.
Mr Freeman said, “These are large and complex programs and I have come into this role because the board of directors wanted an executive level manager to oversee the rollout of these programs.
“This is a strong demonstration of the level of focus that the board and the executive expect to ensure success. These programs are critical to the success of Sydney Water’s strategy.”
Generating new insights
“Our new customer relationship and billing and ERP will give us a solid foundation from which we can do a greater level of data mining analytics and generate new insights to better understand what customers are asking us for, the way they are feeling and what they are expecting,” said Mr Freeman.
“This will enable us to better tailor different products and services to improve service levels, agility and productivity, and to provide an overall better customer experience.
George Hunt added, “The business experience platform will give us a modern technology platform to enable our new ways of working.
“Having a modern technology platform will make it easier to respond to future improvements or changes in the digital space as well as changes we might choose to make to our processes.
“The new customer billing system will simplify back office bill processing and support our contact centre in serving customers. It will enable customers to make payments 24/7 and, in the future, increase the range of electronic and self-service opportunities available to customers.
“It will also deliver business efficiencies around the cost of reporting, debt recovery and savings from decommissioned systems.
“In the future this will deliver quicker response times to market, more cost-effective product and service innovation, and an extension of our interaction with customers.
“Innovative technology will power Sydney Water’s future. We are on the cusp of a major and very amazing transformation journey.
“When everything comes together we will be a truly hyper-connected utility,” said Mr Hunt.