Lansing Board of Water & Light (BWL) is Michigan’s largest municipal electric utility and provides the state capital, Lansing, and the sprawling Michigan State University campus, with electricity, water, and steam services. In 2018, the BWL issued an RFP for a state-of-the-art customer information system (CIS) to replace their aging legacy system, which was more than 30 years old, highly customized, challenging to learn, expensive to maintain, poorly integrated, and not a real-time system. The CIS replacement project would impact all aspects of BWL’s customer experience—from billing to mobile work management to customer care—and was viewed as an opportunity to fundamentally redefine how the BWL interacts with its customers.
Following a thorough RFP process, the BWL selected Itineris’ cloud-based UMAX CIS, built upon the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform. This modern CIS would equip them with:
- Customer self-service portal
- Business intelligence
- Electronic billing and payment presentment functionality
- A mobile workforce management system
UMAX would consolidate functions that had been supported by several disparate systems for years. Following the selection and prior to contract execution, Itineris led a series of workshops in the design phase to gather BWL’s requirements, ensuring an ironclad operating model and seamless data migration to the new system.
The last CIS software BWL would ever need
Typically, CIS systems require costly and stressful software and hardware upgrades over the lifespan of the product. At end of life, a utility will have to replace the product altogether. By selecting UMAX, BWL future-proofed their investment. Because UMAX is built on the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform, BWL experiences iterative updates using One-V, Microsoft’s automated versioning service for updating Microsoft’s standard platform and applications in customer environments. The platform is constantly evolving, delivered via a SaaS model in the Microsoft Azure Cloud, and is fortified with Microsoft products and cyber security.
Challenges to meet the project go-live deadline
The implementation team had to overcome a number of challenges:
- Development and cutover of the system during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. After March 2020, the Itineris delivery team was never able to return onsite.
- In addition to the CIS replacement, the BWL was simultaneously implementing several other major systems, including AMI, GIS, and ADMS.
- The legacy CIS had been in place for more than 30 years, during which time the programming and logic had been updated, tweaked, and reconfigured countless times.
- There was only one original legacy CIS programmer on staff to assist with the conversion to UMAX.
- Primarily remote interaction for implementation and employee UMAX training.
Despite these challenges, the implementation team completed cutover and go-live remotely, on schedule, and on-budget to a high standard of quality.
Since the June 1, 2021 go-live of the system, BWL has identified numerous operational efficiencies as a direct result of implementing the UMAX solution.
Today, BWL has access to:
- Real-time data
- Real-time reporting
- Real-time payments
- Highly automated systems and business processes, all of which will save ratepayers money over time
Noteworthy efficiencies realized due to their UMAX CIS include:
- Automated move/in, move/outs via the robust UMAX customer self-service portal
- Elimination of manual billing
- Improved customer communications via SMS messaging and emails
- Automatic workflows
- Field services/work order automation
- Automated meter reads from the MDM system
- Fully automated collection calls and letters