Implementing a new Customer Information System (CIS) can seem challenging but with the right preparation and planning, you can achieve an on-time and on-budget project.
In our previous blog post, we provided some suggestions on how to select the right CIS and the right vendor. Once you have made that selection, the real work begins.
These 6 steps will set you up for success when implementing a new CIS:
1. Understand and document your business processes
Having a deep understanding of your internal business processes is key for a successful implementation. This may sound obvious, but in a lot of legacy systems workflows are built into the code, without any documentation. Understanding and documenting your existing business processes and, even better, your desired best practices, will save you frustration, time, and money.
TIP: A CIS replacement is a big and complex project. Consider using a smaller, less complex software replacement project to create an assessment and documentation template. This will be a “practice” run for you to solidify your approach. It will also apply lessons learned to your larger CIS replacement project.
2. Make your CIS project the top priority
Many utility departments will be involved in the CIS implementation. Given this is a mission-critical solution to your operations, make sure your Senior Management Team communicates the importance of the project. They should also commit to providing staff with the necessary support to succeed in their project roles, as well as their day jobs.
3. Engage the right stakeholders
Your staff will play an essential role in the success of the CIS implementation project. Define the right stakeholders within each department, and clearly describe their roles and responsibilities. Make sure you have backup Project Managers for employees that play a critical role during the project.
TIP: Ensure you focus on teambuilding. Start with organizing a kick-off meeting with all stakeholders involved in the project and celebrate milestones to keep the team engaged. Don’t forget to monitor morale throughout the project!
4. Ensure you have the physical space you need
There are many tasks and milestones occurring concurrently during a CIS implementation: data migration, testing, training, project management, etc.
TIP: Make sure you have the physical space available to support testing labs, training labs, a Project War Room, and more. This way you can facilitate staff activity for these concentrated efforts.
5. Perform process redesign early and set expectations
Work with your software provider very early in the implementation to pre-configure the CIS based on industry-standard processes and your needs. Use this pre-configured model as your TO BE model for your testing and training.
This will help staff become familiar with your defined functionality and processes as they work toward go-live. As importantly, leverage configuration over development and keep your CIS processes as simple as possible. The more customizations you add, the more complex it will become to support and apply version updates. Make sure your staff understands the value of adopting these new processes.
6. Plan for post-live
Introducing a new bill format and/or a new Customer Self Service portal will most likely increase customer call volumes, at least during the first few months after go-live. The last thing you want is to frustrate customers.
TIP: Develop scripts that answer basic questions your customers might ask to help CSRs not just manage increased call volumes but also improve customer engagement.
If managing the increased call volumes may be too much for your existing staff, consider requesting on-site support from your CIS provider. You can also hire an external call center to assist you for a period of time.
Tips from Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC)
BWSC and its 500 employees are responsible for the water distribution and wastewater collection for over 90,000 accounts within the City of Boston.
Listen to Peter Hunt, BWSC’s CIO, as he shares his experience and advice on how to prepare for the implementation of a new CIS.