Success Factors for the Customer Relationship and Billing System

By, Doug Myers, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Pepco Holdings (CIO) (SAP)

All billing system conversion projects are challenging. The project named SolutionOne by Pepco Holdings, Inc. (“PHI,” NYSE:POM), involved the replacement of two legacy mainframe systems each of 1970s vintage, more than 2,000 business requirements, gas and electric services, multiple jurisdictions and cutting edge metering infrastructure and customer programs.

The SAP CR&B system has set a new standard in the industry for what a successful implementation can achieve. System performance and availability has been exceptional from Day One.Billing exceptions increased, but at a much lower rate than any reasonable expectation given the magnitude of the change. First quarter 2015 Overall Customer Satisfaction scores, as measured by MSI, also increased compared to pre-conversion levels.

Success Factor #1: The customer information system is the heart of the utility’s operations, replacing it requires clear vision and commitment by senior leadership to a successful outcome. The commitment includes a realistic assessment of the challenges and potential risks of the project, a willingness to take the steps necessary to address them, and an ongoing emphasis on the criticality of the effort even in the face of multiple, competing priorities.

Success Factor #2: SolutionOne was not treated as an IT project, but rather as a business project. IT was a trusted and respected technical partner. This level of business engagement helped ensure that both business readiness and technical readiness were given equal weight. Each on their own is necessary, but not sufficient, for a successful implementation.

Success Factor #3: Guiding Principles were established at the outset of the project, before the organization arrived at stressful decision points. The Guiding Principles were developed through stakeholder interviews and represented a collective view of how to make tradeoff and other decisions as the project progressed.

Success Factor #4: As with the establishment of Guiding Principles, it served the project well to identify the criteria for going live before the pressure of an impending implementation date. PHI worked with its integrator, Accenture, to identify more than 50 objective criteria across seven categories: Application Readiness, Business Readiness, Support Readiness, Technical Readiness, Controls, Data Migration, and Deployment. Prior to the actual implementation date, a series of practice sessions were conducted with the Chief Financial Officer and the Executive Vice President of Power Delivery using different Go Live Criteria scenarios. As a result of this, the ultimate “Go / No-Go” meeting was efficient, effective and straightforward.

Success Factor #5: PHI made a concerted effort to consider the impact of all aspects of the project on what the customer ultimately would experience. As a result of this conscious focus, PHI ensured that multiple rounds of readiness testing and multiple “dress rehearsals” were built into the project plan.

Success Factor #6: Three dedicated roles were established for this project, each of which helped to mitigate significant operating risk. IT resource dedicated to all internal and external system interfaces was established. A Customer Care resource was tasked with ensuring that all aspects of business readiness were identified, coordinated, and successfully completed. This business readiness resource was also involved in working with the third of the three roles: a dedicated IT resource focused on operational continuity during cutover.

Success Factor #7: PHI was committed to establishing a project culture that exhibited a handful of key attributes. These include a healthy respect for the complexity of the effort a willingness to acknowledge and address the root causes of an earlier, failed, billing system implementation at one of PHI’s heritage companies; a commitment to listen to the advice and counsel of vendors and utilities and to learn from their experience; and trust and collaboration between business and technical resources.