Utility Data: Moving to the Cloud – Part 3 of 3June 1, 2016
Many electric companies are hesitant to move the cloud because they do not know where to start in applying a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. If you missed the part 1 or 2 of this series, check them out here and here. In the final installment of this series, we continue to provide insight into the last factor contributing to the need for change.
Billing and payments are primary business functions where noticeable return on investment can be expected from updated SaaS technology. Although instituting any major change requires an upfront investment, utilities will get a clear and almost immediate value.
As a side benefit – and a significant one for utilities – leveraging cloud-based technology to deploy such a solution will grant them the ability to generate strong, actionable data. By gaining unique data and insight on their customers based on information gathered through the billing and payments cycle, utilities have the opportunity to make internal adjustments that improve customer service and satisfaction.
The final factor contributing to the need for change in how many utilities operate:
Payments behavior. Consumers have been changing the way they transact for years with one another and the companies they frequent. During recent years there has been a significant decline in paper payments and billing. And no one – not even the keenest financial exerts – can predict when and how emerging payments channels such as online and mobile options will take off en masse. Retail and commerce likely were the first to feel the impact, but churches, hospitals and nonprofiits are having drastically reduced check volumes, considering how most consumers prefer to receive and pay bills these days: not in person or by physical check. Paper check usage has waned in recent years but will continue to have a presence near term. Declining volumes leave utilities constantly re-evaluating the operating expenditures when compared with processing costs. A SaaS model is scalable and enables the addition of new channels and an ease to manage fluctuating volumes. It offers long-term cost advantages by simplifying and consolidating both inbound and outbound billing infrastructures.
When it comes to options for invoicing and receiving payment, a multichannel offering that processes paper checks and electronic payments in a single, efficient feed provides outstanding configurability, operational efficiency and cost savings from consolidating processing. Although these factors seemingly do not contribute to the billing and payments process, they will be improved through a modernized billing and payments system. Utilities should see this investment as an enterprise-wide improvement, not just the enhancement of one function.
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