Foundational Technology Program
Authors: Rupesh Ratilal, Sandra Sanderson, Glenn Wilson
Laying the technology foundations to meet customer needs
As Victoria’s largest water retailer, Yarra Valley Water is constantly evaluating and improving how its technology supports the business to deliver extraordinary customer service. Our Foundational Technology Program supports an ambitious new 10-year business strategy that will see us maintain and enhance this level of service into the future.
Integrating core systems
A number of core systems support our operations including customer and billing (Oracle CC&B), asset management (IBM Maximo), GIS (Intergraph G-Technology) and SCADA (Schneider Clear SCADA). We’ve taken a best of breed approach to procuring these systems and our choices have served us well in terms of reliability and out of the box functionality - being able to meet the majority of our business requirements.
We’ve historically hosted our core systems on our own infrastructure (on premise). Going forward, we’re progressively transitioning to the Cloud, which will ultimately reduce lifecycle management costs. However, like most utilities, this migration is complicated by the fact that we have heavily customised our core applications over time - this supported our preferred processes and ways of working at the time but will now need to be unpicked or rebuilt.
Our core systems also have a low-level of integration which each other. As we move towards increasingly customer centric operations, we need to integrate the data within these systems to get a holistic view of both our customers and assets. We’ve now developed a high-level future state technology architecture, which separates the user experience from the engine room of our core systems. This will be more resilient to the ever-changing technology landscape and will meet the needs of our customers and employees, both now and into the future. The new architecture is much more plug and play as well as being agnostic to whether the systems are hosted on our infrastructure or in the Cloud.
Foundational Technology Program
The cornerstone of making this a reality is our Foundational Technology Program - which introduces core pieces of technology to enable this shift. This program includes:
- Customer Experience Digital Platform – a single pane of glass for our customers and staff to manage all of the account, service, and transitional based (property move in and move out) transactions. This will ultimately incorporate our online service portals and enable us to view the entire interaction history we have with each customer.
- Distribution Management System – a single pane of glass for our staff and partners to manage our assets and ensure we meet our obligations for providing safe and reliable services and minimising environmental impacts. Initially this involves data visualisation, but quickly moves into alarm and event management, and ultimately response automation.
- Communications and IoT Device Management – enabling us to take full advantage of the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) - such as providing customers with information to manage their water use and reduce their bills, and more effective management of our entire asset networks. We are already considering replacing our mechanical water meter fleet with digital water meters and we’re also considering a range of other network monitoring sensors. The Device Management Platform will enable us to manage large volumes of IoT devices throughout their lifecycle (ultimately more than a million devices).
- Enterprise Historian – the database and associated analytics for all of our time-series data, predominately acquired from our field-based sensors – which then enables this data to be combined with data from other non-time-series related data sources for improved insight and decision making.
- API Integration Tool – a modern and more standardised way of integrating the flow of data between systems and making the most of the functionality already present in our core systems.
We’ve already selected the majority of the above components and are in various phases of implementation. Our initial focus is on platform stand-up, with use case build out to take place over an extended period of time based on highest value first. The current status of the various components is:
- Customer Experience Digital Platform – we’ve selected Salesforce as our preferred software solution. We will use development partners to help us build out the roadmap.
- Distribution Management – tenders have closed and we’re currently evaluating.
- Communications and IoT Device Management – tenders have closed and we’re currently evaluating.
- Enterprise Historian – we’ve selected a preferred solution and vendor negotiations are currently underway.
We’re also implementing a new IT Service and Operations Management platform to implement and deliver our IT services and ensure they meet our needs. This will manage and monitor the performance of our technology assets throughout their lifecycle as well as streamline the work of technology support teams. We recently selected ServiceNow as the preferred software solution and have commenced the implementation phase.
For more information on Yarra Valley Water’s future state technology architecture or approach to IT Service and Operations Management, please email [email protected].