Water Journal : Water Journal April 2012
feature article feature articles 76 APRIL 2012 water CIOs, IT Procurement Managers and Retail Managers) has shown that the following points of differentiation between vendors are the most important for a prospective systems purchaser to consider, once a budget has been set: • Is the vendor focused on the water sector? How deep is their industry knowledge and track record? • What does their integration track record look like? • Will we have a peer group outside our business that can share knowledge about this system? • How many connections can it successfully handle? • Is the vendor able to provide support and upgrades over the long term? • Is it “future proof”? Do they have a clear development path? • Is the system intuitive and usable with minimal staff training? Can we ft our workfows into the platform with minimal disruption, and avoid the need for customisation? What are the Procurement Costs and Characteristics of a Successful Implementation? A typical cost for licensing a billing/CIS system (Figure 3) shows a clear relationship between total upfront licence cost and the utility's number of connections: on average, typical upfront license costs amount to $14 per connection. This does not include project implementation costs or subsequent product modification (if required). Implementation and customisation costs can make or break a system's implementation. Successful examples tend to exhibit a number of characteristics: • Customisation is defned and limited – implementing an ‘off- the-shelf' solution gives a company greater choice of product and protects against the risk of customisations becoming overly complex, low value, or being poorly scoped. Human processes can be more easily modified than systems, and allowing planning to be constrained by 'the way things are currently done' can have expensive consequences. Some products are highly customisable (for instance, HiAffnity’s XML programming capability), but the cost of maintaining in-house programming capability must also be considered. • Appropriately detailed business requirements – requirements that are either too detailed or too loose -- can result in a system that does not balance efficiency and systems cost. Identifying the aspects of business process that are most critical increases the likelihood of a system that does the important things well, and the less important things efficiently. • A strong, ongoing relationship with the vendor -- as with any recruitment, selecting the right partner first time is crucial to preventing difficulties later on; ignoring early warning signs about the vendor may be costly in the long term. • Fully implementing the system as originally intended -- the learnings gathered during the systems selection and procurement phase must be carefully sustained. Too often, a system is replaced not because it is functionally inadequate, but because the benefits and functions of the implementation were never realised. Figure 2. Systems market shares in water and energy, by number of accounts. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 2,500 3,000 3,500 4,000 Observed License Cost ($m) Number of Connections ('000) Observed License Cost Trend Line Figure 3. Upfront licence costs for recent CIS and billing implementations.
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