Waternet increases employee productivity by 20%
The merger that gave rise to Waternet sparked a drastic reform of their IT portfolio. MECOMS empowered Waternet employees by translating even the most complex processes into an efficient and user-friendly interface, increasing their productivity and satisfaction while reducing their training needs. Divergent data sources were seamlessly integrated into a single flexible solution. With a considerably lower TCO.
Waternet manages the entire water cycle, from drinking water to wastewater, in the city of Amsterdam and some other communes. It is the result of a recent merger between the Amsterdam Water Authority and the communal sewerage DWR. Apart from providing drinking water and processing sewerage, Waternet is responsible for flood protection, keeping waterways navigable and maintenance of Amsterdam’s idyllic canals.
Outsourcing is costly
Waternet used to outsource its ERP/CRM activities to PWN, the provincial water authority. According to Kiki Quist, functional manager at Waternet: “This was not only a costly solution but the activities were also considered too business-critical to outsource. We wanted to move to an in-house IT environment with a lower TCO.“
This bold move meant much more than acquiring new hardware. The existing SAP packages (SAP/CRM and SAP/ISU) were very rigid and did not perform well for the complex processes of water billing.
Kiki Quist: “Even though ‘water billing’ sounds simple, our business processes are not simple or straightforward. For example, we have to deal with a lot of transfers, such as address changes. Customers who move houses first had to be removed from the SAP system and subsequently re-registered at the new address. The primary actions involved with that were incredibly labour-intensive. You had to wrestle through seven to nine different SAP/ISU screens.“
Kiki Quist: “Other things that are not easily solved with a standard billing application include our complicated discount rules, bills with and without meter readings, bills that need to be sent to a broker or agent, meter readings that have to be taken once a year or once a month, etc.“
Wanted: a complete water billing solution
As a consequence, the schedule of requirements was a weighty affair. The new system would need to offer full support for all business processes around water billing. Furthermore, it would need to be capable of integrating widely diverging data sources. And, finally, it would need to perform all of this efficiently and cost-effectively.
Waternet put the job out to tender and received four responses. Kiki Quist: “Two were based on SAP, and the third was an adapted version of an old proprietary ERP package. The fourth, MECOMS, stood out as the most financially advantageous. This Dynamics AX-solution from Ferranti Computer Systems was certified by Microsoft and included a calculation, showing that our IT costs for the next five years would be considerably lower than the current cost of outsourcing. And that is an attractive proposition for any organisation.“
Proof of concept
However, as the cost is not the only essential element of an informed decision, Waternet requested proof of concept from Ferranti and another supplier. Both parties were given one month to develop two important business processes. A change of address procedure and a customer call about correcting a bill of someone who has already moved. Kiki Quist: “With our old system, it was not possible to address such matters on the telephone, seeing as they took a good half hour to resolve.”
Roel Derks from Ferranti: “We were able to reduce the change of address process to just two screens. We also found an elegant solution for the matter of the caller: the call desk assistant can now generate a retroactively corrected bill while the customer is on the line. By these two cases, we were able to demonstrate that the productivity of Waternet employees would take a massive leap forward.”
Waternet requested another proof of concept, to demonstrate the ability of MECOMS to link up with data from different systems. The merged companies, which together form Waternet, each came with their specific processes and data formats. Combining these data sources is necessary for generating a “Total Water Memorandum“: an invoice with information about both drinking water and wastewater.
Kiki Quist: “The successful proof of concept and seamless link with external data sources were the main reasons behind our decision for MECOMS and Microsoft Dynamics™ AX.“
The new ERP system produces all drinking water bills for residents of Amsterdam The product processes some 400 000 drinking water deliveries and contains details of around 300 000 customers. Kiki Quist: “The new MECOMS environment is so intuitive that you can already start working with it very quickly. Training costs for new front- and back-office employees are a lot lower. There is a clear shift in activities because departments and employees can now do a lot more on their own and work around 20% faster. That translates into a considerable improvement in productivity. I expect we will be able to free up some FTE’s to work on other core activities.“
With regards to managing the new environment, Kiki Quist says, “Compared to the past, I can say that the number of people involved in IT management has been reduced by 50%. That is a considerable cost saving which helps shorten the breakeven point of the investment. We are yet to work out the exact figures, but given the increase in efficiency and the considerable time and cost savings, we expect to see a rapid ROI and a low TCO.“
Summing up, Kiki Quist says: “MECOMS has provided us with a flexible solution that offers good support for our business processes. Because these processes are constantly changing, it is good to know that our system can be quickly adapted. As a result, we can serve our customers better while the cost to serve is reduced. Our users work with a very intuitive and user-friendly interface, which offers them the possibility to carry out most tasks independently. That also gives our employees a greater sense of satisfaction, and for the organisation, it translates into clear gains in productivity. We are therefore very happy with the solution realised by Ferranti.“